Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home 

(Whale Catcher)

To Thorodd on the "Ships starting with T" page.

Manager: R. J. Falkevig, Ålesund
406 gt

Delivered in Aug.-1919 from G. A. Foundation Co., Savannah (7) as steam fuelled escort trawler Fleurus for the French Navy, steel hull, Tripple Expansion. Sold in 1922 to Huret Sauvetage, Boulogne, France. Sold in Sept.-1924 to A/S Tønsberg Hvalfangeri, Tønsberg, converted to cargo and passenger vessel for service between the Falklands and the whaling station on South Georgia (with mail for the British State), 140.1' (lpp) x 25.1' x 13.2', 406 gt. Sold in Jan.-1933 to Einar Veim, Bergen. Sold in June-1935 to A/S Thorodd (R. J. Falkevik, Ålesund), renamed Thorodd.

Captain: Erling Hafto.

 Misc. War Details: 

Hired out from Oct. 19-1939 to Den Kongelige Norske Marine (Royal Norwegian Navy) and used by 3 SFD (Hammerfest) as guard vessel. Arrived U.K. on June 17-1940, converted to minesweeper (in Rosyth from June 30-1940). In service as British minesweeper FY-1905 with Norwegian crew from March 14-1941 by 71st Minesweeper Group, Dundee, and from May 6-1942 by 1st Minesweeper Division, Dundee. Taken out of service on Sept. 13-1944 and laid up at Burntisland.

The unusual dog Bamse:
It's well known that many ships had pets on board. Bamse was a St. Bernhard dog who 'lived' on Thorodd, and belonged to her commander, Erling Hafto. Bamse (meaning bear or teddybear) was the largest dog in the allied naval forces. If he was not allowed to come ashore with the sailors he would take matters in his own hands, wander down to the bus stop at Broughty Ferry Rd. and simply catch the bus into Dundee. He knew where to get off, namely near his friends' favourite bar, the Bodega Bar. If he didn't find them there he would catch the bus back to base. On occasion he would run across some of his pals who had perhaps had a drink too many, and had his own special way of taking care of them. If tempers were brewing, with resulting fights, Bamse would gently put his paws on the men's shoulders and calm them down, then lead them back to their ship.

He died on one of the ships in Montrose (not far from Aberdeen, Scotland) on July 22-1944 and that's where he's buried. The locals take good care of his grave, which has a large, white cross with his name painted in blue and the text depicting him as a faithful friend to all who served aboard Norwegian ships. In connection with the 40 year anniversary for his death, Scottish newspapers had several articles about him, with pictures of him and his grave. He's also mentioned in a book about ship animals, entitled "Skipshunden Bamse og andre hunder" (The Ship's Dog Bamse and other Dogs) by Ottar Obstad. Bamse has his own Facebook page (external link).

On Sept. 30-1984 he was post humously "awarded" Norges Hundeorden (a special award for dogs) for his war services on Thorodd from Febr. 9-1940 until his death on July 22-1944. He had previously been awarded the English Dickin Medal (the animals' Victoria Cross).

A friend of mine from my 8 years of living in Aberdeen was so moved by this story that she made a trip to Montrose and took a picture of his grave for me. She also sent me a newspaper clipping from the local newspaper (2004), which says the following:

"War veterans gathered yesterday to honour the 60th anniversary of a hero dog's death. Bamse the St. Bernard was owned by a Norwegian Navy commander who spent two years in Scotland during World War Two. And when the dog died in 1944 in Montrose, schools closed so 800 children could go to his funeral. Bamse was a symbol of freedom for Norwegian forces and his face was used on Christmas cards. Ten years ago a Norwegian surbmarine crew travelled to Montrose to make the 50th anniversary of his death".

