Norwegians celebrate historic Scots link with 200-mile boat journey

The Moray town was known as Little Norway during the Second World War as many Scandinavians settled there.

Norwegians sail to Scottish town known as Little Norway during Second World War STV News
Celebration: A group of Norwegians have sailed to Buckie to mark 80 years of the occupation.

During the Second World War, Buckie was known as Little Norway.

The coastal town became home to hundreds of Scandinavians seeking refuge after their country was taken over by Nazis.

Now a group of Norwegian sailors have undertaken a special voyage to mark the 80th anniversary of the occupation and the friendships forged across the North Sea.

There was a Scottish welcome replete with bagpipes for the four man crew of the FRI IV which arrived on Saturday morning, escorted by the Buckie RNLI lifeboat for the last leg of the 200 nautical mile journey.

Skipper Tony Tiegland along with Jarle Foreland, Willy Pedersen and Frode Stokkeland set off on Wednesday afternoon from Kristiansand in the south of Norway, headed for the Moray town. 

They were following the maritime trail of hundreds of Norwegians who had sought exile from the Nazis during the Second World War.

The crew arrived in Buckie on Saturday following the four-day trip. STV News
The crew arrived in Buckie on Saturday following the four-day trip.

Many did return to their homeland to fight for the freedom of their country after training in Scotland. 

The modern-day sailors had intended to complete the trip two years ago but had to put the challenge on hold due to the pandemic.

They say now more than ever it is important to remember the lessons of history.

Jarle Foreland said: “It is important to remember the people who did this during the Second World War and almost all of them did it so they could take the trip back again and fight against the Nazi Germans.”

Tony Tiegland added: “We learned about the Second World War at school. It is important now to bring the history on so that also the younger people in Norway, Europe, should never forget how bad war is.”

<meta charset=Jarle Foreland andTony Tiegland” />STV News
Jarle Foreland andTony Tiegland

The links between Buckie and Norway are still remembered by those whose relatives sought sanctuary in Scotland, such as sisters Anita Spence and Helen Macdonald, whose father Olav Huldal escaped to Buckie.   

Helen said “Our father was Norwegian, he came across on the Shetland Bus in May 1940. He had some horrendous experiences in the Ammunition Convoys and he was on the beaches in Normandy as well. It is emotional for us to see these sailors make this trip.”

Buckie even had a Norwegian Consulate during the conflict and King Haakon VII visited the town in 1943.

The group were given a warm welcome by Buckie residents. STV News
The group were given a warm welcome by Buckie residents.

Prof Peter Reid from Robert Gordon University is the founder of The Little Norway Project, an online archive of stories and photographs that document that period of time.

He says “About 10% of the population of Buckie at the height of the exiles were Norwegian or Danish so that was about 800 out of 8000. It makes a big difference to the local culture. King Haakon visited in July 1943 and it’s something that’s still in the consciousness – the day the King of Norway came.”

The Norwegian sailors also carried a special message from their country’s Minister of Defence, Odd Roger Enoksen.

Part of the letter reads “Experiences from this war still are valuable to learn from today. One of them is the importance of having friends across borders and oceans when one’s freedom is threatened or taken away.”

More than 80 years on from the warm welcome given to Norway’s wartime refugees, the links between the countries are still strong.

The sailors hope their journey will help ensure those friendships forged across the North Sea are never forgotten.