Shetland Bus

Shetland Bus

The Andholmen, a fully restored Shetland Bus boat re-visiting Scalloway in 2007

The Shetland Bus was a wartime resistance movement taking  wireless operators, armaments and combatants into Nazi occupied Norway and returning with refugees and resistance operatives during World War II.

After Norway was invaded in 1940, as resistance was waning and an Allied response was not fast enough in coming, some 300 vessels departed Norwegian shores with refugees escaping Nazi tyranny by heading west. Some landed in parts as wide-ranging as Iceland and England, but the majority headed for the friendly shores of Shetland.

It was apparent that if these small fishing vessels could escape from Norway then the same vessels could return, manned by the brave to execute clandestine missions. This was the beginning of the Shetland Bus and some 20+ vessels were chosen to begin these operations, with no shortage of volunteers to man them.

The most favourable conditions for entering occupied Norwegain territory were the darkest, stormiest nights, setting the weather against the small fishing vessels as much as, if not more than, the German forces.

The Shetland Bus was initially based in Lunna and Flemington (now known as Kergord) but in 1942 the main operation was moved to the more central location of Scalloway, with better communications, more social life for the Bus men and crucially, a purpose-built slipway for repair of the battered boats at Moore’s shipyard. Accommodation was provided in Norway House, near the slipway and the house named Dinapore became the headquarters of the operations. The men greatly enjoyed being part of the community which took them to its heart without ever compromising their missions.

PRince Olav Slip in Scalloway
The, now unused, Prince Olav slip in Scalloway, where Shetland Bus boats were repaired, is on the left. The slipway on the right is still very much in use at Moore's yard

There were almost 100 missions in total from Shetland to Norway using these small fishing vessels, which incurred the loss of 10 boats and 44 men through winter weather and German surveillance. It soon became apparent that bigger faster boats would need to be found and these came in the shape of three American sub-chasers, donated to th operation by the American Navy,  which undertook a further 115 missions without loss due to their greater speed, size and armament.

This war of attrition almost undoubtedly had an effect on the overall outcome of World War II, as Hitler stationed as many as 250,000 troops to guard the never-ending coastline of Norway on the belief that the Allied offensive was likely to come this way.

The Bus men were part of the Scalloway community for three long war years and as a recognition of this the slipway built at Moore’s for Bus use was renamed for the Norwegian Prince Olav in 1942. The Scalloway Museum features a permanent Shetland Bus exhibition and more recently, in 2001, the Scalloway Community Council decided that a permanent memorial was long overdue.

This memorial was finally unveiled in 2003 by Barbara Melkevik of Scalloway and Norway, one of several Shetland women who married Norwegians during the war.  It is crafted of stones from Shetland and Norway. The Shetland stones come from the areas involved in Bus operations,m Scalloway, Lunna, Kergord and Catfirth. The Norwegain Stones come from all of the Norwegain kommunes from which the fallen heroes of the Shetland Bus came: Askvoll, Aukra, Austevoll, Bergen, Bremanger, Bømlo, Flakstad, Flekkefjord, Florø, Godøy, Gulen, Herøy, Kongsberg, Kragero, Kvam, Kvinnherad, Radøy, Samnanger, Solund, Stord, Sund, Trondheim, Vågan and Alesund.

Queen Sonia of Norway visited the Shetland Bus Memorial in Scalloway to lay a wreath in 2007

In May 2007 the memorial was visited by Queen Sonia of Norway, to lay wreaths at the memorial to her countrymen, in recognition of the significance of this enduring link between the two communities.

Above information courtesy of the Shetland Bus Friendship Society. Photographs ©Mark Burgess

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