On January 13th 1915, 102 years ago today, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Viknor was lost off Tory Island. The ship went down without even a distress signal being launched taking with her all 295 men on board. The cause of the sinking is still unconfirmed though a naval mine is suspected.
The Viknor began life as the RMS Atrato built in 1888 as an ocean liner for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. She was sold in 1912 and became the cruise ship The Viking capable of carrying up to 279 passengers.
Near the end of 1914 she was requisitioned for the war effort, converted into an armed merchant cruiser and renamed HMS Viknor. She was allocated to the Royal Navy’s 10th Cruiser Squadron and tasked with patrolling between Iceland and Northern Scotland.
In early 1915 the Viknor was part of a patrol who had been ordered to find and stop the neutral ship Bergensfjord which was suspected of carrying a German spy. The Viknor found the ship and detained and escorted her to Kirkwall in Orkney. The suspected spy and a number of prisoners were transferred to the Viknor and they then set off for Liverpool.
But the Viknor never made it. On the 13th of January close to Tory Island the ship was lost in heavy weather. She never sent a distress signal and it was assumed she was sunk by a German naval mine but that has never been confirmed. In the days following the sinking many of the bodies and part of the wreck washed up on shore.
The HMS Viknor and her crew were some of earliest casualties in the Great War that would last another four years.