Henderson's Heroism, Part III
By David Henderson
The telephone rang on Friday, July 11th, and when we asked “Who is speaking?” and heard the answer “Edwards of Indianapolis,” excitement and emotions played havoc with an otherwise orderly household. Edwards of Indianapolis meant Edwards of the Zam-Zam. It meant news and details of the experience of our own Dr. and Mrs. [Jamie] Henderson.
One of the finest gestures the United Christian Missionary Society ever made was the sending of W.H. Edwards to Winnipeg—to Fred’s mother [DRH note: my grandmother] and brother [DRH note: my father], to Jamie’s parents and brother—to the rest of us who have known Jamie since she came to us. In our hearts, we knew Mr. Edwards would come, but our reason told us the trip would cost money and that is badly needed these days in the missionary cause. Visits in the Henderson and Jamieson homes were comforting although no further word could be given as the whereabouts of our dear friends.
We do know though that they were wonderfully brave and helpful when the “time” came. After finding that their lifeboat, to which they were assigned, had been shelled, the Hendersons just naturally ran to the Edwards for help. Jamie and Mrs. Edwards along with others were lowered into the lifeboat, also Mr. Edwards, when to their consternation, the boat pulled away without Freddie. He was on the ladder being left behind. He jumped and swam under the water and under the lifeboat to appear at one side. He took hold of the boat and refused to add his weight to those already in the boat. However, he was pulled in and the four were together again.
For weeks they traveled in the damp darkness of the hold of the captor’s ship until they were landed in occupied France. There the Americans were released and the Edwards bid good-bye to Fred and Jamie, who were prisoners of war. Although Mr. Edwards is a Scotchman, because of his experience on the Athenia and because his wife and sons are Americans, he took out his American papers shortly before he sailed on the ill-fated Zam-Zam. Otherwise, he too would be with Fred and Jamie now.
–from Nellie Stewart, “Mr. Edwards Visits Winnipeg,” The Canadian Disciple, Owen Sound, Vol. VI, No. 7, July-August, 1941.
Edwards’ “experience on the Athenia” refers to Edwards, his wife, and his son being on the Athenia. According to Carolyn Gossage, The Accidental Captives: The Story of Seven Women Alone in Nazi Germany, Toronto: Dundurn, 2009, the Athenia was “the first Allied passenger ship to be sunk by a German submarine—U-30 on 3 September 1939, within hours of Britain and France’s declaration of war on Germany. Their destination was the Congo [DRH note: the same as Uncle Fred’s and Aunt Jamie’s destination], where they had spent thirty years in the mission fields.”