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The Shetland Bus: A WWII Epic of Escape, Survival, and Adventure [Kindle Edition]

David Howarth
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Shetland Bus recounts the hundreds of crossings of small boats from the Shetland Islands to German-occupied Norway to supply arms to the Resistors and to rescue refugees—all under constant threat by German U-boats and winter storms.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Released in 1951 and 1957, respectively, these titles offer little-known chapters in the history of World War II. Sledge Patrol tells how a handful of Danes and Norwegians on dog sleds patrolled a 500-mile perimeter of the Greenland coast to keep watch for Nazi invaders. When the day came, the men eluded the Germans using their hunting skills and knowledge of the Arctic terrain and managed to get back to base by walking the 56 miles without any equipment in some cases not even coats to bring word of the German presence. The "Shetland Bus" was the nickname given to the Norwegian fishing fleet, which was used to shuttle refugees secretly to freedom and bring supplies and intelligence to the Allied forces. Howarth, a British naval officer, was among the leaders of the Shetland Bus operation, so this history is based on firsthand experience.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

An especially good job of describing, without any heroics, the vicissitudes undergone by the survivors of these expeditions.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2736 KB
  • Print Length: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (June 17, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003QHYTK6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325,516 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But He Wasn'there! August 17, 2002
The Shetland Bus" is the story of the British/Norwegian operation to run supplies, ammunition, weapons and secret agents from the Shetland Islands to Norway during WW2. Rescued refugees took the return trip. These efforts were key to the Norwegian resistance to the German occupation, which tied down 10 divisions and 280,000 enemy troops.
Author Howarth was well placed to write SB. He was the number 2 British Naval man in the Shetlands and had a key hand in each mission. He was obviously as close to his men as a good commander can be and writes touchingly, respectfully and personally about his charges. We learn of close escapes from the treacherous weather, quislings and the persistent, if over stretched, German authorities. If his men were in trouble, they could -and did- die in minutes in the icy North Sea, far from shore or any hope of rescue. The author lends the reader an appreciation for the sheer logistical strains behind the Shetland Bus. Balancing people, personalities, supplies, and technical details was a demanding job- one, which the author plainly relished. He was a talented writer, producing 18 historical works, several of which are available on
The weak side to SB is that Howarth was shoreside throughout the war. The action here is all second hand and the telling suffers. Howarth simply wasn't there. He was hundreds of miles from the action. Since this book first appeared in 1951, one gets the distinct impression that, so close to the War's end, some censorship of classified information may have been imposed. Something or someone may have held Howarth back. SB is hard to rate. Out of respect for the author, his obvious writing talent and his men: 4 stars. fans may wish to scroll through Howarth's (apparently) better-received WW2 efforts; "Sledge Patrol" or especially "We Die Alone". I'll end on a positive note: Here is one military book with decent maps! Hooray!
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
An interesting story of the operation of anti-Nazi forces in Norway during World War II. Howarth was the Royal Navy officer responsible for coordinating activities with Norwegian fishermen during this time. The stories represent the resistance Norwegians provided the Nazis and Quislings in Norway. Howarth was not allowed to go to Norway because of the dangerous activites, but his account is first hand, so I discount the previous reviewers assertion that this book is not truthful enough. From the previous reviewer's viewpoint, we can't trust any second or third party accounts. Well, Howarth was there and interacted with these resistance fighters, so that is good enough for most readers.
The Shetlands are a remote island group of the United Kingdom. Howarth provides some details of the history of the region, and the geographic detail. Then the stories of ferrying supplies and spies to German occupied Norway. These stories are interesting, but not as interesting as the shoot ups I read about in some other Howarth books (We Die Alone, The Sledge Patrol, D-Day -June 6, 1944). Howarth is a great author, and I have read eight of his books. Anybody wanting to read good history should read his books. It is a shame of his recent passing, because I will soon run out of books written by him.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating stories October 22, 2002
I've rarely been on a small boat on the ocean, I've never been to the Shetland Isles, and I wasn't on this planet during WW II. So, I found this book to be an interesting perspective that describes several years of a special operations group that supported Norway during the war. The book presents, rather drily at times, the stories of the men and ships who built the Shetland Bus operation -- from the time that they requisitioned and provisioned the ships and fishermen/sailors to the time when the wooden fishing ships were replaced with faster, more reliable submarine chasers.
The glue that holds this book together is the adventures of the Norwegian sailors, as retold by Howarth after the debriefs of the crews. (Howarth was prevented from sailing by the British Navy so his only first-person perspectives are from the operations and shipyard management side of the picture.) In short, what makes this book real is the stories about the storms that they sailed through, the difficulties in getting their small vessels across the North Sea, and the narrow scrapes they had with the Germans when they entered the protected waters of the Norwegian fjords
In summary, this is a marvelous account of a small but important operation. It could be improved by slightly more adventurous writing style but is definitely worth a read if you're interested in seafaring adventures or personal stories from the World War II era.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well told - nothing special April 1, 2006
This is about the British effort to provide boats to move people between England (from the Shetland Isles) to Norway and back. Primarily agents, guns, and supplies to Norway and agents at risk back out.

The author writes well and he does a good job of telling the stories of what the Norwegians went through in Norway. That part is written in a less immediate form as the author was not there and is relating the story to us.

It's an interesting sidebar to the war. And the book is well written. But that is all it is. It's a sidebar that while important, was not critical to the strategic effort (although many in Norway might disagree). And while well written, the book does not reach out and grab you.

So I'm glad I read it. But there are other books that I would have enjoyed more that I could have read instead.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars No bus ride and a great read
I found this story fascinating and enlightened me about what individual people do in the face of tyranny, to bring about that future world they only can dream about. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Roger Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An interesting part of history.
Published 2 months ago by bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars great
prompt delivery, great book
Published 3 months ago by HMLTM
4.0 out of 5 stars good read on WW2 history.
Liked the look inside Norway and their people who fought the Germans. Getting to know what happened first hand is always good.
Published 3 months ago by ivar
5.0 out of 5 stars i would recommend this to anyone who is interested in wwii...
this was a really riveting story. i had no idea that this was going on in my backyard. these people were so brave. Read more
Published 4 months ago by A. M. Bedard
5.0 out of 5 stars A detailed account written by the man who was second ...
A detailed account written by the man who was second in command at the base in the Shetland Islands. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Laurann Cowan
3.0 out of 5 stars Potential but disappointed
I found it a bit hard to read, more like someones journal instead of a book. There was potential here but disappointed in the end.
Published 7 months ago by SiebyFix
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
The novel is somewhat slow in developping but captivating throughout the book.
Published 8 months ago by Sanchez Bernard
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Good story, but very slow moving.
Published 8 months ago by Donna Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story!
A great story, written in harrowing detail, with much heroism involved.
Published 9 months ago by Bonnie K.
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