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Sinking of HMS Viknor

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

Unit/ Formation: Memorial

Location: West Coast of Ireland

Period/ Conflict: World War I

Year: 1915

Date/s: 13th January 1915

RMS Atrato was a UK steamship that was built in 1888 as a Royal Mail Ship and ocean liner for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. In 1912 she was sold and became the cruise ship The Viking. Toward the end of 1914 she was requisitioned and converted into the armed merchant cruiser HMS Viknor. She sank in 1915 with all hands, a total of 295 Royal Navy officers and men.

RMS Atrato

She was placed under the command of Commander EO Ballantyne with a complement of 22 officers and 273 ratings and assigned to the 10th Cruiser Squadron which was tasked with patrolling between Iceland and Northern Scotland. Minimally armed, these merchant cruisers were not expected to meet enemy warships and their main purpose was to intercept neutral shipping for inspection to detect war contraband destined for Germany.

On 28 December 1914 Viknor went on patrol from the River Tyne, and on 1 January she joined "B" patrol off the north coast of Scotland. The patrol was ordered to find and stop the neutral Norwegian America Line ship Bergensfjord, which the UK Government believed was carrying a suspected German spy. Viknor found Bergensfjord, detained her and escorted her to Kirkwall in Orkney. There the suspect and a number of other prisoners were transferred to Viknor, which then left for Liverpool.

Viknor never reached her destination. On 13 January 1915 she sank with all hands in heavy seas off Tory Island, County Donegal, Ireland. She sent no distress signal. Some wreckage and many corpses washed ashore on the northern coast of Ireland.

The Berlin, interred near Bergen, Norway, after her only war-cruise []

Though the exact cause of the Viknor’s loss cannot be established with certainty, it is possible that she struck a German mine. This could possibly have been one of the 200 laid in the same general area by the German auxiliary cruiser Berlin, one of which had sunk the British super-dreadnought HMS Audacious on October 27th 1914.

Completed only in 1913, the 25,000-ton Audacious, with a main armament of en 13.5-in guns, was one of the most powerful battleships afloat and her loss to a single mine was a severe shock to the British Admiralty as regards underwater vulnerability of even its most modern ships. The sinking of the Audacious was witnessed by thousands of passengers on the liner SMS Olympic (sister of the ill-fated Titanic) which participated in rescue of the crew before Audacious sank, blowing up in the process. In terms of value for money for the German Navy, the sinking of the Audacious by a single mine dropped by a converted merchant vessel must have ranked for one of the best bargains in naval history.

The wreck of HMS Viknor (Credit Barry McGill) []

The wreck of HMS Viknor was found in 85m of water in 2006 by the Irish survey vessel Celtic Explorer but the reason for her loss could still not be identified with absolute certainty, in 2011 a scuba diver placed a White Ensign on it in memory of her complement.

A Royal Marine from the Viknor, Isle of Coll, Argyll and Bute, Scotland

There were 35 Royal Marines killed in this event, see the Royal Marines Roll of Honour Data Base:

DAVIS, Frederick, Private, RMLI (RFR B 151), 8648 (Po):

DAY, Ernest W G, Private, RMLI (RFR B 853), 6628 (Po):

DENYER, John, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1281), 11453 (Po):

DIX, George, Private, RMLI (RFR B 97), 4905 (Po):

EXTANCE, Caleb, Private, RMLI (RFR B 956), 8844:

GRIFFIN, James, Private, RMLI (RFR B 644), 7084 (Po):

GUY, Albert, Private, RMLI (RFR B 596), 8245 (Po):

HARRISON, John, Private, RMLI (RFR 914), 6508 (Po):

HINDER, Richard J, Private, RMLI, 16033 (Po):

HOCKIN, Ernest, Bugler, RMLI, 17078 (Po):

HOUNSOME, Henry G, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1100), 9897 (Po):

KIMBER, Alfred, Private, RMLI (RFR B 943), 9818 (Po):

KITCHINGHAM, Thomas H, Private, RMLI, 16658 (Po):

LUCAS, Herbert V, Private, RMLI (RFR B 915), 8584 (Po):

MARRIOTT, Walter, Private, RMLI, 16719 (Po):

MCLOUGHLIN, Henry, Private, RMLI (RFR B 878), 8360 (Po):

MUSGROVE, Frederick, Corporal, RMLI, 13347 (Po):

NEWMAN, John J, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1393), 14929 (Po):

NOEL, Herbert C, Private, RMLI, 12081 (Po):

PALMER, Edward, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1230), 10910 (Po):

PITTERS, Ernest A, Private, RMLI (RFR B 920), 8385 (Po):

ROWE, George, Private, RMLI (RFR 500), 6361 (Po):

RUSHTON, Thomas, Private, RMLI (RFR B 887), 13258 (Po):

RYAN, William T, Private, RMLI (RFR A 1342), 11760 (Po):

SNELL, Frank, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1357), 15041 (Po):

SNOOK, Alfred H, Private, RMLI (RFR B 943), 13097 (Po):

SPENDLOVE, John, Private, RMLI (RFR B 821), 10720 (Po):

STEELE, William, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1335), 11558 (Po):

SUTTON, Thomas J, Corporal, RMLI, 10715 (Po):

TOWLE, George H, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1310), 11752 (Po):

WARREN, Frederick, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1119), 10020 (Po):

WEAVER, Charles W, Private, RMLI (RFR B 482), 9516 (Po):

WILDES, Harry, Colour Sergeant, RMLI, 2064 (Po).

Further reading:

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