LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

The Shetland Bus

by David Howarth.

David Howarth’s The Shetland Bus tells of a dangerous and tenuous sea-link forged between Shetland and Norway during the war.

Initially based in Lunna (later Scalloway) in the UK’s most northerly island-group, a discreet fleet of “fishing vessels” was gathered to ferry men and supplies to and from the wartime resistance in Norway. Travelling only in winter (to avoid the summer’s constant daylight), and suffering unimaginable hardships (sometimes for weeks at a time), the crews pitted themselves against not only the Germans, but the North Sea itself, risking their lives over and over to rescue agents and deliver vital equipment. Some were wrecked, some were captured, some just vanished. But many got through, making valuable contributions to the war effort.

The Shetland Bus is a first-hand account of the operation, written by one of the officers involved. Despite reading it whilst staying in Shetland (meaning I could visit the very-real places it describes), the narrative alone was more than enough to bring the story to life. I couldn’t put it down.


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