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 Sea Dog Bamse

Photo added by Kit and Morgan Benson

Sea Dog Bamse

  • Birth 1937 Nedre Eiker, Nedre Eiker kommune, Buskerud fylke, Norway
  • Death 22 Jul 1944 Forfar, Angus, Scotland
  • Burial Non-Cemetery Burial, Specifically: Burial next to the entrance to Montrose Harbor, Scotland
  • Memorial ID 34955972

Royal Norwegian Navy Sea Dog and War Hero. A Saint Bernard, Bamse (pronounced "Bum-sa"), Norwegian for "Teddy Bear," was adopted by the Free Norwegian Navy during World War II as its mascot, and became an icon for allied morale. Owned by Norwegian Harbor Master and Royal Naval Reserve Lieutenant Erling Hafto, Bamse was born in the small town of Nedre Eiker, where Hafto purchased the puppy while visiting Oslo on business. Bringing the puppy home to Honningsvag, on Mageroya Island, on the north coast of Norway, Bamse soon became a member of the Hafto family. In 1938, when 3-year-old daughter Vigdis Hafto fell ill and the doctor believed she would die, Bamse curled up with the dying child and nursed her back to health, to the utter amazement of the entire community. Hafto was the local Harbor Master, and guided ships into and out of the Honningsvag harbor, where most of the residents were ocean fishermen. When World War II broke out in 1939, Hafto was called to active duty, and given command of a former whaling ship, Thorodd, which was soon outfitted to become a coastal patrol boat. On 9 February 1940, he entered Bamse as a "ship's dog" on the rolls, making Bamse an official member of the Royal Norwegian Navy. In April 1940, Germany invaded Norway, precipitating a series of battles between German forces on one side and British and Norwegian forces on the other. By June 1940, the British withdrew their forces from Norway and King Haakon, the Norwegian monarch, ordered all Norwegian naval vessels to Great Britain, where the King set up a government in exile. Lieutenant Hafto, in the Thorodd, set sail for Britain, bringing the family dog with him. Assigned to Dundee, Scotland, with three other Norwegian patrol boats, Thorodd formed a minesweeper squadron and continued working for the Royal Navy to keep British ports open, sweeping for German mines. Over the next four years, Bamse became a regular companion of the Norwegian sailors that fought from Scotland. Extremely sociable, he would regularly visit pubs, watching over his shipmates, and enjoyed a pint of beer with them. When he learned how to open doors by himself, Bamse would wander around the port, visiting shops and offices, and becoming friends to every one he met. Each evening while in port, Bamse would look after his shipmates, and would nod them back to their ships just before curfew hour was called. His watchful care of the other Norwegian sailors soon marked him as a kindred spirit, and he quickly became the mascot for all Norwegian sailors serving in Scotland. When the sailors discovered that the large (over 6 feet and 150 pounds) friendly Bamse was an attraction for the local girls, Bamse had no problem finding volunteers to take him for walks when the ship was in port. All who met Bamse never forgot him. Once Hafto was temporarily transferred to another ship for several months, and the Thorodd sailors threatened to mutiny if Hafto took the dog with him to the new ship; Bamse stayed with the Thorodd. Nor was Bamse lacking in valor; when a thief attacked a sailor with a knife, Bamse jumped the thief and pushed him off the dock into the water. During the frequent German air attacks on the minesweepers, Bamse was cool and calm, helping the sailors remain calm under attack. During enemy attacks, he would often sit next to the bow gunner, watching him shoot back at attacking German aircraft. Two sailors claimed he saved their lives, pulling them out of enemy fire. By 1944, Bamse's reputation had spread throughout Europe, and he was a favorite of sailors everywhere. Considered "the largest dog of the Allied Forces" Bamse's became an icon of the Norwegian Navy and later, Norwegian Free Forces everywhere. By the spring of 1944, Bamse was showing the effects of old age and a failing heart, and rapidly losing weight. On July 22, 1944, Bamse collapsed near his ship as his heart gave out, and a local vet was called. The vet put him to sleep, and Bamse passed on, as the entire crew of the Thorodd and a small village crowd stood by, grieving his passing. Bamse was buried the next day in a somber ceremony with over 1,000 sailors and villagers attending, at the entrance to Montrose harbor, wrapped in a Norwegian flag. Since his death, ships and sailors of the Royal Norwegian Navy have frequently visited Montrose for the sole purpose of honoring his memory. In 2006, Bamse was posthumously awarded the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) Gold Medal (known as the animal's George Cross, Bamse was the only animal from World War II to receive this honor) for his role in raising Allied morale during the war, and HRH Prince Andrew dedicated a statue in Montrose to Bamse. A similar statue is planned for his home in Honningsvag, Norway.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Kit and Morgan Benson
  • Added: 18 Mar 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 34955972
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sea Dog Bamse (1937–22 Jul 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 34955972, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Non-Cemetery Burial, who reports a Burial next to the entrance to Montrose Harbor, Scotland.