Shetland Bus query

The yacht Risor, which may have been involved in the Shetland Bus operation.

A WEST coast port is looking for help to link it with the Shetland Bus operation in World War Two.

Two men running a website about the story of HMS Christopher, which operated out of Fort William and Corpach between 1940 and 1944, have had an enquiry from the US about clandestine activities in the North Sea.


Martin Briscoe and Derrick Warner were contacted by Professor Stephen Downes-Martin of the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

The professor wrote: “I have a letter dated 3rd July 1942 ‘for’ [on behalf of] Commanding Officer H.M.S. St. Christopher to my Grandfather requesting that any assistance required by my Grandfather be provided by Naval Officers in charge of Naval Ports. 

The confidential letter which has recently surfaced

“The letter refers to his Yacht Risor.  At the time my Grandfather was smuggling people into and out of Nazi held Norway. 

“Family tradition has it that he would attach himself to the Norwegian fishing fleet under darkness or fog and slide into Norway to pick up or drop off people, and then home the same way. 


“His full name was John Mulgrave Martin although he was also known as John Mulgrave Downes-Martin.”

The confidential letter was written by the Commanding Officer of HMS St Christopher certifying that any assistance should be given to Mr J M Martin and his yacht which was flying the civilian red ensign even though it was ‘on Admiralty Service’. 

Mr Warner said: “So far we’ve not been able to find anything out about either John Martin’s activities or the yacht itself.

“It seems possible that the boat might have been allied to the famous ‘Shetland Bus’ operation. There was a regular undercover shuttle of boats between Nazi occupied Norway and Shetland.


“We also know that torpedo boats regularly went from Shetland on raids and hid in the Norway fjords during daylight hours.

“We’d be delighted to hear from anyone who might have some information about either the yacht ‘Risor’ or John Martin himself. It’s a bit of a long shot, but perhaps someone remembers the man or his boat?

“If so, we’d be delighted if they could contact us so that we can pass on the information to his family and add a little to our knowledge of that important time.”

Derrick Warner is the present Commanding Officer of the TS St Christopher, the Lochaber Sea Cadet Unit which takes its name from the wartime training base.

He can be contacted on 01397 712605 or by email on warners@farmstead.wanadoo.co.uk.