Moray community ready to honour ‘forgotten’ Norwegian heroes

Memorial to be dedicated in August
Memorial to be dedicated in August

THE BROTHER OF a Norwegian fisherman who lost his life along with seven crewmen when he sailed on a secret Second World War mission from Burghead is to attend the dedication of a memorial in their memory.

Burghead will hold a ‘Norwegian Weekend’ next month that honours the men who served on the ‘Shetland Bus’, the secret operation that maintained a link between Scotland and Nazi-occupied Norway throughout the war.

While most of the operations were conducted from the Shetland Islands, several were also from a secret base at Burghead – and that is where, on January 7 1943, the Feioy left the Moray harbour skippered by Ola Grotle sailing on a mission to islands to the south of Bergen.

Unfortunately despite the weather conditions being good the Feioy, her skipper and crew were never seen again.

Hilary Gloyer from the Burghead Headland Trust said: “Ola Grotle was a 24-year-old from Bremanger when the German army invaded Norway in 1940. He fought against the Nazis but on December 23 left his family and escaped to the UK aboard the Igland with seven other Norwegians.

“Once in Britain, Ola became a member of the ‘Shetland Bus’ operation which was made up of Norwegian boats and sailors who ferried agents and supplies to and from Norway.

“While the main base for the operation was at Scalloway on Shetland what has never really been publicised – until now – is that there was a subsidiary base at Burghead.”

The Burghead Headland Trust has led the way in organising the raising of a memorial in the town’s harbour to the memory of the Norwegian sailors – and at the ceremony on August 23 will be a very special guest.

Hilary said: “One of the family members left behind in Norway when Ola escaped to the UK was his younger brother Eldre Bjorn Grotle – and he will be in Burghead to attend the dedication and celebration weekend in memory of our links with Norway.

“Eldre Bjorn will be joined by at least five other relatives of the men who are being remembered and honoured at the ceremony.

“Ola was a key figure on the Shetland Bus operations but he also served as a pilot on a British warship during the Måløy raid, an operation conducted by commandos against German positions on the island of Vågsøy on December 27, 1941.”

The dedication ceremony will be held at 2pm on August 23 while a floral tribute will also be scattered from a launch in Burghead Bay at the location where four other Norwegian sailors lost their lives in an accident.

On Saturday, August 22 there will be a Viking long ship visiting the harbour while there will also be a re-enactment of a battle that took place between the Vikings and Picts in the 9th Century.

There will also be events for children including a puppet show, and stalls, boats, wildlife boat trips, rowing, food, a beer tent, and music.