Huron's First Casualties of World War II featured in book
David Yates (Submitted photo)
"That Freedom Might Survive” is the latest offering by Huron County Historian David Yates. The book is a collection of stories on Huron County's epic contribution by land, air, sea and on the homefront during WWII. For a small county in rural Ontario, Huron County's war effort was certainly impressive with stories on ordinary people who did the extraordinary in one of the most important periods in Canadian and world history. This book is a tribute to Huron County’s ‘greatest generation’.
One of these real life tales tells of the torpedoing of the ‘S.S. Athenia”...
BY DAVID YATES
This is a photo of the passenger steamer S.S. Athenia shortly after it was struck by Berman navy torpedoes on Sept. 3, 1939, killing 117 civilians and crew. Several Huron County residents were on board, two of whom were lost making them among the first casualties of World War II. The story is from David Yates newest offering, "That Freedom Might Survive". (Submitted photo)
On Sept. 3, 1939, U-Boat commander Fritz-Julius Lemp, ordered two torpedoes fired at the British passenger liner “Athenia” killing 116 civilians in the first blow against the western allies. Most of them were women and children. Two of the victims were from Huron County.
The Athenia was built in 1923 in Scotland to carry passengers between Canada and Great Britain. On Sept. 1, 1939, the Athenia departed Glasgow harbor enroute to Montreal, she was crammed with 1,103 passengers and 315 crew.
There were a few eastern European refugees on board, 311 Americans and 434 Canadians trying to return home before hostilities broke out. Amongst the Canadians were a Goderich couple, Frederick and Sarah Weir. The Weir’s were returning from six weeks visiting relatives in Scotland. Mr. Weir was a local Justice of the Peace, and Knox Presbyterian Church Sunday School teacher.
Thornton Mustard and was his wife, Pearl, were returning on the Athenia from a visit with their son, Dr. Donald Mustard, who was practicing medicine in Birmingham, England. Mustard was born in Brucefield, attended Clinton Collegiate Institute and graduated from Toronto’s Faculty of Education in 1910. In 1938, Mustard had just been appointed Principal of the Toronto Normal School. When he boarded the Athenia, Mustard was acknowledged in Max Caulfied’s, “A Night of Terror” (1958) as one of Ontario’s “foremost educationists.”
Mrs. Weir later claimed that when Britain declared war at 1100 hrs (GMT) on Sept. 3, a ‘bulletin had been put up’ informing passengers. Athenia Captain James Cook that night ordered lights out and steered a zig zag course with instructions to the crew not to unduly alarm the passengers.
Uberleutnant Lemp spotted the Athenia at 1630 and at 1940 he ordered two torpedoes fired at her. One torpedo missed but the other slammed into the Athenia amidship. Although Germany was not a signatory of the 1930 London Naval Treaty which forbade merchant vessels to be torpedoed without warning, German standing orders issued in 1936 permitted attacks on merchant vessels only if passengers could be safely removed. Not only did Lemp do nothing to assist passengers, survivors bitterly remembered the sound of the U-Boat’s 4.7-inch gun firing shells into the mortally wounded Athenia.
The German government denied responsibility for torpedoing the Athenia. Hitler still had hoped for a diplomatic solution with Britain and France on the first day of the war. As unrestricted submarine warfare was the justification for America’s entry into World War One in 1917, the German High Command was fully aware of the need to avoid antagonizing the US through killing American civilians.
Clearly, Lemp had disobeyed orders which forbid U-Boat commanders from firing on unidentified vessels. When he realized his error, Lemp fled the scene of the crime. He did not report the Athenia's sinking to the German High Command until Sept. 27.
The official Nazi line accused Winston Churchill (he was First Lord of the Admiralty in 1939) for deliberately staging the incident for propaganda purposes.
On board the Athenia, Mrs. Weir went to the ship’s lounge while Mr. Weir decided to stay in the cabin. It was a separation that was to last an eternity as Mrs. Weir recalled that when the torpedo exploded “the ship lurched madly and then everything went into total darkness.” Trapped below decks, Mr. Weir was probably killed in the initial explosion.
Amazingly, panic was at a minimum. Passengers and crew alike donned lifebelts and made their way to the lifeboats. Chief Officer Copland explained that what made the lifeboat launchings easier was the high proportion of women on board who “were not prepared to take the law into their own hands.” When one man tried to shove his way onto a lifeboat, one female passenger grabbed him and said, “This is a British ship, and it’s women and children first.”
