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History / Norway connection honoured with ceremony at Shetland Bus memorial in Scalloway

From left to right: Shetland Bus Friendship Society's Stephen Leask, deputy lord lieutenant Iain Tulloch, commander Henrik Bergmann of the Royal Norwegian Navy, two flag bearers, Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland Brigadier Andy Muddiman, SIC convener Andrea Manson, Royal British Legion representative Daniel Laverty. Photo: SIC

THIS WEEK’s Shetland Bus commemorations moved to the operation’s former base Scalloway on Thursday for a wreath laying ceremony.

It followed a similar event in Lerwick at the war memorial on Tuesday.

The Scalloway ceremony was preceded by the arrival of the Norwegian navy ship the Gnist, which left Lerwick for the village – at a decent speed – on Wednesday night.

Like the Lerwick ceremony, members of its crew were involved in the Scalloway event, which basked in some fine April sunshine.

The UK navy were represented too, whilst local guests were present as well among a healthy turnout from the public.

Opening the event was representative of the Shetland Bus Friendship Society Stephen Leask.

“The strong bond between Shetland and Norway was forged in these times of hardship and danger, and continue to this day,” he said.

Wreaths were laid by navy and British Legion representatives as well as SIC convener Andrea Manson and deputy lord lieutenant Ian Tulloch.

During the World War II German occupation of Norway, the Shetland Bus operation played a crucial role.

Under the cover of darkness, a group of small boats – collectively known as the Shetland Bus – ferried people and weapons between Shetland and Norway.

Initially it operated informally using fishing boats, before it then became a formal part of the war effort completing more than 200 trips.

Not all of those trips were successful, and 44 lives were lost during the crossings. However, the introduction of sub-chaser ships in 1943 – 80 years ago – brought an end to the fatalities.

Speaking at the wreath laying event in Scalloway, Leask said: “This visit by our esteemed guests, standing beside us here today is testimony to this unique connection, for to live in the hearts of those we leave behind, is not to die.”

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Commander Henrik Bergmann of the Norwegian navy said those involved in the Shetland Bus operation “sacrificed blood sweat and tears”.

“Some paid the ultimate price and have never returned. But none of them died in vain.”

Photo: Shetland News

Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland Brigadier Andy Muddiman said the Shetland Bus operation showed a “strong moral commitment” that continues to be needed today.

“Since the war we’ve faced common adversaries in the North Atlantic, and the North Sea and in the high north, and now, once again, those threats are re-emerging and we’ve having to think very hard about how we cooperate,” he said of the relationship with Norway.

“As we look round the world and the situation in Europe in particular, we’re well aware that tyranny, and people’s personal response to that tyranny, is an ongoing issue.”

The operational base of the Shetland Bus moved from Lunna on the east to Scalloway in 1942, where it remained for the rest of the war.

The Shetland Bus memorial, which pays tribute to the 44 crewman lost on the missions and has a model of a fishing boat used in the operation, sits just along the road from the Prince Olav slipway where vessels were repaired.

The slipway and a cradle there are set to be reconstructed in the coming years as a wartime exhibit.

Leask said: “As the work progresses this too will come a constant reminder of the strength of the connection between our two lands.”

The visiting guests were given a look at the slipway before heading off to the Scalloway Museum, which has a section on the Shetland Bus containing artefacts and information.

Meanwhile almost opposite the slipway is Norway House, which was previously living accommodation for Norwegian crews. It is now a multi-floor gym used by the local weight training club.

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