There's a posting to my Ship Forum, dated May 7-2004, saying the following:

"Montrose remembers dog of war
The Scottish town of Montrose has held a memorial ceremony for a four-legged WWII hero, Bamse the St Bernard, who died in 1944. Bamse the Norwegian sea dog is buried next to the town's GlaxoSmithKline factory and was honoured in a service on Sunday afternoon. He came to the town in 1942 with Royal Norwegian Navy captain Erling Hafto and became a symbol of freedom. On his death 60 years ago he was given a hero's funeral for his bravery. His reputation grew from his habits in battle whilst out at sea on his master's ship, the minesweeper Thorodd, based in Montrose during World War II. He would stand firm at the foremost gun tower of the boat until hostilities ended and eventually received the PDSA award for bravery for his actions. During his two years in the town, Bamse, who used to wear a Norwegian sailor's cap, became something of a local institution. He was issued with his own bus permit, which hung around his neck, and would gather up any errant crew members from the local pubs. He even featured on Christmas and Easter cards at the time and became a symbol of freedom to the allied forces.

Montrose Port Authority board member Henny King, who helped organise the ceremony, said: 'We thought we must do something to celebrate his life because he was such a wonderful story and we thought it only right that we celebrate such a brave war hero. He was known by everyone at the time and some of the town's older generation can still remember him. After the summer we hope to start a fundraising campaign and raise enough money to build a life-size statue of him in a prominent position near the water. Edinburgh has it's own tribute to Greyfriar's Bobby and there's no reason why Bamse can't become an equally prominent symbol for Montrose. I would also like to write a book for children about Bamse's life and I would love to get local schools involved in the project.'

When Bamse died in July 1944 local schools closed and several hundred children attended his funeral. He was buried with his head facing his homeland of Norway. In 1984 and 1994, for his 40th and 50th anniversaries, a Norwegian naval crew arrived in Montrose to pay their respects at his graveside. On Sunday, Lieutenant Commander Oistein Jensen and 10 of his crew members from the Norwegian submarine Utvær represented the force. They were joined by about 100 invited guests, including the daughter of Captain Hafto, Vigdis Hafto, who went with her family to pay their own respects".

Additionally, there's a posting from Steinar Hafto Myre, the grandson of Bamse's owner. Another, more recent posting (Febr.-2005) tells us that there are now plans for a life-sized bronze statue of Bamse to be erected in Montrose (this has since been erected, see external link at the end of this page).


Returned to owner in Aug.-1945 in British port. To a British yard in 1947, work commenced on conversion to motor vessel, engine Crossley 600 bhp. Towed to Ålesund in July-1951, laid up. Sold in June-1952 to A/S Grindhaugs Fiskeriselskap (Govert Grindhaug, Åkrehamn, Karmøy). Converted to seiner at A/S Haugesund Mek. Verksted, Haugesund (R-73-A), 151.2' x 25.1' x 13.4', 452 gt, 575 tdwt, engine Ruston dm 408 bhp (from 1945, had earlier been in the mms Lihaug). When Thorodd's conversion was completed she was Norway's largest seiner. Between the herring seasons she was used as freighter. Developed a list on Oct. 6-1955 and sank near Høybåen south of Risør, after her cargo had shifted in heavy weather. Crew taken on board the cutter Grant and landed at Risør. Thorodd was on a voyage Visnes (Karmøy)-Tofte at the time, cargo of pyrites.

Related external links:
- This is a website for divers, gives some history in Norwegian.

BBC Article - See also this article, as well as this one, and this article which has a picture of the statue that was raised in Bamse's honour.
Another BBC article - Re a book written about Bamse (by Andrew Orr and Angus Whitson).

Back to Thorodd on the "Ships starting with T" page.

The text on this page was compiled with the help of: The story about Bamse was initially found in the Norwegian magazine "Krigsseileren", issues No. 3 and No. 4 for 1984, as well as No. 3 for 1987 (picture of Bamse), story supplemented from misc. sources. Pre war and post war history for Thorodd was received from T. Eriksen, Norway (misc. sources).


 Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home