in doing some research on the Athenia that my grandmother was on in 1939 when it was torpedoed, I linked to your website with a passenger list of survivors who were transported to Canada on the City of Flint.
However her name was not listed.
I have recently found a (temporarily lost) scrapbook of news clippings that my parents made during this horrific ordeal, when it was almost a week before they received news of her survival or not. Her name was Margaret Florence Heap, from Brantford Ontario, Canada.
Here is an assortment of news articles re the survival of my grandmother from the torpedoing of the Athenia, including her personal report of the experience. It was well more than a week before my father and my aunt even learned if she was alive or not. That must have been horrific!
On one page of the newspaper, 3 items –
“Glasgow, Sept. 7 - (CP)
Owners of the liner Athenia torpedoed Sunday night in the Atlantic with 1418 persons aboard, reported today that 128 persons were dead or missing.
The Donaldson Atlantic Line, however, still held slight hope that the death roll might be reduced.
It pointed out there was the possibility that outward bound vessels not equipped with wireless had picked up some survivors.
Accounting for 1290 whose rescue is known line officials said 560 passengers and crew had been landed in Scotland, 510 in Ireland and 220 were aboard the rescue ship City of Flint.
Previous hope that some Athenia survivors might be aboard the Swedish yacht Southern Cross was dimmed by the Donaldson Line’s announcement of a message from the yacht.
The Southern Cross wirelessed that she had transferred the refugees she picked up to the City of Flint or other rescue ships at the scene of the sinking.”
“New York, Sept. 7 – (CP)
The City of Flint, carrying 221 Athenia survivors may not reach Halifax N.S. until Tues., Sept. 12, it was learned today at the offices of the Maritime Commission, owners of the boat.
The City of Flint is carrying 106 Americans and 110 Canadians and others.”
Also – “The name of Mrs. Margaret Florence Heap of this City, who was aboard the ill-fated steamer, has not yet appeared in any of the ‘saved’ lists received.”
Possibly from Sept. 11 –
“Mrs. Margaret F. Heap, mother of Harry Heap and Mrs. Charles Craft is reported safe aboard the City of Flint, bound for Halifax. Mrs. Heap was a passenger on the ill-fated Athenia. No word had been received by her son and daughter of her rescue until Saturday. They had lived in an agony of suspense since the Athenia was torpedoed. For some reason or other, word did not happen to get through to them that their mother was one of the survivors.”
Possibly from Sept. 15 –
“Mrs. M.F. Heap, mother of Harry Heap and his sister , Mrs. Charles Craft, one of the survivors of the torpedoed ship Athenia, arrived in Brantford this morning aboard the C.N.R. Montreal-Chicago train.
Mrs. Heap was greeted at the station by relatives and the scene was very touching as all broke into tears of joy over the reunion. Mrs. Heap was visibly shaken from her terrifying experience and exposure as a result of the sinking of the boat.
Relatives told an Expositor reporter that she looked years older. An interview with Mrs. Heap was impossible, relatives stated, due to her weakened condition.
At the station Mrs. Heap appeared to be weak and was able to say only a few words as she expressed thanks for her safe return home. She was taken to her home where she got much needed rest and care.”
Next day –
“ ‘It was a terrifying experience. We’re all lucky to be alive and everyone was so good to us’, Mrs. M. F. Heap, survivor of the torpedoed Athenia, told an Expositor reporter this morning when interviewed at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Charles Craft.
Mrs. Heap, looking years younger and much brighter and more cheerful this morning than yesterday when she arrived in Brantford, was willing to talk to the reporter about her experience.
‘I was asleep in my bed on A deck when I was awakened by a boom. Immediately I got out of bed and ran, grabbing my lifebelt on the way, for the boat deck.
As soon as I heard the boom, I knew something had happened. I left my glasses and my purse, which were beside me in my bed, the things I needed most, as I hurried to the deck.
I did not stop to think about getting dressed and went on deck clad only in my nightdress and my lifebelt.’
Mrs. Heap stated that she was hoisted into a lifeboat, as the boat was being lowered down the side of the Athenia. ‘I was the last one to get into the boat,’ Mrs. Heap said.
They drifted around in the ocean from 7:30 at night until 6:30 in the morning, when they were picked up by the Southern Cross. About noon the City of Flint arrived at the scene and Mrs. Heap was transferred to it, as she did not want to go back to England and have to go through the experience again.
On board the City of Flint everyone was excellent to the rescued travellers, Mrs. Heap said. She was given shoes by a girl student, a dress by an old lady, a cap by an old man and a coat by the Captain and they were the clothes that she was wearing when she arrived in Brantford Friday morning.
At Halifax they were greeted by nurses and given kind attention by customs and immigration officials. She was given tickets home and $5 to cover her expenses. An envelope served as a purse, she said.
Everything had to be read for her by other people, as she could not see to read without her glasses.
Mrs. Heap told of one man who swam from the time that the Athenia went down until the Southern Cross arrived on the scene. He swam from boat to boat and rested on each, so that some person might have his place in one of the boats. The water was covered with oil and those who were in the water were covered with oil when finally rescued.
‘It was a good thing that the torpedoing took place on the night that it did, as the next night out it was so rough that lifeboats could not have been launched.’
On board the City of Flint she was given a bed in the chart room, with some of the other survivors. In parting the reporter thanked Mrs. Heap and said he hoped she would not have such an experience again. She replied, ‘I won’t, as I am not going to leave Brantford again.’ “
Here is another newspaper article –
“Halifax, Sept. 13
Thirteen girls from Texas who sailed from England two weeks ago in different liners arrived here today in the freighter City of Flint, bringing with them a story of reunion at sea.
The party, originally 16 girls, left home early this summer for a tour of Europe. Approaching war cut short their trip, and, like hundreds of other United States and Canadian citizens, they booked passage on whatever ship was available.
Ten boarded the City of Flint and six the British passenger liner Athenia.
A week ago last Sunday – the day Great Britain declared war on Germany – the Athenia was torpedoed. More than 200 of her passengers were picked up by the City of Flint, among them three members of the Texas party.
The remaining three girls were rescued by other ships and taken back to the United Kingdom, two to Galway by the Norwegian freighter Knute Nelson and the third to Glasgow by a British destroyer.
Of the six aboard the Athenia only Helen Hannay was known to have been injured. She suffered a broken shoulder and was released last week from a Glasgow hospital.
There are a few other clippings of the initial reports themselves of the disaster.
Thank you for your diligence in providing a place for this part of our world's history.
Thank you, Mac.
By the way, I have found a long-lost, many-pages report she had written about the entire ordeal - some of which was included in her newspaper interview.
It must have been absolutely horrendous - especially things like hearing survivors in the water, yelling to be rescued, but unable to put more people in the lifeboats, as they were already so full; and seeing submarine periscopes along the surface of the water. Were they being watched by the enemy, after they realized it wasn't a warship they had torpedoed, like they thought?
I still think this could be a movie, beyond the likes of the Titanic - as this happened on the first day of the Second World War. -- 75th anniversary next year.