Lunna, Scalloway and the Shetland Bus
The Shetland Bus
The Shetland Bus was a World War II resistance movement taking wireless operators, armaments and combatants into Nazi occupied Norway and returning with refugees and members of the resistance. It was originally based in Lunna but later moved to Scalloway. We visited both.
Lunna House was the original HQ of the Shetland Bus from the invasion of Norway in 1940 until 1942. It housed 30-40 agents who set out in all conditions in little fishing boats to perform their heroic deeds. Today it’s a B&B, so not open to the general public, but the church (1753 – the oldest still used in Shetland) is worth a look, as is the pretty harbour and beehive-shaped limekiln. The modern gravestone is inscribed: Calum Forbes Mackenzie. Died January 27th 2012. Aged 54. Doctor in these islands he loved. I found that touching on many levels.
In 1942, the Bus moved to the more central location of Scalloway, with better communications and a purpose-built slipway for repairing the boats. Dinapore House was the new HQ – it and the slipway can both be seen today.
In almost 100 missions using the small fishing vessels, 10 boats and 44 men were lost. Later, the American Navy donated three American sub-chasers which undertook a further 115 missions without loss. In 2003, these brave men were honoured by a memorial in Scalloway and the excellent museum has a large, and very moving, display devoted to them.
Scalloway is Shetland’s second largest settlement after Lerwick and was once the capital. It’s a pretty little town to wander round and has a ruined castle to visit too. This was built by forced labour in 1600 for the infamous Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney, Lord of Shetland and a half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots. We’ll meet him again on our travels. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s a Scalloway Gallery.
My uncle, Audun Mjaatvedt from Bergen, Norway, must have stayed at Lunna House when he fled from the Gestapo on the ‘Shetland Bus’ boat M/B Jan, arriving in Lerwick on October 7, 1941. He and his cousin, Arne Røthe (who was also onboard), were part of the Norwegian resistance group called Kristian Stein. When the group was infiltrated by German spies, they had to flee for their lives. Their comrades who weren’t able to reach safety were tortured, imprisoned, and many executed. My uncle died two years later near Edinburgh, but I am grateful to the Shetland people for sheltering and embracing him, Arne, and the rest of the Norwegians who fought so valiantly against the Nazi occupation.
That’s an interesting and moving story – thank you so much for getting in touch.