Bamse fact-finding mission during visit

Commander Jonathan Lett (centre) is pictured at the Bamse statue with Lieutenant Commander Elaine Boyd and crew members.'Contributed photograph
Commander Jonathan Lett (centre) is pictured at the Bamse statue with Lieutenant Commander Elaine Boyd and crew members.'Contributed photograph

A DISCOVERY while on deployment led the crew of HMS Montrose to include a visit to seadog Bamse’s statue and grave during their recent trip to the town.

During their six-month tour of duty in the South Atlantic earlier this year, the ship called in to Simonstown naval base, near Cape Town, where they discovered the statue and the story of a very similar sea dog which served with the Royal Navy during the Second World War – a Great Dane called Just Nuisance.

The only dog to be officially enlisted in the service, Just Nuisance 1939-44 served at HMS Afrikander, a Royal Navy shore establishment in Simon’s Town, between 1939 and 1944 and when he died was buried with full military honours.

Bamse served on board the Norwegian mine sweeper Thorodd. He became a familiar sight in Montrose during the war years and he died in the town, also in 1944.

Struck by the similarities between the two dogs the crew was reminded of their ship’s affiliation to Montrose, and determined to find out more about Bamse on their next visit and contacted Montrose Heritage Trust

HMS Montrose captain Commander Jonathan Lett contacted Montrose Heritage Trust, which was responsible for erecting Bamse’s statue in Wharf Street, and arranged for a meeting specifically to focus on the St Bernard.

During their visit to the town last week, the Royal Navy party was greeted at the statue by members of the Trust and Angus Whitson, co-author with Trust chairman Andrew Orr, of the book about Bamse.

To commemorate the visit, the Trust presented Commander Lett with a miniature statue, which will be used as a dining table ornament in the wardroom, and a signed first edition of the book for the Captain’s library. Also presented were some copies of the Trust’s informative DVD Destination Montrose, which will be used for crew briefings for future visits.

The visitors then moved on to the grave site of Bamse at the mouth of the South Esk River, and were interested to learn that the Royal Norwegian Navy sends a ship or delegation to pay respects every 10 years to mark his death. The next 10-year anniversary will be in July 2014, the 70th year after his death.

Commander Lett said: “It would be good if we could meet up with our Norwegian colleagues here one day to recognise the life of this extraordinary dog. It has been very interesting to learn more about Bamse and his naval service.”

He added that both dogs also had parallel roles in keeping up morale of the sailors with whom they served.

Dr Orr added: “It’s such a pleasure to meet crew members from HMS Montrose here and to be able to tell them more about our Montrose-based naval hero. Hopefully greater understanding of Bamse’s story will strengthen the links between the Royal Burgh of Montrose and HMS Montrose.”