After disembarking from the Hurtigruten cruise ship in Honningsvag, northern Norway, Peter Garner’s attention was caught by a large statue of a St. Bernard on the quayside (see right). After reading a plaque on the wall he realised this dog called Bamse was a very special dog. On returning to England he unearthed this story…..
It is a remarkable story of one of the Second World War’s most unusual heroes – a 14 stone St. Bernard dog who became a mascot for the Royal Norwegian Forces.
Bamse was bought in Oslo by Captain Erling Hafto, the master of the Norwegian whale-catcher Thorodd. He was taken home to his family in Northern Norway. Bamse quickly became a treasured family pet and accompanied Captain Hafto to sea from an early age. He was a very kind dog and even helped in the recovery of a severe illness of Vigdis, Captain Hafto’s daughter, never leaving her bedside until she recovered.
At the onset of the second World War the gentle giant followed his master to become a registered crew member of the mine-sweeper Thorodd. He took his place in the bow gun turret. Bamse cut an impressive figure and made a huge contribution to the morale of the crew; he also gallantly saved the lives of two of them. After Norway fell to the Germans in 1940, The Thorodd operated from Dundee and Montrose in Scotland. It took part in important and very dangerous voyages protecting the ships in the North Atlantic convoys. When back in port Bamse became a well-known and much loved figure, shepherding the Thorodd’s crew-members back to the boat at pub closing time, travelling on the local buses, he even had his own season bus ticket, breaking up fights and even taking part in football matches.
In 1944 aged only seven years old Bamse was found dead on the quayside in Montrose. He had died of a heart attack. Mourned both by locals and Norwegians when he died, Bamse’s memory has been kept alive both in Norway where he is still regarded as a National hero, and in Montrose, where a larger than life statue (see right) of him was unveiled by the Duke of York. The statue is not facing the sea but turned towards Honningsvag where the statue there is facing Montrose. He was the only dog to be awarded the PDSA Gold Medal which was for his actions in saving the life of a crew member who had fallen overboard. The piece of land given for his burial is now owned by the Montrose Trust and Glaxo (now GSK) still maintain the grave. This is the story of the extraordinary life of an extraordinary dog.
PAWS’ next meeting is on Tuesday, March 27th, when, as well as the AGM, Jacqueline Murphy will be giving a demonstration on “Before and After Beauty”. PAWS welcomes visitors at a cost of £5.00 which includes refreshments.
Details of all meetings and speakers are on the diary of the home page of this website. If you would like further information about PAWS please ring either of the following committee members: