Shetland 'Bus'

Shetland 'Bus'


Book Reviewer
This is a slim book of some 199 pages by Stephen Wynn.

It is not totally as it shows on the cover a history of the Shetland Bus which was a ferry service run between Shetland and Norway during WW2 ferrying men and material to Norway and refugees and operators back to Scotland. This book details in some depth the situation in Norway from its invasion by the Germans in 1940 until its liberation on the 9th of May 1945.

The author has in effect written a book which is as far as I can find is unique as it reports the situation in which the occupation as it developed in its distinct parts, political and civil, resistance activities in Norway and personalities and from both sides from Terbovan, the German commissar in charge of Norway, and Quisling the person who was in effect the ruler of Norway under German direction and members of the Norwegian Resistance. German subjugation of Norway was severe and atrocities were committed by the Germans and their collaborators and fellow travellers for acts of resistance such as the burning of villages and murder of the population. The book relates just how many covert operations undertaken by the Special Operations Executive and the Norwegian organisation the Kompani Linge took place in Norway and in particular those against the materials extracted such as iron ore which the German war industry required or the use of canoes with crews using limpet mines to attack shipping. Many people are named of which unless you are Norwegian the reader would never have heard of and have with this book will become known to a wider population.


There is a specific part in the book concerning the Shetland bus and the bravery of the men who operated the service as crews and the terrible conditions that they sailed in, in particular in the winter months and conditions in the North Sea plus the added risk of detection by German air and sea forces. There also a section in the appendices that has been extracted from Hansard (Official published record from the House of Commons) regarding debates that mentioned Norway.

There are a couple of gripes with a number of typos and German rank misidentification, but I’m sure they can be dealt with in any reprints in the future.

In conclusion as I stated earlier this is one of the books that reveals that a war of resistance in the west was not just fought in France and the Low countries but in Norway as well, in conditions that were quite inhospitable in particular during the long northern winters.

Amazon product
Last edited by a moderator:
This looks good & I will get a copy to Norwegian friends to see what they think and what else they can point to
I wonder how much is sourced, or credited to David Howorth's classic, The Shetland Bus - published sometime in the 1950s?

Edited to correct bad spelling, it's David Howarth, serves me right for relying on memory- I actually saw the guy at a book signing in Westminster but at the time I didn't realised he was so involved in the operations.
Last edited:
I wonder how much is sourced, or credited to David Howorth's classic, The Shetland Bus - published sometime in the 1950s?

Edited to correct bad spelling, it's David Howarth, serves me right for relying on memory- I actually saw the guy at a book signing in Westminster but at the time I didn't realised he was so involved in the operations.
No, this would appear to be a different book but it features David Howarth. The author is ex plod and seems to specialise in WW2 books. Stephen Wynn – Author of both fictional and non-fictional books He has contact details on the site so I expect someone could ask him. This book is listed here, under "Forthcoming Books" Stephen Wynn – Author of both fictional and non-fictional books » Forthcoming Books
Obscure, minimalist claim too fame.

My wifes, late Uncles Grandfather, is Shetland Larsen.

Sadly thats all I know.



Book Reviewer
I remember reading The Shetland Bus in the 1950sz. Is this just a reprint ?
I also remember reading Howarth's We Die Alone, about a failed op and a solo E&E over the hills in deep winter to Sweden. I recommend it.
The Armed Forces Museum in Oslo has a page about the Shetland Bus operation. Use google translate browser plug in to view it in English.


A separate department was established in Shetland in the autumn of 1940 for North Sea traffic and it was in operation until the end of the war. The department was located in Scalloway, Shetland. The base was under British command throughout the war, but with Norwegian leadership. Lieutenant Captain Tor Kleppe was leader until Ingvald Eidsheim was ordered to Shetland in 1942 as interim commander. He was succeeded by Leif Hauge and Harald Henriksen. Eidsheim continued as deputy commander. The Shetland gang got their first base in Lerwick, then in Lunna Voe before being stationed in Scalloway.

