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Memorial Sea Dog Bamse
"The presence of Bamse with the Norwegian Navy at Dundee and Montrose in World War Two has left an enduring reminder of the Norwegian contribution to the Allies, and of Scottish-Norwegian friendship."
~ Montrose Heritage Trust
Woof! One of WWII's most unusual animal heroes, this 196 pound St Bernard dog became the global mascot for the Royal Norwegian Forces and a symbol of freedom and inspiration for Allied troops throughout Europe. After Norway fell to the Germans in 1940, the Thorodd operated from Dundee and Montrose, where Bamse became a well-known and much-loved figure, shepherding the Thorodd's crew-members back to the boat at pub closing time, traveling on the local buses, breaking up fights and even taking part in football matches. Often donning his own steel helmet as he took his place in the Torodd's bow gun turret, Bamse made a huge contribution to the morale of the crew, and saved the lives of two of them. Mourned both by locals and Norwegians when he died in 1944, 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 of him stands.🇳🇴 🐕 🏴
Sea Dog Bamse died on the dockside at Montrose on 22 July 1944. He was buried with full military honours. Hundreds of Norwegian sailors, Allied servicemen, schoolchildren and townsfolk from Montrose and Dundee attended his funeral. His grave site in the sand dunes has been looked after by local people and the GlaxoSmithKline factory. The Royal Norwegian Navy holds a commemorative ceremony every ten years.
Bamse has been honored with a tartan, "Sea Dog Bamse, Pride of Norway" to commemorate a special dog, pressed into service for his country.
Bamse (Norwegian for "teddy bear") was bought in Oslo in Norway by Captain Erling Hafto, the master of the Norwegian whale catcher Thorodd and taken to sea from an early age.
At the onset of the Second World War, Thorodd was drafted into the Royal Norwegian Navy as a coastal patrol vessel, based in Hammerfest, and Bamse was enrolled as an official crew member on 9 February 1940. After the Nazi invasion of Norway on 9 April 1940 the Thorodd was part of the naval opposition to the Germans and had as one of its uses POW transport.
Bamse lifted the morale of the ship's crew, and became well known to the local civilian population. In battle, he would stand on the front gun tower of the boat, and the crew made him a special metal helmet. His acts of heroism included saving a young lieutenant commander who had been attacked by a man wielding a knife by pushing the assailant into the sea, and dragging back to shore a sailor who had fallen overboard. He was also known for breaking up fights amongst his crewmates by putting his paws on their shoulders, calming them down and then leading them back to the ship.
Shortly before the 10 June 1940 capitulation of mainland Norway, Thorodd was one of 13 Norwegian naval vessels to escape to the UK, arriving 17 June 1940. She was converted to a minesweeper in Rosyth from June 30, 1940 and stationed in Montrose and Dundee in Scotland, where she remained for the rest of the war.
One of Bamse's tasks in Scotland was to round up his crew and escort them back to the ship in time for duty or curfew. To do this, he travelled on the local buses unaccompanied, and the crew bought him a bus pass which was attached to his collar. Bamse would wander down to the bus stop at Broughty Ferry Road and take the bus down to Dundee. He would get off at the bus stop near his crew's favourite watering hole, the Bodega Bar and go in to fetch them. If he could not locate his friends he would take the bus back to base.
From the official register:
The tartan has been designed with the four colours of red, blue, white and gold which unite the countries and places with which Sea Dog Bamse is associated.
The symbolism of the Sea Dog Bamse tartan is inspired principally by the colours of Norway's national flag and ensign of the Royal Norwegian Navy. Red for blood, the Viking colour, blue for the ocean and white for the snow. Those colours are mirrored in the Scottish Saltire, the Scottish national flag and in the Royal Standard of Scotland which is a red lion rampant on a gold field - Gold, also represented in the Royal Standard, is priceless, as is the value of Freedom, the gift which Bamse fought and died for.
The heraldic colours of Nordkapp or North Cape, identifying Bamse's hometown of Honningsvag, are represented in Red and Gold. The heraldic crest of the Royal Burgh of Montrose is a red rose with the motto (in Latin) "Mare ditat, Rosa decorat" The Sea dictates, the Rose adorns.
The ensigns armorial of the City of Dundee are: "Azure, a pot of three growing lilies Argent", Three silver (white) lilies on a blue field.
For more on this famous St. Bernard, click his portrait.