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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

David Howarth - The Shetland Bus

review written and ready on the bookshow by Brian Lowen August 2015 
This book describes in detail the secret war missions between the Shetland Islands and the coast of occupied Norway during the Second World War, which was affectionally known by the Norwegians as the Shetland bus as many of them escaped  their occupied country by this method.

A small fleet of Norwegian fishing trawlers was commissioned by Britain to take agents and supplies over to Norway with the idea of building up supplies of guns and explosives so that acts of sabotage could be carried out against the German forces.

A base was set up in Lunna on the east coast of Shetland where the fishing boats were overhauled and repaired if necessary after missions, and they were also fitted with hidden guns and other weapons in case they were attacked. The base was later moved round to the west coast to Scalloway when the whole exercise got too big to continue in the small remote port of Lunna.

The boats only operated during the winter between October and March when the nights were long enough for the boats to cross the 180 miles between Shetland and Norway under cover of darkness. The crews of the boats were all volunteers from Norway so they knew the treacherous coastline of their homeland so well that they could hide away in little coves and fiords undetected by the enemy. They had many friends along the coast

who took in the armaments and passed the agents along between farms so they could seek the information needed by the British forces.

One of the missions that actually failed was an attempt to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz which was moored in a remote fiord near Trondheim, although it was later put out of action by British bombers.

It was the Father of the writer of the book who was in charge of the base at Lunna where the British were in control but great diplomacy had to be used in order to let the fiercely independent fishermen feel that they were really running the show.

During four years of the war many missions were run across the North Sea with only a few casualties and they became such a thorn in the side of the German forces that several divisions of the army were stationed there to combat the threat, thus taking vital forces away from the battlefronts elsewhere.

An interesting book about a little known operation that was carried on during the war years.

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