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Dunn, C.J., Fireman, 1915

Headstone for 3 HMS Viknor unknown crew

Viknor Naval Crew

Shields Daily News 3rd March 1915

On Plymouth Naval Memorial is the name of (DEV) 721818 Fireman Charles John Dunn, serving with the Mercantile Marine Reserve who died 13/01/1915.

Charles [Charlie], was the youngest child of nine born, [5 died], in June 1892 at 196 Linskill Road, North Shields, to Charles John Dunn, a butcher, [born 22nd April 1865 and died in September 1949], son of William Dunn, [born 1815, North Shields, married on the 15th May 1862, in St Hilda's Church South Shields, died January 1877], and Elizabeth Walsh, [born 22nd April 1865 at North Shields, died September 1949 in Tynemouth], and his wife Mary Allison, [born 1866 Middlesex but died in 1906], who were married in January 1886.

Mary Allison was the daughter of William and Mary Allison, and they had the following children, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Dunn was born in December 1887 in North Shields, Northumberland, James Dunn was born on the 11th March 1889 in North Shields, Northumberland, he died in 1973 in Tynemouth, Northumberland, England. He married Euphemia Peach in January 1914 in Tynemouth, Northumberland, England. [She was born on the 27th August 1892 in North Shields, Northumberland, England. She died in March 1972 in Tynemouth, Northumberland, England], Mary Dunn was born on the 4th February 1890 in North Shields, Northumberland, England.

In 1901 the family was residing at 12 Steam Mill Lane, North Shields.

In 1911 Charles is living with his father, brother and sister at his father’s house in 11 Upper Elsdon Street, North Shields and his occupation is a steam boatman, his father and brother are both butchers, and his sister Mary, is recorded as a ’housekeeper’.

Charles John [junior], married Ann Gallon [born January 1890 at North Shields], on the 30th September 1914 at Tynemouth at St Peter's, Tynemouth. She is found living at the Duke of York, Cuthbert Street in South Shields in February 1915. After Charles' death Annie remarried Ernest McGuffie in February 1918.

In the 1939 Register Charles’ father has remarried and is living with his wife Isabella Dunn [born 12th February 1873], at 17 Wellington Street, Tynemouth. He is 65 years old and his occupation is a Butcher’s Slaughterer.

Charles was one of the crew members of the HMS Viknor, part of the (10th Cruiser) Squadron, which sunk with all of its crew on the 13th January 1915 by a mine which had been laid by the vessel Berlin.

His body was never recovered or identified like many of his fellow crew members.

Also on board the Viknor were eight Germans who had been taken prisoner when SS Bergensfjord was captured on January 11th 1915. These included Graf Hans Adam Wedell and Dr. Rasmus Bjornstad. Wedell was a high level German spy traveling from New York to Germany. It is unclear who Bjornstad was or if this was even his real name. The other (unnamed) six Germans were stowaways and suspected to be traveling to Germany to join the war effort.

Source: Maritime Quest with thanks.

The Viknor commenced signing on her mercantile marine crew on the 2nd December. She completed articles on the 22nd and left the Tyne on the evening of the 28th.

Naval History WW1. Official Account.“VIKNOR, armed merchant cruiser, 13 January 1915, Atlantic off N Ireland - ex-Viking or The Viking, ex-cruise ship, 5,386grt, built 1888, Viking Cruise Co, 15kts, hired 19/11/14, Pendant No.M.82, 10th CS Grand Fleet, Cdr Ernest Ballantyne, most northerly ship on Northern Patrol line B north of the Shetlands. On the 11th, at around 62N, 02.24W, intercepted Norwegian SS Bergensfiord carrying an important German secret service agent and other nationals from New York, Viknor ordered to put prize crew on board, escort the Norwegian ship towards Lerwick, then continue on to Liverpool with a total of eight German prisoners. Last message from Viknor on 13th (He – off Malin Head; ss - at 1600 in 56.18N, 09W, course S21ºW), nothing more was heard of her. Probably 13th - Believed sunk off Northern Ireland by one of Berlin's mines broken free by heavy gales off Tory Island (Rn - foundered in heavy weather; C - Wrecked on north coast of Ireland), wreckage and bodies washed ashore at Portrush; 294 lives lost - 22 officers, 196 ratings, 74 MN and 1 canteen staff plus prisoners, no survivors (He – 259, ke - 295) (H/J/Rn/C/D/bi/dk/gf/ke/ss; ADM.137/185, ADM.116/1442)”.

Newcastle Illustrated Chronicle 28/01/1915: TYNESIDERS WHO SHARED H.M.S. VIKNOR'S MYSTERIOUS FATE. There being, so far as known, no survivors of H.M.S. Viknor, the one- time Tyne tourist steamer, Viking, which has been lost of the coast of Ireland, her fate will for ever be enshrouded in mystery. It seems certain that there were 300 or more men on board the vessel, including a very large proportion of North Country hands all of whom have perished. At the time of the disaster the Viknor was an armed merchantman.

Shields Daily News 22/02/1915: DEATHS. DUNN - Lost by the supposed foundering of the H.M.S. Viknor, Charles John, aged 22 years, beloved husband of Annie Dunn (nee Gallon), Duke of York, Cuthbert Street, South Shields. Deeply mourned by his wife and friends.

Shields Daily News 03/03/1915: DEATHS. DUNN - Lost on H.M.S. Viknor, Charles John Dunn (Charlie), youngest son of Charles John Dunn, butcher, and the late Poly Dunn, of Chirton, North Shields. Deeply mourned by all at home.

Newcastle Journal 30/01/1915: THE LOSS OF THE VIKNOR. It is officially announced that, according to the latest information available, the crew serving in H.M.S. Viknor, when that vessel was lost, with all hands, numbered 235 petty officers, non-commissioned officers, and men.

In 2006 the survey ship Celtic Explorer located the wreck of HMS Viknor, according to Dr Ian Lawler, the wreck is located on the outer edge of a minefield laid by SMS Berlin which lends some credibility to the theory that she could have hit a mine, but at this time there is still no definitive answer as to the cause of the loss.

Charles John Dunn is remembered in Tynemouth in T36.16 page 10 and List of Ships’ crews.

Official History of Naval Operations Vol II (NEW)
Complement list of HMS Viknor crew
The Merchant History of the Navy in WW1
H.M.S. Viknor Roll of Honour
The CWGC entry for Fireman Dunn

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk