As I stated in my last post, Shetland continues to have a strong alliance with it's former parent country, Norway. This was incredibly evident during the second world war and the Shetland Bus operation.
On the night of April 8/9 1940, Norway was invaded by Germany. Having a long history of neutrality, Norway was unprepared for the invasion. Many Norwegians fled their homeland and headed out into the sea. The first friendly land they came to was Shetland.
Shetland was not only welcoming, but distant kin and willing to assist the Norwegians. The British military realized that if small boats could bring Norwegians to Shetland, similar sized boats could make the return journey, and hopefully stay beyond the sights of the Germans as being anything other than fishing boats. Soon a plan was hatched to use Norwegian fishing vessels to return to Norway, under cover of darkness, with operatives and artillery which were used to assist the Norwegians in their resistance against Germany. On their return, they brought refugees who were warmly welcomed into the Shetland communities.
Each trip took three weeks, in dangerous waters. The seas were stormy. Lighthouses were unlit. The men had only their compass for navigation. And all the while, the Germans were patrolling the skies around the rugged coast of Norway, watching for anything out of the ordinary.
The crew of the Shetland Bus fleet were young men who had great knowledge of the waters and the coastline of Norway.
Fishing boats continued to be used until October 1943 when submarine chasers began to be used. In all, the Shetland Bus transported 192 agents and 383 tons of artillery and supplies to Norway. They brought out 373 refuges and 73 agents.
In the days before the submarine chasers, 44 lives were lost. There is a memorial in Scalloway honouring the bravery of these men and there is a display in the Scalloway Museum explaining the mission behind the Shetland Bus.