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Bamse is Montrose's very own war hero and is buried in the town. The St Bernard dog from Honningsvag, Norway stole the hearts of all who knew him - especially children. When he died in July 1944, Montrose schools were closed and 800 children lined the route to his graveside funeral!
Bamse (meaning bear or teddybear) arrived in Montrose on the minesweeper Thorodd during World War ll with Captain Erling Hafto, his owner, who registered him as a crew member. He became the symbol of freedom against Nazism for Norwegian troops all over the world.
When the Thorodd was in battle, Bamse would don a personalised Norwegian sailor's steel helmet and stand at the gun tower of the boat throughout hostilities acting as an inspiration to all on the minesweeper.
In Montrose, the stories of his exploits are numerous and legendary. He saved the life of Lieutenant Commander Olav Nilsen at Dundee Docks and generally looked after his fellow sailors. If anyone started a fight with one of his crew, Bamse got up on his hind legs and at over six foot tall, clamped his great paws on the assailant to end any fight.
He had his own bus pass and would visit all the Montrose pubs and made sure his sailors got back to the ship before curfew.
Recently, Bamse has been getting some of the recognition he richly deserves:
The Bamse Project under Montrose Heritage Trust raised £50,000 to erect a larger than life-size bronze statue of Bamse at Montrose Harbour. Half the donations came from Norway.
The statue was created by internationally known sculptor Alan Herriot, and was unveiled by Prince Andrew in October 2007 in front of hundreds of spectators.
PDSA Gold Medal
Bamse was 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, near Montrose, to Captain Hafto's daughter, Vigdis who flew in from Norway with her family to receive it.
The presentation was followed by a weekend on activities in honour of Bamse's 62nd anniversary called 'Dog Day Afternoons'.
Animals War exhibition
On 14 July 2006, the Imperial War Museum opened their major exhibition entitled 'The Animal's War' which features Bamse. The exhibition continued until April 2007.
Here are some links to more pages about Bamse: