With a wet nose, soft, floppy ears and a huge appetite, he was the unlikeliest of wartime heroes.

But for the men of the Thorodd, a Norwegian whaling boat put into service as a minesweeper during the Second World War, their loyal St Bernard dog, Bamse, was as much a crewmember – and vital part of the war effort – as they were.

As they served their nation in its desperate hour of need, the dog became an unlikely symbol of freedom, loyalty and comradeship.

While locals in the Scottish towns where the crew was stationed  came to regard the big St Bernard as a comforting distraction from the war and one of their own.

The touching story of how Bamse the St Bernard became a regular sight in Scottish towns at the height of the Second World War – and officially recognised for his bravery - has now been turned into a ‘Commando’ style comic book.

It is the latest in a series of Scottish WW2 wartime tales to be given the graphic novel treatment by writer Colin Maxwell, whose previous comics have featured the real life drama of a 1939 dogfight between the Luftwaffe and British Spitfires in the shadow of the Forth Bridge, and the heroic true story of the Polish submarine, ORP Orzel.

The Herald:


Having been damaged by German mines, the sub made for Estonia only for the crew to be interred under Nazi orders. Against all odds, the crew carried out a daring escape while under fire and, with no maps on board, used lighthouses to navigate their way through the Baltics to the North Sea.

There, without any wireless equipment to identify itself, the vessel came under attack from both British and German forces before eventually finding refuge at Rosyth in Fife.

The submarine was then assigned to the Royal Navy’s 2nd Submarine Flotilla, and carried out successful missions before being lost without trace in the North Sea in June 1940.

The meticulously researched comics with their distinctive Scottish war themes have been published following Kickstarter campaigns, and, in a curious quirk, have led to Commando-comic fan Colin being offered the chance to write the magazine’s war stories.

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Commando comic books have been a staple of many young readers’ lives from the 1960, with their daring tales of wartime exploits, noble acts of heroism, stoic, unflappable characters and distinctive artwork.

Its writers form an exclusive group, some with loyal followers and collectors who seek out their stories, while early copies of Commando comics can fetch three figure sums.

In 2011, the first Commando comic published, Walk – or Die! – fetched more than £600 on eBay.

Colin, from Dunfermline, encountered the story of Bamse in Montrose, where there is a bronze statue of the dog.

He said: “It is such an amazing story.

“Bamse was originally a family pet in Norway. His owner was a naval commander, and when war broke out, his wife insisted that the dog had to go with him because she didn’t think she’d be able to look after him.

“The owner sneaked him on board – it was against navy rules – but the dog was adopted by the crew as the ship’s mascot.”

The Herald:

Colin Maxwell

Bamse had a post in the foremost guntower and a specially designed tin helmet – he was said to have refused to leave his position until action had ended.

Although poorly equipped for war, the former whaling vessel, the Thorodd, was among 13 vessels that formed the Royal Norwegian Navy flotilla assigned to protect King Hakon VII and members of his government as they fled the threat of German invasion in 1940.

While the Norwegian royals continued on board HMS Devonshire to Glasgow, the Thorodd was sent to Port Edgar near South Queensferry, which became the Norwegian navy’s base for much of the war, and then Dundee and Montrose.

Bamse, Norwegian for "Little One", became well known in bars frequented by the Norwegian sailors, and in Dundee, is said to have become so familiar with the route to and from town, that the had his own bus pass and often travelled alone, adds Colin.

While he achieved celebrity status when he jumped into Montrose harbour to save a stricken sailor and then saved the life of the Thorodd’s second in command after the was attacked at Dundee docks.

Years later, he was posthumously awarded the animal version of the George Cross.

Bamse became the mascot of the Royal Norwegian Navy, and famous in Norway where children were read bedtime stories about his wartime exploits, and a photograph of him wearing a Norwegian sailor’s cap appeared on Easter and Christmas cards during the war.

The Herald:

He died of heart failure on Montrose dockside, close to his boat, in July, 1944, and was buried with full military honours in a service attended by hundreds of Norwegian sailors, Allied servicemen and locals from the town and others who travelled from Dundee to pay their respects.

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His grave is cared for by locals and is the focal point of a commemorative ceremony every 10 years.

Colin, who specialises in Scottish war history stories and whose Commando comics include 'Five Little Soldier Boys' and Helicopter Heist', worked on the Bamse comic book with Fife-based artist, Julie Campbell.

He added that while the format of The Adventures of Bamse is comic, the book has been carefully researched.

“When I was young, my dad would buy Commando comics and got me into them,” he adds.

“There is still a big appetite for these kinds of stories – Commando is in its 62nd year - and there are a lot of real war stories out there still waiting to be told.”