Mrs. Weir’s testimony bears out “the wonderful courage and strength of the women when the men at the oars became too tired their places were taken by women and there wasn’t a whimper from them.”
Despite spending 11 hours on a crowded lifeboat with 40-50 ‘motley’ survivors clad in pyjamas and ‘thin frocks’, Mrs. Weir stated that the “women showed remarkable calm, of course, there were those crying out for their children from whom they had become separated and there were little tots crying for their mothers. It was terrible.”
A Royal Navy destroyer rescued Mrs. Weir’s boat whose crew treated the survivors “with every possible care and courtesy.” Mrs. Weir was returned to Scotland and made it back to Canada on Oct. 14, 1939. Mr. Weir’s body was never recovered.
After initially reported as safe in the Clinton News-Record (Sept. 7, 1939), the fate of Thornton Mustard was one of the most tragic. Mustard’s wife reserved for him the last spot on one of the lifeboats. He was about to step in when a young woman appeared on deck. He moved aside and offered the spot to the woman. That was the last Mrs. Mustard saw of her husband.
Thornton Mustard finally got into lifeboat 5A. When the Norwegian ship Knute Nelson came to rescue Mr. Mustard in lifeboat 5A, it got too close to the propellers. The overcrowded lifeboat was pulled into the propellers and the ‘gallant’ Mr. Mustard, along with several other passengers, was killed at the moment of rescue.
Among Mr. Mustard’s four surviving sons and one daughter, was Dr. William Thornton Mustard. Dr. William Thornton became a brilliant heart surgeon who would be awarded the Order of the British Empire and the Order of Canada.
Uberleutnant Lemp explained to his superiors that he believed the vessel was either a troop ship or an Armed Merchant Cruiser. Both explanations were flawed in that he had ample time to confirm the vessel’s identity. In a clumsy attempt at a cover-up, Lemp was ordered to re-write his log book omitting the torpedo attack. Lemp went down with his U-Boat on May 8, 1941.
Public opinion in 1939 could still be horrified by the wanton murder of 116 civilians (85 of them were women and children) aboard the Athenia. Resolve in Canada and Britain was stiffened by this act of ‘terror’ on the high seas. Huron County lost two of its most distinguished citizens. Yet, Thornton Mustard and George Weir were just the first of millions of innocent civilians to be killed in the Second World War. It was a minor affair by the standards of the Holocaust, but the torpedoing of the Athenia was the first Nazi atrocity of World War Two.
“That Freedom Might Survive” is available for $25 from The Village Book Shop, Bayfield; Fincher’s Books and The Book Peddler in Goderich; Blyth Citizen; and MyTy Books, Clinton.
Library Reads available via curbside appointment
The staff at the Bayfield Public Library look forward to days when they are able to provide their regular services. With the present lockdown they are offering curbside pick up by appointment only on Wednesdays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. (Photo by Jamie Thomas)
The year 2021 will mark eight years since the current Bayfield Public Library building opened to the public and that is reason to celebrate.
The staff at the Bayfield Library would like to offer thanks to the Friends of Bayfield Library (FOBL), patrons, volunteers and all their visitors who have made this library the vibrant hub of the community!
They look forward to a brighter future, days when they are able to provide their regular services. With the present lockdown they are offering curbside pick up by appointment only on Wednesdays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.
People are encouraged to check the library catalogue online at www.huroncounty.ca/library/ to place their holds and the staff will set up at time for people to come and pick them up! Or feel free to contact staff by calling 519 565-2886 or email email@example.com. They are ready to assist with everyones library needs and reads!
Planned Bayfield seeks online public consultation
Are you interested in the future development of Bayfield? A Secondary Plan is being developed for the Village.
Community input is currently being sought through www.connectedcountyofhuron.ca.
Who is involved? This project was initiated by the Council of the Municipality of Bluewater. A Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC), made up of individuals from the community, are advising on the development of the Plan. The members of the CAC include: Councilor Bill Whetstone, Chair; Leanne Kavanaugh, Vice Chair; Abby Armstrong, Andre Mech, Councilor George Irving, Dave Gillians, Dave MacLaren, Elaine Coombs, Gary Davidson, Gayle Waters, Jean Anne Hamilton, Jeff Graham, John Van Ogtrop, Kim Loebach and Roger Lewington.
