The Shetland Bus Memorial (Speech)
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining in the silence for those who have lost their lives at sea, including those on board the Norwegian vessel Bourbon Dolphin last month. Our thoughts today are with all the families that have suffered a big loss. I would like to thank all those who assisted in the rescue operation which saved seven members of the crew. Thank you !
It is a great pleasure for me to be here in Scalloway today – in a place that provided a home and a base for so many Norwegians during the Second World War.
The war brought enormous suffering to Europe. Norway was occupied in 1940 and Britain opened its doors for thousands of Norwegians fleeing from the German occupation. In our darkest hour – and when you had your hands full with your own survival – you took us in and gave us shelter.
This memorial is dedicated to all those who gave their lives in the extremely hazardous boat trips between Shetland and Norway to assist the Norwegian resistance movement. Forty-four men from Norway perished whilst serving with the Shetland Bus. They were all young men. They could have chosen the easy way out, not to engage in the war. Indeed, they could even have chosen to co-operate with the occupant. They chose differently. We are deeply grateful to these young men for their sacrifice and for the example they set for us and coming generations.
The memorial also commemorates the people who served and survived, the civilians who died, the British servicemen attached to the Shetland Bus and the people from Shetland who were involved in it. To build a monument with stones from both Shetland and Norway is a beautiful way to symbolise that the Shetland Bus was a joint effort.
I am grateful to those who contributed to the establishment of this monument, which forever will remind us of our co-operation in a difficult, but heroic period.
I look forward to visiting your museum, which I understand has a department dedicated to the Shetland Bus. I am truly impressed to see how you are keeping alive the memory of this chapter in our common history.
The Friendship Societies play an important role in nurturing the ties with Norway. At the same time, my impression is that Shetland as a whole is eager to further good relations with our country. Scalloway Junior High School may serve as a good example. I do not know if any school in Norway has established a website on the Shetland Bus. But you have done so! It is an excellent undertaking – and an example for others to follow.
I have the strong feeling that there is a deeply felt wish both in Shetland and in Norway to build on these close relations which exist between us. I feel confident that we will succeed in this endeavour.
Thank you very much.