This section lists the small boats that escaped from Norway during the war, some of which (but not all) were later used for the "Shetland Bus". Names of passengers on the first voyage across the North Sea from Norway to freedom are also added where known. They were people from all walks of life and of a variety of professions; fishermen, farmers, blacksmiths, salesmen, seamen, students, housewives, office workesrs, teachers, factory workers, etc, etc. Some left because they were wanted by the Gestapo for one reason or another, others left because they wanted to join the free forces in England - often entire families gathered up their belongings to head into the unknown. Some never made it in the harsh North Sea weather, and remain at the bottom of the ocean forever.
The main sources used for this section, with the author's permission, is "Englandsfarten I - Alarm i Ålesund" and Englandsfarten II - Søkelys mot Bergen", both by Ragnar Ulstein, but also misc. other sources. As far as possible they will be named within the text for each vessel.
Initially, I'll just name the vessels and those who were on board, then will add more information on the crossing later, as time allows.
The so-called "Shetland Gang" consisted of Norwegian fishermen and sailors involved in carrying agents, weapons and escapees across the North Sea, as well as taking part in mine laying, sabotage and other anti-German operations. Up until 1943 fishing vessels, some of which had escaped from Norway as early as 1940 were used. The group was organized by the British from the fall of 1940, but in the summer of 1942 they became a Norwegian Naval Independent Unit under Norwegian leadership (14 vessels). In 1942/'43, 7 ships and 33 men were lost through German attacks, others had been lost previously, but after the group received the 3 modern, American subchasers Hessa, Hitra and Vigra in Oct.-1943 (placed under Norwegian military command) there were no more losses for the remainder of the war. 94 voyages were made to Norway with the fishing vessels, 109 with subchasers. The most well known person to take part in these operations was Leif Larsen from Bergen, who became known as "Shetlands-Larsen". He had escaped to Shetland in early 1941 with the fishing vessel Motig I, and joined the "Shetland Gang" that fall. He made 52 trips across the North Sea and commanded several different vessels before he became captain of Vigra. KNM Hitra was found in Swedish waters after the war and restored, completed in the spring of 1987.
Here's a picture taken at the secret Naval Base at Peterhead, Scotland (not far from Aberdeen). It includes the names of those who are seen in the picture, which was received from Andy Leiper, who worked there, and who also left a message in my Guestbook (I can supply his E-mail address).
See also this site about
This page about