Scotlands History

The Shetland Bus

The Shetland Bus was the name given to the clandestine organisation formed by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the military intelligence service of Norway’s government-in-exile.

From 1941 till May 1945 the group first used Norwegian fishing boats then later on faster well-armed sub-chasers, based at Scalloway, in Shetland, to ferry agents and equipment into Nazi-occupied Norway and to maintain contact with resistance groups. On return, crews brought out Norwegians who feared arrest by the Germans. Coded messages were passed in BBC broadcasts.

Most crossings were made in winter, when daylight was short, with no lights and with North Sea conditions at their worst. Boats were disguised as working fishing boats with only light machine-guns hidden inside fish-barrels on deck. Civilian Shetlanders were integral in helping the Norwegians to prepare for their special operations and looked after their crews.

By the end of the Nazi occupation, the Shetland Bus had taken 192 agents and 383 tons of weapons and supplies to Norway. They brought out 73 agents and 373 refugees. Leif Andreas Larsen from Bergen, nicknamed ‘Shetland Larsen’, made 52 tours to Norway and back in fishing boats or sub-chasers. He became the most highly decorated naval officer of World War II.

  • Photo of Shetland Bus stone memorial

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