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Bamse (St. Bernard).jpg
The iconic photo of Bamse wearing a Royal Norwegian Navy sailor's cap
Species Dog
Breed St. Bernard
Gender Male
Born 1937
Oslo, Norway
Died 22 July 1944
Montrose, Scotland
Resting place Montrose, Scotland
Nation from Norwegian
Occupation Military mascot
Employer Royal Norwegian Navy
Years active 9 February 1940-22 July 1944
Known for Symbol of Norwegian freedom during World War II
Awards Norway Norges Hundeorden
United Kingdom PDSA Gold Medal
Owner Erling Hafto
Official site
For other things named Bamse, see Bamse (disambiguation).

Bamse (Norwegian for "teddy bear") (1937 - 22 July 1944) was a St. Bernard that became the heroic mascot of the Free Norwegian Forces during the Second World War. He became a symbol of Norwegian freedom during the war.


Pre-war life

Bamse was bought in Oslo in Norway Captain Erling Hafto, the master of the Norwegian whale catcher Thorodd, and he was taken to sea from an early age. In her childhood memories of pre-war Honningsvåg Captain Hafto's daughter Vigdis remembers Bamse as a very kind dog that would look after the children while they were playing.[1]

War service

At the onset of the Second World War, Thorodd was drafted into the Royal Norwegian Navy as a coastal patrol vessel, based in Hammerfest,[2] 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. 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.

Bamse being given a bath aboard the minesweeper HNoMS Thorodd

Bamse and his crew

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. 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.[3]

Patriotic symbol

From his ship's mascot, Bamse became mascot of the Royal Norwegian Navy, and then of all the Free Norwegian Forces. An iconic photograph of him wearing a Norwegian sailor's cap was used on patriotic Easter cards and Christmas cards during the war. The PDSA made him an official Allied Forces Mascot.

Bamse passes away

Suffering from heart failure, Bamse died on the dockside at Montrose on 22 July 1944. He was buried with full military honours, and his funeral was attended by hundreds of Norwegian sailors, Allied servicemen, schoolchildren and townsfolk from Montrose and Dundee. His grave site in the sand dunes has been looked after by local people and by the GlaxoSmithKline factory. The Royal Norwegian Navy holds a commemorative ceremony every ten years.

Post-war honours

Bamse was posthumously awarded the Norges Hundeorden on 30 September 1984 for his war service. In 2006, he was also awarded the PDSA Gold Medal (sometimes known as the "animals' George Cross") for gallantry and devotion to duty, the only WWII animal to have received this honour.

A larger than life sized bronze statue of Bamse, made by Scottish sculptor Alan Herriot, was unveiled by HRH Prince Andrew at Wharf Street in Montrose on 17 October 2006. On the Norwegian side the Norwegian consul in Edinburgh, Bjørn Eilertsen, was present bringing greetings from the Norwegian king, Harald V. Also in attendance were Lathallan School Pipe Band,[4] representatives of the Royal Norwegian Navy, Hans Petter Oset, director of the Royal Norwegian Navy Museum, and the daughter of Bamse's owner, Vigdis Hafto. A smaller bronze version of the statue has been purchased by the Royal Norwegian Navy Museum (Marinemuseet) at Horten in Norway.

In August 2008 a new book, Sea Dog Bamse has been published. Written by author and columnist Angus Whitson and Andrew Orr of the Montrose Bamse Project, the book draws upon extensive source material and new eyewitness accounts. It charts the life of Bamse from prewar days in Honningvag, through the five years of war until his heartfelt death. Stories of the Hafto family, the Norwegian Campaign, the minesweeper Thorodd and its crew, the naval war off East Scotland, and the bonds between the Norwegians and the Scots are threaded together by Bamse's tales. The hardback book has become a Scottish best-seller, and has been reprinted. It is to be released as a paperback in October 2009.

The media attention has also renewed interest in Bamse in his birthplace Honningsvåg.The mayor of Nordkapp municipality, Kristina Hansen,and project manager Sigurd Berg-Hansen visited Monrose in November 2008. They launched a campaign to raise funds to purchase and install a duplicate bronze statue of Bamse on the waterfront at Honningsvåg, where it will be seen by many of the 250,000 annual visitors. In December 2008 the Norwegian Minister of Defence, Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen announced that her ministry supported the Bamse project in Honningsvåg and would grant NOK 70,000 to the memorial statue.[5] On 16 May 2009 the statue of Bamse was collected from the Port of Leith, Scotland,by the Royal Norwegian Navy cutter MV Leikvin for transportation to Honningsvag. On 19 June 2009 the statue was unveiled by schoolchildren from Honningsvag and from Montrose on the harbour front. The combined bands of the Skolekorps and the pipe band of Lathallan School played in front of a large crowd. Amongst those present were many supporters from Scotland, from Norway, Sweden and from Canada. The new statue of Bamse at Honningsvag is looking south west towards Montrose, where the Scottish statue is looking north east towards Honningsvag.

See also


  • Sea Dog Bamse, World War II Canine Hero: Angus Whitson & Andrew Orr ISBN 1-84158-748-6
  • They Also Serve : Dorothea St. Hill Bourne (1947)
  • Animals in War: Jilly Cooper (1983, re-issued 2000) ISBN 0-552-99091-4
  • Skipshunden Bamse og andre hunder ("The Ship's Dog Bamse and other Dogs"): Otto Opstad (1987) ISBN 82-7334-1143 (Norwegian)
  • Silent Heroes : Evelyn le Cheyne (1994, re-issued 2008) ISBN 0-285-632140
  • Scotland's Heroes: John Linsey (2007) ISBN 1-904440-87-8
  • Fem År På Banjeren ("Five Years on the Banger): Frank Abelsen ISBN 82-993416-0-4 (Norwegian)
  • Norske Minesveipere : Frank Abelsen (1999) ISBN 82-994738-5-3 (Norwegian)
  • Sea Dog Bamse : Angus Whitson and Andrew Orr. Brilinn (2008) ISBN 9781841587486


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ "Lathallan School Pipe Band". Lathallan School. Retrieved 20 February 2009.  
  5. ^ Jørstad, Svein G. (24 December 2008). "Støtter Bamse-minnesmerke" (in Norwegian). Finnmark Dagblad. Retrieved 13 January 2009.  

External links


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