Remembering the first Canadian to die in the Second World War
STORY BY SHARON ADAMS
On Sept. 1, 1939, the passenger liner Athenia left Scotland bound for Montreal, two days before Britain declared war on Germany.
Athenia was carrying 1,418 passengers and crew, including 469 Canadians, mostly women and children, trying to get home before hostilities began. Among them was Hannah Baird of Verdun, Que., who went to Britain as a nanny, escorting two children travelling to join relatives, and took a job as a steward on Athenia to work her way back home.
But the Second World War began while Athenia was at sea. Britain declared war on Germany at 11 a.m. on Sept. 3. The Germans had stationed a score of U-boats around the British Isles and were ready to attack, which they did—just eight hours after war officially began
Athenia was the first British ship torpedoed by a U-boat in the conflict and Baird was the first Canadian civilian war casualty, seven days before the country entered the war.