Bamse, the Norwegian sailor

This was a Norwegian dog, and the name translates to 'Teddy Bear'. He lived 1937-1944.  He was the

heroic masco of the Free Norwegian Forces during WWII, and thus became the symbol of Norwegian

freedom during the war. Bamse

 

Bamse was bought in Oslo by Captain Erling Hafto, the master of the

Norwegian whale catcher Therodd,   and he was taken to sea from an

early age.  At the onset of the Second World War, Thorodd

was drafted into the Royal Norwegian Navy, as a coastal  patrol vessel,

based in Hammersfest, andBamse was enrolled as an official crew

member on 9 February 1940.

After the Nzi invasion of Norway  on 9 April 1940 the Thorodd was part of the naval opposition to

the  Germans and had as one of its uses POW (prisoners of war) transport. From June 30, 1940

Bamse's  ship was  stationed in Montrose and Dundee in Scotland, and the ship remained here

remained for the  rest of the war.

 

 

Bamse lifted the morale of the ship's crew, and became well known to the local civilian population.

In battle, he would stand on the front gun tower of the boat, and the crew made him a special metal

helmet. His acts of heroism included saving a young lieutenant commander who had been attacked

by a man wielding a knife by pushing the assailant into the sea, and dragging back to shore a sailor

who had fallen overboard. He was also known for breaking up fights amongst his crewmates by

putting his paws on their shoulders, calming them down and then leading them back to the ship.

One of Bamse's tasks in Scotland was to round up his crew and escort them back to the ship in time

for duty or curfew.

To do this, he travelled on the local buses unaccompanied, and the crew bought him a buss pass

which was attached to his collar. Bamse would wander down to the bus stop at Broughty Ferry

Road and take the bus down to Dundee. He would get off at the bus stop near his crew's favourite

watering hole, the Bodega Bar and go in to fetch them. If he could not locate his friends he would

take the bus back to base.

 

From his ships's mascot, Bamse bacame mascot of the Royal Norwegian Navy, and then of all the

Free Norwegian forcec.  An iconic photograph of him wearing a Norwegian sailor's cap was used

on patriotic Eeaster cards, and Christmas cards during the war.  The PDSA made him an official

Allied Forces Mascot. Suffering from heart failure, Bamse died on the dockside at Montrose on

22 July 1944. He was buried with full military honours, and his funeral was attended by hunderds

of Norwegian sailors, Allied servicemen school children and the townsfolk from Montrose and

Dundee.  His grave site in the sand dunes has been looked

after by local people and by the GlaxoSmithKline factory.

  The royal Norwegian Navy holds a commemorative

ceremony every ten years. 

Bamse was posthumously awarded Norges Hunderorden

on 30 September 1984 for his war service.  In 2006, he was

also awarded the PDSA Gold Medal (sometimes known as

the "animals' George Cross") for gallantry and devotion to

 duty, the only World War II animal to have received this honour.

A larger than life sized bronze statue of Bamse, made by Scottish sculptor  Alan Herriot, was

unveiled by HRH  the Duke of York at Wharf Street in Montrose on 17 October 2006.

On the Norwegian side the Norwegian consul in Edinburgh, Bjørn Eilertsen, was present bringing

greetings from the Norwegian king,  Harald V. Also in attendance were Lathallan School Pipe Band,

representatives of the Royal Norwegian Navy, Hans Petter Oset, director of the Royal Norwegian

Navy Museum, and the daughter of Bamse's owner, Vigdis Hafto. A smaller bronze version of the

statue has been purchased by the Royal Norwegian Navy Museum (Marinemuseet) at Horten in

Norway.

In August 2008 a new book, Sea Dog Bamse was published. Written by author and columnist

Angus Whitson

 

 

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