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Norwegian wartime escape boat to be honoured in print

The fishing boat that helped four Norwegians escape German occupation and flee to Scotland will be honoured in a new book.

The fishing boat that helped four Norwegians escape German occupation and flee to Scotland will be honoured in a new book.

A small fishing boat that helped four Norwegians escape German occupation and flee to Scotland has been honoured in a new book.

The four men stole the tiny VA 92L from a Nazi collaborator during World War Two in the town of Mandal on the southern tip of Norway, crossing the North Sea to Old Portlethen in July 1941.

The craft was renamed Thistle and then worked out of nearby Stonehaven as a creel boat for 40 years, before being donated to Johnshaven Heritage Society.

Now the heroic tale of the flight to Scotland has been told by John Berthelsen, the son of escapee Carl Berthelsen, in his book ‘An Escape.’

John, who traced the boat after hearing his father’s story, said: “Discovering my father’s boat after 70 years was one of the most moving moments in my life.

“This boat is very significant, not only to my family but also to the Norwegian people as a whole, as it is probably the only surviving example of the many small open boats that braved the North Sea crossing in the war.”

Sixteen months after Hitler’s invasion of Norway, Carl and his three companions, Jacob Samuelsen, Kare Kirkevag and Kare Langefeld Jensen, stole the 23-foot boat which was equipped with just a basic compass.

The perilous journey almost ended shortly after it started when the group was intercepted and machine-gunned by a German plane.

They returned to land and set out again with the boat camouflaged by tree branches, and completed the four-day journey.

After the successful escape the boat was sold as a fishing vessel and worked out of Stonehaven harbour.

Finally, after a number of owners and a gradual decline in seaworthiness, the boat was transferred to Johnshaven where it was eventually donated to the local Heritage Society who could not raise funds to restore it.

In February 2012 it was taken back to Norway and is now displayed at the Maritime Museum at Lista.

Don Marr, of Johnshaven Heritage Society, said: “One wee boat brought together a whole community and created a lasting relationship with the Norwegians.”

Local historian Andrew Orr, who researched the incident, said: “It’s a really crackingly good true yarn.

“After the successful escape, the boat was sold as a creel boat, renamed as Thistle, and worked for the next four decades.

“It passed through a number of different owners and eventually came down to Johnshaven, leaking and well past its sell-by date..

“One of the owners put a new engine in the boat and lowered it into the harbour – and it kept on going to the bottom.”

Copies of the book will be displayed among maritime artefacts at Johnshaven Heritage Centre.

 

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