NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Stolen World War II rescue fishing boat to be returned

Don Marr (left) shaking hands with John Berthelsen with VA92L (Thistle) in the background
Image caption Don Marr (left) and Johnshaven Heritage Society are returning the boat to John Berthelsen

A fishing boat stolen for a dramatic escape during World War II is to be returned to Norway from Scotland.

Four Norwegians desperate to escape the Nazi occupation took the boat and crossed the North Sea to the Aberdeenshire coast in 1941.

The boat was renamed Thistle and then worked out of Stonehaven, before being donated to Johnshaven Heritage Society.

However, children of one of the original four escapees traced the boat, and it is now to be sent home.

It is understood the perilous journey was almost ended shortly after it started when the group was intercepted and machine gunned by a German plane.

They returned to land and set out again with the boat camouflaged by tree branches, and completed the long journey.

John and Martin Berthelsen, sons of Carl Berthelsen, said they were thrilled to find the vessel which had played such a dramatic part in their father's life.

Don Marr, of Johnshaven Heritage Society, said: "We in Johnshaven are absolutely delighted to be able to return this historic boat to where she came from.

"We were just not able to preserve her here, and she now goes to a home where they have all the skills to restore and preserve her."

National significance

John Berthelsen said: "Discovering my father's boat after 70 years was one of the most moving moments in my life.

"This boat is very significant, not only to my family but also to the Norwegian people as a whole, as it is probably the only surviving example of the many small open boats that braved the North Sea crossing in the war."

Local historian Andrew Orr, who researched the incident, said: "It's a really crackingly good true yarn."

Preparations are under way to send the boat home.

The people of Johnshaven are planning a farewell ceremony in early February.

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