Norwegian Navy’s last year to mark sea dog’s death in Montrose?

Dancers from the Gordon School of Dancing assessing their stage for next week's event
Dancers from the Gordon School of Dancing assessing their stage for next week's event

This could be the last year that the Norwegian Navy sails to Montrose to honour its wartime canine mascot who is buried in the burgh.

St Bernard Bamse was owned by Captain Hafto of the Norwegian Navy, and went to sea with him on the minesweeper Thorodd during World War Two and spent time in Montrose and Dundee.

He served as a full member of crew on board the Thorodd until his death in Montrose in July 1944.

Every 10 years since World War Two the Norwegian Navy has travelled to the burgh to mark Bamse’s death and burial in Montrose, but this could be the last year it makes the journey.

Montrose Heritage Trust and Montrose Port Authority are set to welcome the Royal Norwegian vessel Aalesund on Sunday (July 20) to mark the 70th anniversary of the sea dog’s death.

Dr Andrew Orr, chairman of Montrose Heritage Trust, said: “Because of the passing of the years this may well be the last time that the Royal Norwegian Navy comes to honour its wartime mascot, and we want to make it a really memorable occasion.”

Aalesund will approach by the West Dock Gate on the North Quay and will be open to the public from 4 until 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The main event will take place at Wharf Street on Monday (July 21) by the Bamse Statue, which was erected in 2006, and starts at 10.30 a.m.

A parade of sailors from the Aalesund will march from the ship to the statue. They will be led by the Pipe Band of Lathallan School, Johnshaven, and accompanied by detachments of Sea Cadets from TS Duncan, Dundee, TS Arbroath, and TS Carron, Stonehaven.

The parade will be joined by a large group of St Bernard dogs and their owners.

Worldwide interest in the event has been bolstered by a feature on Fred MacAulay’s BBC1 ‘On the Road’ show and visitors are expected from all over Scotland, as well as Norway and even as far as Canada and the Faroe Islands.

Dr Orr said: “Montrose is expecting a large turn-out of locals and visitors to mark Bamse’s special 70th anniversary.

“There will be plenty to see and do. It is free and open to all comers – bring your dog, bring a picnic, bring an umbrella! We hope to have a real carnival atmosphere along the whole waterfront at Wharf Street.”

As well as formal commemorations of Bamse’s death and a remembrance of Norwegians who fought and died alongside the Allies in the war, dancers from the Gordon School of Dancing in Montrose will dance a ‘Bamse Hornpipe’, specially choreographed by teacher Robina Addison.

Singer and songwriter Gary Anderson will perform his new composition, ‘Bamse’s Song’. Pipes and drums will play whilst there is a parade of St Bernards around the dog’s statue.

Bamse became an Allied forces mascot and a symbol of resistance to the free Norwegian forces.

He saved the lives of two shipmates and was later awarded the PDSA gold medal.