Joe Lonergan profiles an unusual hero of World War Two, a 196 pound St Bernard dog, who is honoured with life-size statues in Scotland and Norway.
Bamse (pronounced ‘Bump-sa’, the Norwegian word for ‘teddy bear’) was a Saint Bernard, who, during the Second World War, became the heroic mascot of the Free Norwegian Forces. No matter the time or the circumstances, be it in battle or on shore, Bamse looked after his crew, and was loved by all.
In fact even before the Second World War began, Bamse had shown extraordinary devotion to duty, as the family pet to Captain Erling Hafto’s family. This was best demonstrated when the captain’s youngest child, Vigdis, took a bad turn.
Vigdis, herself, would later write of the occurrence: “When I was just a child I became very ill, and was not expected to live. For twelve days and nights Bamse guarded my bedside, and would not let anyone approach, except my Mother and the Doctor. He did not leave his post until the crisis was over.”
During WWII, before the fall of Norway, Captain Erling Hafto and his crew on the Thorodd were able to escape to Scotland. The ship was stationed at Dundee and Montrose and was used as a minesweeper.
The Captain had taken Bamse with him and made him an official member of the Royal Norwegian Navy – the ship’s mascot. The crew took an immediate liking to him, and Bamse became a guardian to them. During action he would stand guard in the foremost gun tower, wearing a steel helmet, and would not leave his post until all was safe.