What will this project result in? Planned Bayfield will have two main deliverables:
1) A high-level, conceptual plan showing the preferred location of future residential and commercial development, infrastructure, general street configurations, parks and trails, natural areas and connections. The Plan will include a discussion of cultural heritage features and other community assets such as public art, gateways, treescapes, vistas, etc.
2) A document which outlines the community’s vision and proposed amendments to existing planning tools to implement the vision within future decision making. The document will also include urban design and architectural direction. The tools to be amendment will include but not be limited to the Bluewater Official Plan, Zoning By-law and Site Plan Control By-law.
How will this project be completed? The Plan will be developed over the next six months and will include multiple rounds of public consultation through the online platform as well as consultation with stakeholders, such as local community groups, and agencies, such as the Ministry of Transportation. The process has been adapted to respond to current public health protocols.
The initial round of consultation is live now and is designed for broad visioning. Subsequent rounds will ask more pointed questions on a range of thematic areas which will be based on the initial round of input. Draft policy shifts and implementation tools will be posted for the community’s review and input.
How can I get involved? Visit www.connectedcountyofhuron.ca and register as a participant in Planned Bayfield. There are different ways to give input such as surveys, dropping pins onto a map to identify key locations, telling stories, etc. For example, in the first round, aerial imagery of Bayfield in 1955, 1978 and 2015 allows for reflection on how the Village has changed over the past 65 years and how it might change moving into the future. What is the community vision for Bayfield in 20 years and beyond?
Why develop a Secondary Plan now? With increased capacity at the wastewater treatment plant, Bayfield will have the infrastructure required to accommodate new growth. The purpose of the Secondary Plan is to ensure that change and growth, such as new residential and highway commercial developments, are designed to meet the community's long term vision.
People may not be aware but the Bayfield Farmers’ Market didn’t close up shop at the end of Thanksgiving – the online store is still operating with bi-weekly pickups or contactless delivery.
The next market pick-up day is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 15.
People can place their orders by visiting openfoodnetwork.ca/bayfield-farmers-market/
from Sunday, Jan. 10 at 8 a.m. to Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 8 p.m. Shoppers will be directed to pick up their items up on Jan. 15 sometime between 3-5 p.m. at Shopbike Coffee Roasters on Bayfield’s Main Street. They will receive an email confirmation (Thursday) with the approximate time of delivery on Friday afternoon.
Orders can be paid online with credit card or email transfer. Organizers are pleased to offer delivery within 15 KMs of Bayfield for a flat fee of $5. Shoppers can select their preference at checkout.
Anyone who would like to receive a reminder to shop the market when it opens is invited to join the Bayfield Farmers’ Market email list. People can do so by visiting: eepurl.com/g1lpZ5
The generosity of the community continues to brighten the lives of the people who look to the Bayfield Area Food Bank (BAFB) for support.
This week volunteers with the BAFB would like to thank the owner and staff of Out of the Blue Fish & Seafood Market for their generosity.
“A sincere thank you to Sue Larson and the staff at Out of the Blue Fish & Seafood Market for their generous donation of non-perishable food items collected over the Christmas season by their business,” said President of the BAFB, Terry Henderson. “Out of the Blue generously offered a free dinner order to anyone bringing in a donation for BAFB to their restaurant. The result was a very ample collection to help us restock for the New Year.”
Anyone in need of assistance at this time, is asked to please reach out through either an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone/text 519 955-7444. All enquiries are handled with complete confidentiality.
For anyone wanting to drop off a non-perishable food donation, the outdoor bin located at Trinity St. James Church on Keith Crescent, has been moved to the north entrance of the parish hall. This red bin is sitting next to the recycling container at that doorway facing the parking lot, and is emptied frequently, especially with the freezing temperatures to come.
Please note, monetary donations are always a very welcome gift as well, as this allows BAFB to purchase needed items that aren’t otherwise available.
For anyone who would like to support BAFB with a monetary gift, there are a few options available. Cheques can be mailed to: Bayfield Area Food Bank, 10 Keith Cres., Bayfield, ON, N0M 1G0. A collection container for cash donations is located at The Bayfield Garage at the corner of Hwy. 21 and Jane St. An e-transfer can be made through BAFB’s gmail account: email@example.com or a donation can be received on-line through the www.canadahelps.org website.
