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The Shetland Bus: A WWII Epic of Escape, Survival, and Adventure

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  225 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
From the author of We Die Alone.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published June 17th 2008 by Lyons Press (first published 1951)
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(showing 1-30 of 591)
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A.L. Sowards
This book chronicles the work of a British and Norwegian unit based on Shetland Island during WWII that ferried men and equipment to German-occupied Norway and brought back refugees. The author was one of the British officers involved in the relatively small unit. He was never allowed to sail to Norway (he would stick out if he had to land, plus he knew too much to risk going behind enemy lines), but he worked with and debriefed the men, so he was in a unique position to record events and write ...more
Jul 04, 2016 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not usually a fan of war stories but was interested in this book because of its connection to Shetland. The books starts somewhat slowly describing all the technical aspects of running Norwegian fishing boats from Shetland to Norway under the noses of the Nazis. The sheer impossibility of what they did amazed me. The stories of the boats that didn't make it and what happened to those men were tragic but fascinating. Towards the end I couldn't put the book down in order to read the story of ...more
Feb 28, 2013 Christie rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii
During World War II when Norway was invaded and occupied by the Germans, there was an essential spy ring that operated on the Shetland Islands. Captains and crews of small boats braved the temperatures of the Arctic winters, the unexpected squally weather and the threat of being attacked by German boats and planes all under the cover of darkness. The trips to transport necessary weapons and supplies as well as transporting agents and refugees were long (some were thousands of miles and took up t ...more
Linda Harkins
Oct 10, 2016 Linda Harkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I knew absolutely nothing of this operation before reading David Howarth's book. Small fishing boats constantly sailed the North Sea between the Shetland Islands and Bergen, Norway (180 miles as the crow flies), during WWII to deliver munitions and radio equipment and agents and to pick up refugees bound for England. The Shetland Bus, as this operation was known, could offer escape when there was no other option. David Howarth thinks this mission for which he served as second in command was a wo ...more
Merry Rabb
Sep 04, 2016 Merry Rabb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't often read non-fiction historical accounts, but I loved this one. I have visited the Shetland Islands but hadn't heard much about the "Shetland Bus" until recently when I saw a reference to it in a work of fiction. Written by one of the British officers who helped run the mission, this book tells the story of this mission which used small Norwegian fishing boats to travel between the Shetland Islands and Norway during the German occupation of Norway. They delivered weapons, supplies and ...more
Mar 22, 2014 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Saw this on the Kindle deal of the day, missed it that day, and went ahead and paid the full price because it looked so interesting. Glad that I did. It was fascinating. I can't believe that no one has picked it up to write a screenplay and make a movie of it. And as you read it, you know that there are so many many more stories than the author knew or could write about fully. It is put forth in an almost documentary style, but that didn't take anything away from it. There were many who lived an ...more
Beautifully written (not as many pages as Goodreads says it is by the way). There's an old copy of this book around somewhere (my grandparents having lived on Shetland for a while) but I was reading this new edition, the first actually published there, and it has some additions although the original text is reproduced as was.
The story of the Shetland Bus, the lines of communication between Shetland and Norway kept open during the second world war, is one of great courage and it is told with com
Nathan Albright
Feb 03, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge
This book, which was written by the late English historian who was also profoundly involved in espionage efforts in occupied Norway during World War II, is obviously the work of someone of great skill who is writing a war memoir that manages to give a great deal of honor and praise to the brave volunteer Norwegian refugees in the Shetlands who helped popularize a new expression in Norwegian and show their loyalty to the Allied cause during that nation's dark hour under German misrule. The expres ...more
Jan 05, 2012 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WWII seems to have been so overwhelmingly huge that I don't think I'll ever stop finding books that tell stories that surprise me. This one is the story of an undercover supply line between the Shetland islands and occupied Norway. Participants were Norwegian civilian fishermen and UK soldiers and sailors, including the author who was one of the commanders.

I continually had to remind myself that the Norwegians involved were not only volunteers, but were also civilians. These were patriots who w
Cindy Lea
Mar 03, 2014 Cindy Lea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love the historical detail...

Love the historical detail...

I loved the overall subject and stories contained, though I found it dragged a bit from time to time. It is an amazing story I knew very little of and am glad to have gained the knowledge! I frequently travel to Scotland and plan on making my way to Shetland next time!
Jun 15, 2015 Teresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
A friend lent me this book as I am off to Shetland for a holiday. It will certainly make me think about the part that these remote islands had in the Second World War and the bravery of the men who made a difference to so many lives. Not my usual reading material but well worth the read.
Edward H. Skwiot
Fascinating true story

author David Howarth places the reader in the story in a compelling manner, while he remains a modest observer who was in actuality a key leader in the complex operations of the Shetland Bus.
Jun 17, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really good book about a little known and wonderfully rich story of resistance against the Germans in WWII. The stories of the men involved were most compelling and Haworth's modest narrative style completely worked for me.

