The Ambler

Amble's Community Newspaper: News & events from Amble in Northumberland – The Kindliest Port.

The great escape

Davy Gray, Tom Crozier and Norwegian historian Arve Aarrestad

Norwegians from the local history society in the town of Flekkerøy visited Amble at the end of August to say thank you to Tom and Ann Crozier and Davy and Betty Gray for the part they played in preserving a boat engine that had featured in the Second World War.

In 1941 Norway was under German occupation and a group of five young students wanted to do something to help their country fight for freedom. They came up with a plan to escape to England and hoped in some way to help defeat the Germans.

One of the group decided they could ‘borrow’ his father’s boat a vessel with a 4½ horse power engine. His father also had friends at the airport, so after pilfering some empty gasoline cans from a shop, they managed to acquire 15 litres of fuel from the airport. They loaded up a compass and enough food for a four day voyage and waited until the conditions were suitable for their journey.

Setting off from Kristiansands, the five men first travelled south to get away from the enemy, and then set out across the North Sea. They had to negotiate mines and three of them suffered from terrible sea sickness, soon they were exhausted. At one point they saw lights in the distance so they turned out their own lights for fear it was a German submarine.

On 4th November they saw waves breaking on the shore, but having no idea where they were, they stayed in the boat and just drifted along. In the morning someone on the shore shouted to them, “Friend or foe?” and sent out a boat to escort them to shore.

The Norwegians had in fact landed on Holy Island. They were taken from there and spent the next night in a cell in Berwick, and later they were sent to London.

One of the men, Tormod Abrahamsen later returned to Norway to spy on the enemy. He was eventually captured and jailed but he survived the war. The other four went to a training camp in Canada and became pilots. Their role was to follow the convoys of ships crossing the Atlantic.

Three of them, Nils Havre, Sven Moe and Jan Stumf, died during the war, but Kai Henriksen survived. Now ninety years old and blind, he is the only survivor. His daughter Gunnlaug Henriksen, was among the party who visited Amble and she had helped organise the tour.

The chairman of the history society, Arve Aarrestad, said “We return with great pleasure’ thanking the Grays and the Croziers “for taking care of the motor and telling the story.” Various presents were exchanged, including a painting by Jimmy Thompson depicting the events.

Davy Gray, who had bought the boat, said, “When the engine was removed I kept it in the back yard, and from time to time would give it a run. It jumped about a bit and the neighbours complained that their washing got dirty!”

The boat’s engine now has a place of honour in the museum in Flekkerøy, which is positioned on the highest point in the town, formerly a German radar site.

The group left Amble to visit Holy Island to dedicate a seat bearing a plaque with the names of the young men who crossed the sea on that epic adventure.
Vivienne Dalgliesh

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