Bamse: Canine Hero of World War II


This is the extraordinary story of one of the Second World War’s most unusual animal heroes: a 14-stone St Bernard dog who became the Royal Norwegian Forces’ global mascot, as well as a symbol of freedom and inspiration for Allied troops across Europe.

Bamse (teddy bear), ship’s dog and war hero, was honored with a statue in his hometown of Honningsvg, Nordkapp municipality, ten years ago.

Bamse: Canine Hero of World War II
Photo: Marinemuseet
Lt. Oscar Jensen with Bamse.

Bamse became an iconic dog during WWII, and on June 20, 2009, the local bookshop, G. Hagen (now closed), hosted a book signing with Angus Whitson and Andrew Orr, authors of Sea Dog Bamse: World War II Canine Hero.

They hoped they had written a best-seller, and their hopes were realized when the book was reprinted several times and the story of the Norwegian dog sold well.

Captain Hafto, Bamse’s father, would take the puppy to sea on the massive Thorodd since he was a puppy. During WWII, the crew loved the dog so much that they made him a steel helmet to wear while standing guard on the main gun tower.

Bamse: Canine Hero of World War II

There are many useful stories starring Bamse and many people who owe him their lives, just as there are stories of miraculous rescues in the Alps that earned Saint Bernards their reputation as rescue dogs.

One of them was Royal Norwegian Navy Lt. Commander Olav August Johan Nilsen, who was attacked with a knife while walking along the quayside.

When the dog noticed this, he approached them, rose to his hind legs, and pushed the attacker away, eventually into the water.

Bamse: Canine Hero of World War II
Photo: Tove Andersson
The Honningsvåg statue of Bamse stares out at the harbor like a good boy.

Another rescue was of a man who fell overboard and was not noticed by anyone except Bamse. He dove into the water after the man and managed to keep both of them alive.

Despite being remembered for his actions during the war, Bamse was also a peacemaker. He had the same calm, kind, and sociable temperament as other dogs of this breed.

Whenever one of the crew members was about to get into a fight, he would stand on his hind legs and place his paws on the other man’s shoulders, effectively stopping the fight.

Given his having to work dog nature, he was an excellent companion for a variety of activities and possessed a wide range of abilities.

His exploits inspired many stories, many of which were collected in the book Sea Dog Bamse: World War II Canine Hero, written by Andrew Orr, Angus Whitson, and Andrew A. Orr and published in 2008.

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Bamse’s adventures did not stop there. When the crew gave him a bus pass to wear around his neck, he would travel by bus alone and go to every pub to gather all members of the crew when curfew was about to expire. He would also go to local bakeries on occasion.

This incredible hero excelled at sports and was assigned to the position of goalkeeper whenever the crew played soccer.

He was also a rather amusing character. He once returned home covered in coal powder from head to paw. His thick coat was so filthy that the crew wouldn’t let him on board.

Bamse offered them a solution while sitting next to a bucket of water, awaiting a bath, in a hilarious display of his sense of humour.

Bamse was more than just the crew’s mascot; he had earned his place on the ship.

It’s understandable that when Captain Hafto was about to retire and take Bamse with him, the crew declared that they would not return to the ship without their furry crew member.

As a result, the Captain was forced to leave Bamse with the crew and his successor until the war was over.

Read another article from us: Balto Husky’s Story: The Husky Who Saved Alaska in 1925

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