Village to mark secret Norwegian WWII lifeline

Burghead to mark links with Norway

A MORAY VILLAGE is to mark its historic links with the people of Norway at a special weekend in August.

These include a memorial being unveiled that marks Burghead’s links with the top-secret Second World War Shetland Bus operation linking Scotland with Nazi-occupied Norway.

The Shetland Bus was established to help those Norwegians fleeing the Nazi regime – and to land agents and supplies on the Norwegian coast. All the crew members of boats used, initially fishing boats but later submarine hunters, were Norwegians willing to take on the clandestine and highly dangerous operations.

Many of the Shetland Bus operations failed due to enemy action or foul weather resulting in many of the Norwegian seamen losing their lives. While the majority of the Shetland Bus operations were conducted from the Shetland Islands, Burghead was used as a subsidiary base for these operations as well as rehearsals for the Normandy landings in 1944.

The new memorial to the Burghead connection with the Shetland Bus will be dedicated at a special service on Sunday, August 23.

A more historic link between Norway and Burghead, which is on the southern coast of the Moray Firth, had existed for several hundred years with historians believing that Vikings fought a battle with the Picts at Burghead in AD900.

On Saturday, August 22 that battle will be recreated in the village.

Secretary of the Burghead Headland Trust (BHT), Cath Millar, said: “A replica Viking longboat and two support boats will be at Burghead Harbour over the entire weekend.

“The longboat will be sailing from Loch Fyne and along the Caledonian Canal before heading to the Moray Firth and Burghead. Appropriately, the Caledonian Canal was designed by Thomas Telford – and Burghead Harbour, which dates from 1805, is thought to have been a Telford design.

“At Burghead on August 22 we will recreate the battle between the Picts and the Vikings. There will also be coastal rowing skiffs, sealife tours, food from the Bothy at Burghead, a number of stalls, music, and a puppet show.

“After the weekend in Burghead the Viking boat will cross the North Sea with at least one Burghead resident on board to begin a tour of southern Norway.”

Hilary Gloyer, BHT treasurer, added: “The WWII operation in Burghead was veiled in secrecy, but we have managed to find the names of those who died while based in Burghead.

“We have invited relatives of these men to the dedication ceremony which will be conducted in Norwegian and English.”

The memorial is being created by Dan Ralph, a Trustee of BHT, who commented: “We have been lucky to have been donated the materials – sandstone from a Burghead Quarry, a beautiful millstone from a Shetland Quarry, and a bronze propellor from Shetland.

“However, we have to make a bronze plaque and an information board to make a lasting and appropriate memorial. We would like to ask companies and organisations with strong links to Norway and Scotland to consider funding some of the costs.”