Copyright The Literary Estate of David Howarth, 1998

First published in Great Britain by
James Nelson and Sons Ltd 1951

From the Foreword: During the war a group of small Norwegian boats manned by Norwegian refugees, normally with a background as fishermen, maintained a route between The Shetland Islands and occupied Norway.

Opening: SAGA is an old Norse word which meant simply a story. But from its association with the kind of story which ancient Norseman liked to tell, it has come to mean a story
Becky Stewart
May 02, 2014 Becky Stewart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very thrilling to read. So many times while reading it I thought what a great movie that particular chapter would make. Details a unique and fascinating piece of WWII lore that I had no idea about.
Sep 15, 2014 Elmira rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nautical
This book was good, but Howarth's book about Jan Balsruud's survival after a mission gone wrong (which comprises one chapter of this book) called "We Die Alone" was absolutely riveting, amazing, and fabulous. I would recommend it over this book.
Jan 19, 2012 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, but especially war story enthusiasts
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a must read for anyone who enjoys stories about the war as this is an absolute classic! Set between Shetland and Norway this story tells of some of the bravest people in the second world war who smuggled goods and people between Norway and Shetland and then the final story of Lars who just survives with his life - and I mean just!!!!!
The dates I have entered are the second time I read the book - I actually read it not long after I moved to Shetland, about 1993 or 4, as I was learning abo
Sep 06, 2015 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
amazing stories of true bravery. why haven't we heard about these missions before?
Feb 19, 2011 Guido rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This chapter of World War II history is little known outside the north of Scotland, although it did have some impact on the war in occupied Norway. The Shetland Bus was the maritime link between Norway and Shetland during WW2, using small boats in an unforgiving environment. It aided the resistance fighters in Norway, at considerable risk to the British seafarers. It was, however, not always the Nazi military that stood in the way of success; the Norwegian Sea was an equally formidable adversary ...more
Sep 26, 2016 Nick rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, maritime
Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers comes to mind while reading The Shetland Bus. For one, they have similar styles; very straight forward, very understandable, easy to read. When comparing these two works, the subjects themselves are not so different: small-time heroes doing their part in the war. An emphasis is made on not focusing on great generals, battles, etc. This book truly was a pleasure to read. I loved learning about great efforts being made during WWII in a forgotten corner of Europe.
Jan 15, 2012 Djonski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastically written account of the brave men and women of an occupied Norway, this author wrote 24 books after this (his first),. It bought it to life so much how ordinary people stood against oppression and enslavement (by the Germans). It moved me to lay a wreath at my local cemetary where a Norwegian who fell in the war is buried ( arnos vale Bristol).
Oct 08, 2016 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
During World War II, fishing boats sailed by Norwegian fishermen sailed constantly from the Shetland Islands to ports in Norway to land agents, supplies and weapons, and to transport escaping Norwegians back to England. David Howarth, who has written several thrilling World War II stories, was second in command of the base in the Shetlands.

Oct 10, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Thomas by: Inger, Bergen Norwegian
Shelves: military
I persuaded my local library to buy a copy of this book after a trip to Norway. Our guide, Inger, recommended this book . I read it and enjoyed it. Our cruise started and ended in Bergen, Norway, base of the boats in the book
Jan 06, 2014 Iain rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-wwii
A series of anecdotes, stories told in the second person on an overlooked side theater of WWII. Good but not great.
Susan Johnson
Jul 17, 2014 Susan Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very different view of WWII, arms and agents being smuggled in to Norway from the Shetland Islands. Totally worth reading even if I found it a little slow at times.
I always like his writing. An unknown (to me) aspect of WW II that was how Howarth was involved in the conflict. He had a very accessible narrative style.
Dee Condon
For WW2 buffs this will be an interesting book. So many unsung heroes of the war and this book tells of a very small portion of those men and women.
Chris Scott
Nov 14, 2010 Chris Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb telling.... have read this book many times over the years.... totally compelling....
Jan 16, 2016 Claire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Style of writing is out-of-date. A modernized version would be better.
May 04, 2013 Alice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't normally read WWII history but this was a page turner.
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David Armine Howarth was a British historian and author. After graduating from Cambridge University, he was a radio war correspondent for BBC at the start of the Second World War. Howarth joined the Navy after the fall of France. He became involved in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and ultimately in the Shetland Bus, an SOE operation manned by Norwegians running a clandestine route between ...more
More about David Howarth...

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