Heroes Of The Sea

Their country was occupied by a racist regime. They lived by the sea. They secured a boat. By night they stole fuel cans from the airport. The next night they voyaged south of the territorial waters, veered sharply east into the unending ocean, and hoped they might reach a free land. They were five untried Norwegian students, who in 1941 left their offshore island of Flekkeroy. Three were so sea sick that they nearly gave up. If one screw was lost on a can of fuel they might not have survived. They passed through mined areas. Allied ships, thinking they were an enemy torpedo, turned off their lights and gave no help.

Five days later they saw a castle and a harbour, they knew not where. 'Friend or foe?' said an English voice. 'Friend' they replied. They had landed at Lindisfarne. They were warmly regaled and fed at The Lindisfarne Hotel. Phone calls and a train to London followed. Four served 'The Allies' in the Canadian forces. Three of these were killed. One returned to work for Allied Intelligence. He was imprisoned in Norway.

This month the daughter of one of the survivors returned, with a delegation from their island of Flekkeroy. near Kristiansand. In Amble they thanked those who had arranged for the engine of the students' boat to be shipped to their museum at Flekkeroy. In the morning I was privileged to give them a lecture in St Mary's Church on early Christianity in Britain and Ireland. In the evening, through the good auspices of Dick Patterson of the Lindisfarne Centre, they invited islanders to St. Cuthbert's Centre to thank them, to re-tell the story with pictures and sea songs. Next morning they dedicated a public seat in memory of the five and in gratitude to Holy Island. Islander Peggy Teagoe, ninety next month, who remembers the saga, and Gunlaug Henriksen, the daughter of one of the five, were the first to sit upon it, side by side. The seat overlooks the harbour. These words are inscribed on it: 'In great gratitude for the good welcome for our five freedom-fighters: Tor Mod Abrahamsen, Nib Havve, Sven Moe, Jan Stumph and Kay Thorsen, received here on Holy Island, 5 November 1941, after crossing the sea in a small boat'. Their spokesman, retired pastor Nils Ingvar Nilsen, invited residents to visit their island of Flekkeroy.

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Posted at 01:34am on 12th September 2010
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