All about ‘Bamse - a Norwegian hero’

Stonehaven Ladies Probus Club’s new president for 2014-15, Frances Gilroy, welcomed all members to the AGM which followed Stuart Usher’s talk on “Bamse - a Norwegian hero.”

Bamse (teddy bear) was a St Bernard dog with a bouncy and enthusiastic nature, who grew to be 14 stone.

He was acquired by Captain Erling Hafto, the harbour master of Honningsvar in arctic Norway.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Captain - now Lieutenant - Erling Hafto was the ideal choice to command a former whaling ship, “Thorrod.”

So Bamse went to sea! His size was a problem so he was quartered on deck near the gun or below decks in a cupboard.

He wanted to be near the crew. However, he suffered from seasickness, and if the forecast was for rough weather he was left on shore.

For all her neutrality, Norway was invaded by Germany on April 9, 1940, and orders came to try to save Norwegian shipping.

Thorrod was the first to arrive in the UK, going first to Lerwick and then Dundee.

Bamse adapted well to his new life, he enjoyed Scottish beer but couldn’t stand punch-ups in the pubs - he would always intervene.

He was also courageous and came to the rescue of Olaf Nilson (second in command) when the latter was attacked by a man with a knife.

In 1942, work on Thorrod reduced fuel capacity, her range was restricted and Montrose became her home port.

Here Bamse became a familiar figure in the port and town, but by spring 1944 Bamse’s health was beginning to fail.

On July 22, 1944, Bamse died on the quayside in Montrose.

A bronze statue of him was unveiled in 2006.

Vignis Hafto, daughter of Erling Hafto, was present at the ceremony.

Bamse had also been awarded, posthumously, the Dicken gold medal for gallantry.

The vote of thanks was proposed by Gay Halley, who spoke for all when describing Stuart’s talk as very informative, and that Bamse was a truly remarkable dog.