Text: Sigrun Farstad Gregori
Photo: Fabian Stratenschulte + archive pictures.
Winners of Norway Cup at age 15 and 16 years, will this year in addition to regular Norway Cup prices, receive Bamse’s medals in gold, silver and bronze. Bamses medals are awarded to honor all war veterans who have fought for Norway’s freedom, and should remind today’s youth that peace and democracy are things people have fought to keep.
War sailers – Norway’s foremost war veterans
The Canadian-based financier Steinar Engeseth, is the man behind the medals. He thniks it is important that young people are told the story of the war sailors, who risked their lives for future generations, so we can live in peace today. The war sailors who sailed on Norwegian merchant ships during World War II are considered Norway’s most important contribution to the Allies victory over Germany.
Before the war broke out, Norway had one of the world’s largest and most modern trading fleets. Only the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan’s fleets were bigger. In total, Norway had a fleet of over 1000 vessels. This had a decisive impact on the development of the war. Out of 35,000 warriors in the Norwegian merchant navy died about 4500. No other groups affected by the war suffered so big losses.
Norwegian merchant ships transported fuel, military equipment and other goods across the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Pacific. The conditions were extremely difficult. The war sailors encountered great mental stress. The threat of attacks from enemy bombers, torpedo boats and submarines was constant.
Why is it called Bamse’s medals?
Bamse was a dog that during WWII became a heroic mascot for the Norwegian and allied forces at sea. The great St. Bernard dog of almost 100 kilos belonged to Captain Erling Hafto in the Norwegian Navy.
When the Nazis occupied Norway in Norway in 1940, Hafto and Bamse went on board the minesweeper KNM Torodd and sailed to the UK to continue the fight against the occupants. Bamse achieved legendary status in Montrose, Scotland, where KNM Thorodd was stationed.
The tales about his adventurous experiences, courage and goodness are many. He rescued a young officer who had been attacked by a man with a knife, and he rescued a sailor who had fallen overboard. One of Bamse’s tasks was to find the crew and escort them back when the ship was out of service.
Bamse was popular and loved by the crew. He got his own special helmet. An iconic photograph of Teddy bear wearing a Norwegian uniform was used as patriotic postcards during the war. The inhabitants of Montrose greatly appreciated the Norwegian dog. In particular, Bamse liked playing soccer with the kids.
When Bamse died on July 22, 1944, he was buried with full military honors. Hundreds of Norwegian sailors, allied soldiers, schoolchildren and people from Montrose and Dundee attended the funeral. Today you can still visit Bamses tomb in Montrose.
Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) appointed Teddy Bear to an official mascot for the Allied forces. In 2006 he was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal. Teddy bees is the only animal that received this honor for its efforts during World War II. On October 17, 2006, the Duke of York, Prince Edward, unveiled a Bronze statue of Teddy Bear in Montrose.
In Honningsvåg, Bamses hometown, you can see a copy of the statue. Bamse’s life and history are described in several books. The book “Skipshunden Teddy Bear” by Angus Whitson and Andrew Orr is translated into several languages. Every year, Bamses Cup is organized for young sailors in both Canada and Norway and under the Nova Scotia Royal Tattoo and Norwegian Military Tattoo, Bamses award, is awarded to a dog who has made a special effort.
Text: Sigrun Farstad Gregori