The Shetland Bus tied in Shetland harbour

Kergord and the Shetland Bus

Kergord in Wesidale is the location of the only substantial woodland in the Shetland Islands. kergord-woods-shetland-largeThe trees were planted between 1909–21 by Dr. George Munro and form a 8 to 9 acre mixture of conifer and deciduous trees which survive extremely well despite enduring harsh weather during winter. Kergord now attracts woodland birds and ornithologists found that these plantations influenced the status of some of the birds usually regarded as passage migrants on Shetland.

During the 19th century, three hundred and eighteen crofters were forceably evicted from the Weisdale valley in favour of large scale sheep farming. In 1850, Kergord House was built using stones from the evicted tennant’s crofthouses. Kergord House was previously part of the Flemington estate. shetland-bus-water-largeDuring the most noteworthy part of it’s history, it was called Flemington House. During the Second World War, Flemington House was the Headquarters for the Shetland Bus operation.

This was a clandestine special operations group which linked Shetland, Scotland, and German-occupied Norway from 14th September 1941 until the German occupation ended on 8 May 1945. During this time the Shetland Bus made 198 tours to Norway. 192 agents and 383 tons of weapons and supplies were transported to Norway, and 73 agents and 373 refugees were rescued from the occupied country. 44 members of the group lost their lives. The most famous Shetland Bus man, Leif Andreas Larsen, made 52 trips to Norway, and became the most highly-decorated Allied naval officer of the Second World War.

The Shetland Bus operation was operated initially by many small fishing boats. These were disguised as working fishing boats and the crew were dressed as fishermen. shetland-bus-weapons-barrel-largeOil drums placed on the deck concealed a cache of machine guns. Crossings were made during the winter under the cover of darkness, and the crew and passengers were extremely brave, enduring rough North Sea conditions (with no lights!) and the constant threat of discovery by German aircraft or patrol boats. Several boats were lost and some missions were awry during the initial operations. Later on when the fishing boats were replaced by three fast and well-armed submarine chasers (named Vigra, Hessa and Hitra) there were no more losses.

The men in charge were British Army officer, Major Leslie H. Mitchell and his assistant, Lieutenant shetland-bus-memorial-sculpture-largeDavid Howarth, who commandeered Flemington House for their headquarters. The Shetland Bus boats operated from Lunna Ness (north of Lerwick) and repairs were carried out in Scalloway, where there is now a memorial. Flemington House also operated as quarters for agents awaiting transport to Norway, or for de-brief on return and was used to train saboteurs and house agents. Flemington House was also on occasion visited by high-ranking officers and in October 1942 was visited by HKH Crown Prince Olav of Norway.

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