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True adventure: the history of the “Shetland bus” to Norway in WWII

scalloway, shetland

It happened in Scalloway, Shetland. Norway and Shetland secretly linked

text and photos by Barbara Lodge

During the German occupation of Norway from 1940-45, a route was opened up between Norwegians and Britain’s most northerly islands of Shetland. In the dark of winter, specially adapted boats, manned by Norwegian refugees acting as fishermen, landed undercover agents on the coast of Norway and supplied the Norwegian resistance movement with weapons and supplies for sabotage. On the return journey they brought back Norwegian refugees. Known as the Shetland Bus, these journeys were not over land but on stormy seas through fog and darkness.


monument to the shetland bus
A monument is on the quayside with the names of the brave men of both nationalities who gave their lives

The book “The Shetland Bus – a classic story of secret war time missions across the North Sea” is a personal record by David Howarth, a junior naval officer at the time who helped set up and operate the base on Shetland. It tells the stories of the Norwegians who risked their lives and the Shetlanders who took them into their community – and sometimes married them….

model of the shetland bus
a small tribute to a brave boat

Scalloway on the west coast of the mainland of Shetland was the main port from which the boats set off for Norway. A small sculpture on the seafront commemorates this period of intense cooperation and friendship between Norway and Britain. This friendship is palpable today: the new Scalloway Museum was officially opened in 2012 by Jens Stoltenberg, the then Norwegian Prime Minister and now NATO Secretary General.

scalloway
Scalloway has a lovely hotel and restaurant, a castle and a museum.