An unsung heroine of the First World War, Viola lies abandoned 8,000 miles away on a beach in South Georgia in the Atlantic Ocean. The hope is that Viola can join another historic ship, the Arctic Corsair, the last sidewinder in the country, as part of a new visitor attraction on the river Hull.
Mr Johnson, patron of the charitable trust which is trying to raise the money, said everything was in place to bring Viola home – apart from the money.
Around £1.3m is needed for her passage alone. But the ship is not eligible for lottery grants until she is back in British territorial waters.
Mr Johnson, who supported fishermen during their long battle for compensation after the industry collapsed in the mid-1970s, said there should be more to show for everything they went through. He said: “The maritime heritage project is the perfect way to follow City of Culture.
“We need a lot of help from businesses and the important message to them is there’s no doubt that if the money comes in, Viola will come back.”