VIOLA—The Life and Times of a Hull Steam Trawler, just published, is an engrossing read in its own right, and is riding the crest of a wave of interest in all matters World War I, especially as it affected the British at home. Some 800 trawlers and their crews, already engaged in the most dangerous civilian occupation, were requisitioned from the Hull and Grimsby fleets into the war effort, to hunt U-boats and sweep for mines, and so keep open the shipping channels on which Britain depended. One quarter of those vessels were lost, along with half their crew complement.
Viola was one of this fleet of armed trawlers, and engaged with U-boats on a number of occasions. She survived the Great War but never returned to her home port; she was sold into a new life of whaling, sealing, and exploration in the far South Atlantic, and lies today at the derelict whaling station of Grytviken in South Georgia, where she narrowly escaped the Argentine scrap dealers’ attentions at the outset of the Falklands War in 1982; and from where, it is hoped by a group of MPs and many others, she may one day be repatriated.
Media interest in the book is mounting: An article in last week’s Sunday Times, features in preparation for many newspapers in Yorkshire and the North-East, where Viola served in the War, reviews and extracts in historical magazines and maritime journals, and only today an excellent interview with principal author Robb Robinson on BBC Radio Newcastle.
To an already extraordinary catalogue of facts about Viola, we can add that our book about her will be on sale at surely the world’s most southerly bookshop—at Grytviken’s South Georgia Museum, which enjoys a substantial if irregular ‘footfall’ from cruise ships during the austral summer soon to be upon it. How we get the books there is yet to be established…