The Shetland Bus

Perhaps the most moving naval memorial in Shetland can be found on the harbour front in Scalloway, the archipelago’s one-time capital. This is to the unbelievably brave young Norwegians who lost their lives while operating the ‘Shetland bus’, the covert ‘shuttle service’ of fishing craft and, later, submarine chasers, which operated between Shetland and Norway following the German occupation of the latter in 1940. I’m not going to go into detail about the history of the operation here, as there’s plenty of material about it readily available on the Web – including this lecture, and (for less than the cost of a posh coffee) the wonderful 1950s film starring actual participants. The memorial stands very close to what’s still known as the Prince Olav slipway, after then Crown Prince Olav, later King Olav V, who visited Scalloway in 1942. The port became the base for the ‘bus’ operations in that year, when they moved from Lunna in the north-east of the Shetland mainland.

The Prince Olav slipway

Scalloway’s excellent modern museum devotes nearly half its total floor space to the ‘Shetland bus’, and has some fascinating exhibits and displays. It alone makes a visit to Shetland worthwhile for ‘naval buffs’, and as it’s right next door to the largest castle in Shetland, it’s definitely a must for those of us who are both naval and castle buffs!

A typical cabinet at the delightful Scalloway museum

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