September 4 – The first prey of the U-Boot - SS Athenia

The Battle of the Atlantic begins.

From prepositioned locations several dozens of submarines begin their hunt for allied flagged merchant ships. France and, most important, Great Britain totally rely on maritime routes to import all kinds of products and raw materials for the industrial production and day-by-day living. Although the Kriegsmarine is no match for her Allied counterparts, has one weapon that from day one, can impact on those trade routes: the U-Boat!

On this day 40 submarines are at sea on operational missions! And from day one they will be hunting for all merchant ships that carry an allied flag.

On the night of September 3, the U-30, commanded by Oberleutnant Fritz Julius Lemp spotted the SS Sthenia, a cruise liner and passenger ship 400 Km north of Ireland. Taking her for a troop ship or a Q-ship (armed merchantman) and after a 3h pursuit, decision is made to attack with 2 torpedoes. After one hit, SS Athenia goes down and became the first victim of the feared German U-boot. 117 fatalities were counted and many doubts still remain on the legality of the action.


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