Dr Orr visits Bervie Probus

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Inverbervie and District Probus welcomed Dr Andrew Orr, formerly a Medical Officer in The Scots Guards and GP in Montrose. He calls himself “the accidental author of ‘Bamse; the WW2 Canine hero’”

His talk, “A flight of Vikings”, or Extraordinary Norwegian North Sea Escapes 1940–45, is the basis for a new book Dr Orr has been working on. It started in 2008 while researching the history of the decaying wreck of a small 1910 Norwegian fishing boat “VA92L Thistle”, belonging to Johnshaven Heritage Society, which was lying in Johnshaven Harbour.

From his research came the fascinating history of one-way escapes from Nazi occupied Norway including the dramatic story of the VA92L which was stolen by four brave Norwegians in July 1941 and set sail from Farsund to Aberdeen, coming under machine gun attack from the Luftwaffe. Days later, on reaching the outskirts of Aberdeen Harbour, it became shrouded in thick haar, drifting offshore before landing in Old Portlethen Bay. They were welcomed by villagers and given a slap up breakfast before the arrival of soldiers from Bridge of Don who, after interrogating them, escorted the Norwegians to Stonehaven Police Station – but were allowed out at 6pm each night to go to the local pub!

Dr Orr detailed the further war service of the four men, two of whom survived, and the various owners of the boat from being renamed until being donated to the Heritage society in 2005. There was a happy ending to the story when VA921 was shipped back to Norway in 2011, on a free passage, where plans were afoot to restore the vessel and display it in the Lista Boathouse Museum. Geoff Goodyear gave a very fitting vote of thanks.