Journalist Tom Sanger will present a talk — Sunk Without Warning: Athenia and the Start of WWII — at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM), 113 Harbor Way.

The Athenia, the first British ship sunk by Germany in World War II, was a passenger liner carrying 1,400 people — mostly women and children.

A German submarine torpedoed and sank the Athenia on Sept. 3, 1939, just hours after England and Germany declared war. This little-known story is the subject of Sanger’s talk and his book, Without Warning.

The topic holds a personal connection for Sanger because his grandmother was an Athenia survivor. Her account of the tragedy led Sanger to research the fate of other passengers and to write his historical novel about their experiences.

The story of the sinking, told from the perspective of eight eye witnesses — including the commander of the German U-boat — received all five-star ratings on Amazon and was described by one reviewer as “an exciting page-turner.”

Sanger, a native of Los Angeles, has had a 30-year career in journalism and public relations. He worked as a reporter for the Associated Press and radio station KABC in L.A., as well as researched and wrote documentary scripts for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in Sydney.

Cost to hear Sanger’s talk is $5 for SBMM members, $15 for non-members. Register at or call 805-456-8747. The event is sponsored by Marie L. Morrisroe.

For more about the Maritime Museum, visit or call 805-962-8404.

— Rita Serotkin for Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.