13th January 1915 –
HMS Viknor lost at sea

atrato_bOn 13th January 1915, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Viknor disappeared off the Irish coast, with no distress messages ever heard. It was later assumed she hit a mine and was a sudden, devastating loss.

AMC VIKNOR-EX VIKING-EX ATRATO-1888-1915. (3)She was launched in September 1888 as RMS Atrato, by Napier & Son in Glasgow, for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. When completed she was a single screw steamer fitted with a three-cylinder triple-expansion engine but was also rigged as a three-masted schooner. She displaced 5,386 tons, and was 421 feet long. With her clipper bow and raking masts, she looked more like a luxury yacht. She could carry 176 First Class passengers and 400 in steerage, on the service between Southampton and South America, and then to the Caribbean. The maiden voyage was on 17th January 1889, to Buenos Aires. In October 1912 she was sold to Viking Cruising Company of London and renamed Viking, to operate cruises in northern Europe.

She was requisitioned in 1914 at the outbreak of the Great War, and was refitted as an armed merchant cruiser, under Commander Ballantyne and a mainly RNR crew. She was commissioned as HMS Viknor and assigned to the 10th Cruiser Squadron. On  1st January 1915 sailed from Londonderry to join B Patrol off the north coast of Scotland. She stopped the Norwegian vessel Bergensfjord, which was suspected of carrying a German spy, and escorted her to Kirkwall in the Orkneys. Viknor then sailed for Liverpool, but never arrived. On 13th January 1915 she sank with all hands in heavy seas, off Tory Island, County Donegal. Later, wreckage and a number of bodies washed up along the north coast of Ireland; more bodies washed up on the Scottish coast. Many of the bodies were buried at Bonamargy Friary in County Antrim, with others at Ballintoy Churchyard. Commander Ballantyne was buriedl at Dalkeith, with full naval honours. The official verdict was that Viknor struck a mine, probably laid by the cruiser SMS Berlin. The wreck was eventually found in 2006, and in 2011 a scuba diver placed a White Ensign on the site, in memory of the 22 officers and 273 ratings lost.