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Historian wants to bring Great War wreck back home

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The Viola / Dias, photographed in the 1990s by  Lieutenant Philip Hall of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Viola / Dias, photographed in the 1990s by Lieutenant Philip Hall of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A rusting trawler in South Georgia is thought to be the last surviving boat of its kind to have served in the First World War – and now a historian wants to return it toEngland.

The Hull Daily Mail says the Viola was converted to carry out anti-submarine patrols, and helped sink two German submarines off the British coast.

After the war, it was used for whaling off the coast of Africa, before being sold to an Argentinian firm that used it for sealing around South Georgia – renamed Dias.

It was laid up on the shore after the whaling station at Grytviken closed in the 1960s and was still there when scrap metal merchants landed on South Georgia, triggering the Falklands War. 

The vessel sank on its mooring in 1974, according to the Wikipedia website.

In 2004, the site says, the Dias and the neighbouring Albatros were refloated, cleared of all remaining oil, and beached.

An organisation, the “Friends of Viola/Dias“, has been set up to preserve the ship – either on South Georgia or in its home port of Hull.

A website dedicated to the ship says: “Viola’s story is unique: a remarkable story of fisheries, whaling, sealing, war and exploration during which she both weathered and witnessed many aspects of mankind’s 20th Century struggles on the sea.

“Viola was one of 50-or-so trawlers built for the Hellyer Boxing Fleet in 1906. By 1918 no less than twenty two of her sister vessels had been lost, to either the elements or enemy action in the Great War.

“Today, apart from this little ship, all physical trace of the once proud Hellyer fleet has disappeared.

“Viola/Dias is now the oldest surviving former steam trawler in the world with her steam engines still intact.”

In 2006 the Viola’s original bell was discovered on a farm in Norway and purchased by Hull Maritime Museum. In 2008 the bell was returned to the ship

The Hull Daily Mail quotes Dr Robb Robinson, who works at the Maritime Historical Studies Centre in Hull, saying it would cost about £500,000 to take the boat back to the UK on a barge, and a further £1m to restore it.

He said the centenary of the First World War probably provided the best chance to inspire a campaign to transport the ship home. “Its story is a voyage through the 20th Century,” he said. “For me, it would be a dream to see it come back after all this time.”

Great War boat could finally be coming home – Hull Daily Mail
Viola (trawler) – Wikipedia
Viola/Dias website

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