All donations of $20 or more will be receipted for tax purposes. BAFB is a registered charity with CRA. Anyone who would like a receipt, is asked to ensure that their name and address are clearly provided along with the donation.
BAYFIELD YACHT CLUB
After what has proven to be a year filled with new experiences and protocols, the Bayfield Yacht Club (BYC) is pleased to say farewell to 2020 and to wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2021!
The BYC recognizes that the 2020 Boating Season held a significant amount of adjustment in how both the BYC functioned as well as how local Marinas and beaches were utilized.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank our past and present members as well as all of the stellar individuals at Bayfield Marina, Harbour Lights Marina and Bayfield Marine Services for making the very best of a less than favorable situation this past year. The amount of time, work and cooperation that was selflessly invested in maintaining as ‘normal’ a season as possible for our boating community was greatly appreciated,” said Jayne Dietrich, BYC commodore, representing the BYC Executive Team.
“We are confident that in the twenty weeks between now and the 2021 Spring Launch that the restrictions and hurdles we faced over the past year will begin to ease and in turn allow the BYC to have a more active and involved 2021 Season,” she added.
The BYC Executive Team will continue to monitor the ever-changing protocols and work to create events and activities that fall within the allowable guidelines for 2021.
For those members who paid their Membership Dues for the 2020 Season, their 2020 Membership has been extended to cover the 2021 Season. For anyone wishing to join or renew for 2021, they can do so by firstname.lastname@example.org.
“May everyone have a safe and enjoyable winter; we look forward to seeing you in the spring!” concluded Dietrich.
Trinity St. James Anglican Church has now suspended their in-church Wednesday morning, Communion Services.
Sunday services will continue at 11 a.m. and are provided virtually over ZOOM. All are welcome. The congregation would also like to invite people to join in their relaxed Coffee and Conversation hour also held over ZOOM every Thursday and Friday starting at 11 a.m. To join any of these ZOOM sessions please contact Rev’d Mary Farmer at email@example.com.
It's cookie season
Bayfield Guiding is pleased to announce that it is Chocolatey Mint Cookie season. For the first time ever, people can order their cookies online and have them shipped right to their door anywhere in Canada! Please note there is a minimum cookie order and a shipping fee.
Here is the link: online cookie portal.
A limited number of cookies have been distributed to the Bayfield membership for in person selling at $5 a box. They will be following COVID-19 protocols. So don’t miss out on supporting Bayfield Guiding directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements for cookie delivery.
Centre for the arts
The Bayfield Centre for the Arts (BCA) is planning a future fundraiser by paying homage to their temporary location – The Barn at 24 Main Street North in the village, the former home of Kryart Studio behind The Village Bookshop.
Artists are invited to donate an original 12” X 12” art piece depicting an Ontario barn in any medium and captured from any angle. These donated barn paintings will be hung and displayed for sale in The Barn in the Spring of 2021. All proceeds will go toward education and appreciation of the arts.
Please email email@example.com to let organizers know of intent to participate and to receive an information package.
ADOPT A BFF
Sydney (Submitted photo)
BFF has helped hundreds of feral and abandoned cats find their forever homes but many are still waiting.
Sydney is the Adopt-A-BFF featured cat of the week.
Sydney is a petite, female kitten, approximately three months old. She was found with severe burns on her back leg possibly from touching a car exhaust pipe. She was taken to the clinic for examination and the vet explained that it will be a long time before the burn is completely healed but she will recover.
Despite all she’s been through this little love muffin is very cuddly and entertaining. She is extremely excited to see food and treats!
Once this sweet baby is healed and vetted, she will be looking for her forever home. Anyone interested in adopting Sydney is asked to reach out to Bayfield’s Forgotten Felines at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations are always welcome as the cost of a vet visit is $150 per feline, a lot more for cats with special needs. Any financial amount whether it be large or small would be most appreciated. E-transfers can be sent to the email above or email to arrange for a drop off or pick up of donations. Cheques can be mailed to Bayfield’s Forgotten Felines, P.O. Box 33, Bayfield, ON, N0M 1G0.