The department consisted of Norwegian naval crews who wanted to continue the fight against the German occupiers and who had taken over to Britain. They went by the name "Shetland gang". The formal name was "The Norwegian Naval Independant Unit". In collaboration with the Norwegian authorities in London, it was the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) that organized the operations. Another newly established allied organization, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which began to organize the resistance movements in the countries that the Germans had conquered, was also involved in the planning and implementation. The assignments gradually became more and more marked by SOE's activities. At most, there were 33 skaters and 263 men in the department and 44 people lost their lives in North Sea traffic.
One of the main tasks for the six boats and 45 men at the department was to transport weapons, supplies and crews for special assignments on the Norwegian coast. These could be Norwegian agents from SIS and other personnel who were to supply the British and Norwegian authorities with information about German dispositions in Norway and about enemy ship movements along the coast.
On the return trip, it was usually with people who for some reason wanted or had to flee. All activities took place in agreement with the London Government.
The lack of suitable vessels led to the department mainly using fishing boats for its assignments on the Norwegian coast, from Rogaland to Troms. The skates had come from Norway with crews who wanted to leave the country to fight on. In order to arouse the least possible interest, skates that were common in the area were to be used. It was also ensured that they had a registration mark that made it probable that they were local fishermen.
The most famous of the skippers in this department is Leif Larsen, better known as Shetlands-Larsen. He made a total of 56 trips to the Norwegian coast, 20 of them with skates and 36 with Vigra.
In October 1942, Larsen traveled with the motorboat Arthur on one of his most daring voyages, he wanted to try torpedoes the much talked about Tirpitz which was then located in Lofjorden by Trondheimsfjorden. Well inside the fjord and in position to act, it blew up and during the storm both torpedoes struggled and sank. Larsen escaped via Sweden back to Shetland.
To begin with, the German coastal fortifications were not very well developed. The patrol and the guard had many holes, but that was to change quickly. The Germans deployed aircraft, vessels and not least secret police against the ever-increasing North Sea traffic. It was threatened with the death penalty for those who were exposed or who helped maintain the traffic.
Not all trips went well. One of the most serious accidents was the loss of the Bergen boat "Blia", which after completing several successful North Sea voyages disappeared without a trace in November 1941. A total of 42 Norwegians died. The crew was seven men, the others were on the run from the Gestapo or wanted to go to England to fight.
The winter of 1942-43 was particularly severe. The Germans had managed to sink four of the Norwegian skates, and two others had been broken down by storms and disappeared without a trace with everyone on board. In total, the losses had risen to 13 skates and 44 crew members. After great human and material losses, as a result of slow-moving skates without special weapon systems on board, German countermeasures and the severe winter storms, something had to be done. The traffic with fishing boats was stopped. During a transitional period, Norwegian MTBs were used in North Sea traffic. It was important to find better suitable vessels and in October 1943 the department was supplied with the more appropriate naval vessels - the submarine fighters HESSA, HITRA and VIGRA. We got the vessels from the USA and the command was hoisted on August 26, 1943. Small neat vessels of 125 tons and with a speed of 20 knots and a crew of 25 men. The submarine hunters made a total of almost 80 trips to Norway, without losing a single man. In addition to uniforms and food, more than 100 agents and around 500 tonnes of weapons and ammunition were brought to Norway on the stretch from Lofoten in the north to Egersund in the south. 60 radio stations were established in Norway as a result of this traffic and it is estimated that approximately 350 refugees escaped to the United Kingdom.

Shetlandsgjengen / Nordsjøtrafikken / Nordsjøtrafikken og tyske mål i Norge / I alliert krigstjeneste 1940-1945 / Sjøforsvaret i krig 1939-1945 / To verdenskriger / Forsvarets historie / Forsvarets museer / Forsvarets museer - Website Interface

YouTube has the 1954 film in Norwegian, which features Leif Larsen as himself. Viewing is restricted by licence to Norway. Just in case anyone happens to be in Norway here is the link below. The museum might have a copy on DVD. You would have to email them to ask if they have it.

Shetlandsgjengen 1954

It's a pity that YouTube cannot make this available outside of Norway, particularly to the UK. Well if the fishermen could sail from Shetland and our sea is the Internet...


This screenshot shows the film format.


Fishing boats, guns, Catalinas. There is no Hollywood nonsense or hammy acting here. Special effects include a wind machine onshore. Many times on the coast wind can be felt and not heard so this is how it was conveyed. Real people who were there take part.

There is something about the sound of that single cyclinder semi diesel engine.

YouTube auto translate is available but I preferred to avoid the distraction of mistranslated words. Even without much understanding of Norwegian language it was easy to get the gist of what was going on.

It was compelling viewing. A remarkable film really and a testament to those involved.

For those who can view the film from Norway (physically or via VPN) here is the link:


Latest Threads