When Captain Hafto was leaving for another posting, the crew asked where Bamse was going. "Why? With me of course" answered the Captain, "He's my dog!" The crew declared they would not return to ship unless Bamse remained. Captain Hafto was forced to entrust Bamse to his successor with the understanding that he would be reclaimed for the family after the war.
Bamse loved participating in sports and when the crew played football on deck, he was goalkeeper and centre forward, flying into the air to butt the ball, cheered on by the sailors. On one occasion, the Norwegian sailors were playing against a Polish team in Dundee. At every goal or near-goal, Bamse leapt out of his seat to bark and howl with delight. Children from far afield came to see Bamse as much as the match. He patiently gave them rides and playfully rolled on the ground.
One night, strolling on the docks of Dundee with his Second in Command, several yards ahead Bamse witnessed a man jump out of the shadows wielding a knife ready to attack his Officer. Bamse raced to the scene, grabbed and dragged the assailant to the edge of the dock and threw him into the water.
Bamse was a PDSA Allied Forces mascot and during the darkest days of the Second World War, Bamse was the toast of Norway and Scotland. His photograph dressed in mariner's cap with the words Royal Norske Marine was sent to Norwegian Naval troops all over the world at Christmas and Easter to raise morale.
Bamse has just been awarded the PDSA Gold Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty: the first World War ll animal to receive this accolade. The Gold Medal was presented on 22 July 2006 at the House of Dun by Montrose to its original owner Vigdis Hafto who flew in from Norway with her family to receive it.
Bamse moved seamlessly from family pet to sea-dog to global mascot for the Royal Norwegian forces, but in July 1944, his huge heart failed and he died. Bamse's coffin draped with the Royal Norwegian flag with his sailor's cap perched on it, was carried by six of The Thorodd's crew. Eight hundred children silently lined the way and shopkeepers, factory workers and housewives turned out with them. Local dignitaries and the crew of six Norwegain ships stood guard of honour. Bamse was buried in the sand-dunes on the banks of the South Esk River outside Glaxo, facing towards Norway.
On 14 July 2006 the Imperial War Museum opened their major exhibition entitled 'The Animal's War' and Bamse will feature in the bronze model created by internationally known sculptor Alan Herriot for the larger than life statue that will be unveiled later this year at Montrose Harbour. The exhibition continues until Easter 2007.
The Bamse Project under Montrose Heritage Trust is raising £50,000 to erect a larger than life-size bronze statue of Bamse at Montrose Harbour. So far £38,000 has been raised, half of it coming from Norway. Anyone wishing to make a donation please make it payable to Montrose Heritage Trust and send to:
Mrs Jean Stevenson, CA, 186 High Street, Montrose DD10 8PH.
A statue of Bamse in Montrose will create national and international interest for animal lovers, children, artists and visitors interested in the heritage of Montrose and will add to the Town's reputation as the Sculpture Trail of Scotland.