William George Johnson AM

b. 09/10/1908 Seldom Come By, Newfoundland.  d. ?

DATE OF AM ACTION: 15/03/1931 Horse Islands, Newfoundland.

Very little is known of William Johnson AM, other than he was the son of Thomas and Julie Johnson from Seldom Come By, Newfoundland. He was presented with his AM by the Governor of Newfoundland on 3rd June 1932. It is known he remained at sea until 1941, but then all trace of him is lost.



On the night of 15th March, 1931, the ” Viking ” was in the ice some nine miles from Horse Islands, White Bay, Newfoundland, when an explosion occurred in the magazine causing a large part of the stern to be torn away, and setting the ship on fire. The men in the cabin, galley and engine room and on the bridge were either killed or badly injured, but the majority of the crew, whose quarters were forward, were able to get out on the ice and after the first shock to return to the ship and provide themselves with clothing and some food. The ” Viking” carried a crew of 153 men all told, and of these 27 lost their lives. The great majority of those saved were able to reach Horse Islands and were eventually taken off by a relief ship. After the explosion Johnson started for the land with a party of about twenty men hauling a dory containing the mate of the ” Viking ” and a passenger, both of whom had been seriously injured. The party proceeded, hauling the dory through ” marshy ” ice, until 4 p.m. next day, when Johnson sent all the men in the party except three to Horse Islands for assistance. At daylight on 17th March no assistance had arrived; Johnson and the men with him had then been for a day and two nights without food or water, and they were still several miles from land. No vessel was in sight, nor was there any sign of assistance, and they were in field ice which at any moment with a change of weather conditions might become a mass of disintegrating pans. In these circumstances Johnson persuaded the three uninjured men remaining with him to make for land, but refused himself to leave the two injured men in the dory. That afternoon seven men from Horse Islands bringing food with them reached the dory, but it was so badly damaged that they were unable to drag it over the ice and they returned to Horse Islands. Johnson remained standing by the two injured men. About two hours later, he saw the smoke of a steamer, and this proved to be the s.s. ” Beothic ” searching for survivors. A party of men were landed from the vessel on to the ice, but darkness overtook them before they could reach Johnson and they were compelled to return to the ship. At daylight on the following morning, a ,rescue party was again landed from the ” Beothic,” and, this party finding it impossible to convey the injuired men across the ice in the damaged dory, returned to the ship for another dory, and eventually succeeded in getting Johnson and the two injured men on board the ” Beothic” at 11 a.m. on the 18th March. The ice conditions prevailing at the time were very treacherous, and the ice was of the type which has very little stability in fog, rain or snow, and might break up rapidly. A sudden change of wind from an off-shore direction would probably have loosened all the pack ice very quickly and sent it out to sea, and Johnson, with his knowledge of ice and weather conditions, must have realised the grave risk he was running in remaining with the injured men.