VIDEO: People brought togetheR by Bamse’s anniversary in Montrose

Hundreds of people from all over the world and more than 20 St Bernards and their owners turned out to remember Norwegian wartime canine hero Bamse who died in Montrose.

The story of Bamse brought together the people of Angus and Norway on Monday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of his death and burial in the burgh in July 1944.

The heroic St Bernard was owned by Captain Erling Hafto of the Norwegian Navy. He went to sea with him on the minesweeper Thorodd during World War Two and was stationed in Montrose and Dundee.

He served as a full member of crew on board the Thorodd, and saved the lives of two shipmates, including a knife attack at Dundee Docks, until his death in Montrose in July, 1944.

Every 10 years since World War Two the Norwegian Navy has travelled to Montrose to mark Bamse’s death and on Saturday Royal Norwegian vessel Aalesund sailed into Montrose Harbour. It was open to the public on Sunday.

The event on Monday (July 21) kicked off with a parade from Aalesund along Wharf Street to the Bamse statue.

Several hundred people lined the street to watch the procession led by Lathallan Pipe Band, Johnshaven, of sailors from the Norwegian vessel, local cadets and more than 20 St Bernard dogs and their owners.

A commemoration ceremony then took place by the statue of Bamse with invited guests including Vigdis Hafto, daughter of the owner of Bamse, Kristina Hansen, the mayor of the Nordkapp Kommune, the original home of Bamse, Angus Provost Helen Oswald and the Lord Lieutenant of Angus Georgiana Osborne.

Mrs Hafto said: “My father would be very proud that people still remember Bamse. It is a proud day for me too.”

She laid flowers on the statue of her father’s dog, while a lone trumpeter played, followed by a lone piper, as Mrs Hafto and the crowd took a silence of remembrance.

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, unveiled the Bamse statue in Montrose in 2006 and sent a message to the commemoration ceremony, which was read by the Lord Lieutenant of Angus Georgiana Osborne.

He said: “The important contribution by this iconic and heroic Norwegian St Bernard is recognised by all who see the statue who gain and understanding of what he did.

“His recognition with an official Allied Forced Mascot PDSA Gold Medal for gallantry is a poignant reminder of the vital collaboration between man and animal.

“We remember the people who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom but we rarely appreciate the sacrifices that animals have made for that human freedom.

“Perhaps a dog is a man’s best friend but Bamse symbolises more than that relationship. We should stop for a moment and consider his and other animals’ contributions.

“He is a symbol of the co-operation that took place between Scotland and Norway at that time and I,for one, remember him.”

Captain Geir Erik Flage of the Royal Norwegian Navy said: “I’m very proud and impressed by what we have seen. This year we are celebrating 200 years of the Norwegian Navy and Bamse is a part of that history.

“The story of Bamse is known in Honningsvåg where he is from and in the Norwegian Navy but not by the whole population of Norway. We have a lot to learn from what is being done here, we have a task to do.

“I hope that we can come to Montrose to celebrate Bamse for many years to come.”

After the formal commemorations, young dancers from the Gordon School of Dancing performed a special dance called the ‘Bamse Hornpipe’ and singer and songwriter Gary Anderson sung a specially written composition, ‘Bamse’s Song’, as a parade of St Bernards walked around the dog’s statue.

St Bernard Benson, owned by Graeme and Margaret Gordon from Montrose, has been the local mascot for the event.

Margaret said: “It has been a great day and Benson really enjoyed himself.”

The event was organised by Montrose Heritage Trust. Dr Andrew Orr, chairman of the Trust, told the Review at the ceremony: “I never imagined this many people would turn out.

“The Trust set out to bring the community of Montrose together and I feel we have done that today.”