Tommy McLaughlin served on Athenia


My late father served in the Athenia. His name was Tommy McLaughlin and he was 23 years old when she got torpedoed and was an assistant cook.

He said it was a Sunday, a nice day, and he was off watch in his bunk. He wakened up when the torpedo hit home.

He told me the U-boat also fired rounds from its deck gun and a lifeboat was capsized at the stern and some some stewardesses were lost. He said there was no panic and the crew acted efficiently. He was picked up by a Swedish ship and landed in Ireland where he was given a half-crown to buy a meal.

He transfered to another ship and came back to Glasgow on a cattle boat.

Initially his mother was told he was missing presumed dead and that upset him a lot. He also said he was "off pay" from the time Athenia sank and like most Merchant seamen he had to borrow money before finding another ship.

He told me about "Old Joe Kennedy" sending his son to see the survivors and to thank the crew for saving the American Passengers who were invited to a reception at the City Chambers in Glasgow.

My dad served on Atlantic convoys for the rest of the war and was pensioned off in 1944 with "his nerves", I am not surprised!

He said his biggest regret was losing his brand new made to measure suit and Jack Dempsey's autograph.

He died in 1991.
Michael McLaughlin


Thank you for bothering to write about your Father and his night of terror when Athenia was sunk, I have always thought it was dreadful the way Merchant Seamen had their pay stopped as soon as their ship was sunk, and had to sign on to another ship before being paid once more.

Britian could not have survived in WW2 without their Merchant Marine supplying food, oil, petrol etc from North America, it was bad enough to face the weather of the North Atlantic, let alone the German U Boat arm, I too served in that arena over 1940-1941, so appreciate all the problems of being at sea in those days.

My best wishes, 

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