We were fortunate to discover the existence of a secret Norwegian Naval Base at Peterhead, operated jointly by the Norwegian Secret Intelligence Service and the Royal Naval Intelligence Service during World War II.
The base was located at the Model Jetty, Port Henry Harbour, Peterhead, and operated fishing cutters, which were used to gather intelligence on shipping, with any information they obtained being forwarded to London.
The base remained classified until 1980.
So far, this is all we have been able to uncover from easily obtained sources, but hope more will come to light, or be offered in future.
We received an appeal for additional information from a relative of one of crew members, which we have repeated below:
I am working on a study of the secret intelligence operations carried out by the Norwegian Navy and the British SIS from the Peterhead base in Scotland during WW 2.
The subject of my study is the fate of the Norwegian fishing cutter “MARS” and her crew. They disappeared off the coast of Southern Norway in early April 1942, having just landed two agents who were to set up a secret radio station there.
Specifically, I am interested in any photograps of the base area (ships, personnel, buildings etc) at Model Jetty, Port Henry Harbour, Peterhead. The time from August 1941 to March 1942 is of primary interest.
I have tried (almost) everywhere to find photos of this place, and frankly I think this is my last chance. Therefore, I would be most grateful if any of your readers could help in any way.
PS: My uncle, Olav Hagtvedt, was one of the crew on the “MARS 1″.
Arne O. Hagtvedt
Unfortunately, there is no email or alternative contact information, so any additional information will have to be posted as a comment below.
If you have something you wish to pass on confidentially, you may also use the Contact Form on the Main Site.
Article in a special issue of Journal of Pacific Maritime History on the yacht Medea which was used as mother ship by the Norwegians in Peterhead also refers to the reminisces of Karl Solevaagseide who served in Peterhead.
if you wish more information the mother ship was the medea . there is an article on the yacht and the base in peterhead in medea and the classic steam yachts published by san diego maritime museum http://www.sdmaritime.org
Hi Arne, I have today just posted a request about Norwegian Naval personnel in Scotland during WW2 under the ‘Military’ heading on this site!
I can’t answer your exact query but point out that Norwegians sailors were used by the British Navy to pilot ships around the British Isles (especially Scotland) to free up our own Captains. I know of Glaswegians who knew some there.
There were also Norwegian Royal Navy officers involved in Secret work for the British Admiralty in West Scotland during WW2.
I mention all this because it might be that you could widen your search.
Hello to Lucy and Bruce (and all others)!
My Peterhead study has unfortunately been dead in the water for a while, but is now picking up speed again. Thanks for tips on the Medea. I’ve added details on Medea as background info in my study.
Naval Base Peterhead is still shrouded in mystery, and obtaining photos of it seems almost impossible. Still, there is hope, as I have recently found a very promising contact. Will share photos on this site if any are found.
Apart from that, I found out what happened to the fishing cutter “Mars 1” and her crew of 6. A German report documents the sinking of a Norwegian fishing vessel off the coast of Norway on the 10th of April 1942. The position of the sinking matches the only remotely possible position of “Mars 1” as she was returning to Peterhead. Also, the oil industry has very thoroughly mapped the seabed of the North Sea in recent years. At the position given by the Germans, there is a small wreck described as “fishing vessel”, appr 50 ft. All the others wrecks registered within a 60 NM circle are of larger ships. Too much of a coincidence? My gut feeling is that this is the final resting place of my uncle Olav and his 5 shipmates.
Still, I would dearly love to have some photos from NBP.
If any of you out there have photos from Peterhead harbour, taken during the period 1935-1945, I’d be most grateful for a copy.
Very interesting stuff. I am a journalist with the BBC based in Aberdeen. I am Peterhead born and was recently speaking to my grandfather who is 87 and was an apprentice plumber at Peterhead harbour during the war. What sparked the conversation was that the Union Bar on the harbour has been recently put up for sale. My grandfather told me that underneath it during WW2, the Norwegians operated a highly secret bunker. All of this I’m sure you know. However I’d like very much to find out more details with the view to doing a TV/radio piece. Arne, and others, it would be good to get contact details so we can swap info. To make it televisual any photographs would be essential. please contact me via my email – email@example.com
Steven, – I have sent you an email!
I would suggest you contact the Norwegian Consul in Edinburgh. She was involved in a rememberance ceremony last year for veterans of Shetland Bus and Ryukan raid.
If you need further help let me know I can contact her personally. She showed a great deal of interest in the matter and Im sure would be keen to know about your search.
Thanks for your reply and interest in my research.
I had actually forgotten my posting on the Secret Scotland site, as it was quite some time ago.
My book “Olav’s Saga” was published in february 2016, based on all the information I was able to gather both here in Norway and in Scotland.
I visited Peterhead in august 2014. The library and museum there had a lot of useful information. This was of course incorporated in my book.
The book is presently in Norwegian only, although I have been asked to make an English version of it.
Who knows – perhaps next year – – ?
I recently noticed this correspondence. I attended Karl Solevaagseide’s wedding to my cousin Davida of Peterhead there in 1945. He was I think quartermaster on the Medea in Peterhead but she was then called the Haakon, painted grey and the mothership of a brood of norwgian fishing boats mostly from Aalesund which sailed from Peterhead during the war years. There was also a squadron of MTBs some RN and some RNoN. You will not find photos of Peterhead harbour during ww2 as taking them was a major offence. It was a high security area. The norwegian jetty was closed off with barbed wire. There was always a naval sentry at the gate with a rifle and bayonet. The only photo I know is in the San Diego Maritime museum.It was taken on May 17th 1944, Norway’s Constitution Day and Karl and my cousin are in it. My Father was involved as I knew he sometimes went on board the Haakon, however he never spoke of it. As he passed away in 1960, nothing emerged until the 80s and 90s. My Wife and I visited Aalesund, which is twinned with Peterhead a few years ago and I met someone at the resistance museum there whose father had been inserted into Norway as a radio operator for the resistance and had met my father in Peterhead before that. The reason so little is known about all this is that the Peterhead operation was an SIS one and as this continued as MI6 after the war everything remained classified for at least 50 years unlike the well known “Shetland Bus” operation which was for sabotage under SOE (disbanded in 1946). The Peterhead operation was for coast watching and radio surveillance via Bletchley Park so remained below the horizon. My father was given a naval citation and he and my mother were presented at Holyrood house to King George and Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1947 and he had a street in Peterhead named after him.
As a sad footnote to my earlier one, my cousin Vida, (Davida) lost a brother, Bobbie(Robert) just a month before your uncle in the sinking of HMS Anking, an armed merchant cruiser, just south of Java by 3 Japanese cruisers on march 4th 1942. There was a lot of sadness about then
A very interesting story indeed – thanks for that! As you know my book was published in 2016 – in Norwegian only. I have started on an English version, focusing more on the parts of my book that would be relevant for English-speaking readers. If and when I finish the new version, it will most probably be an E-book. That would of course make it more easily accessible for English speakers, and with a bit of marketing – hopefully also interesting for people who want to know more about the Naval Base Peterhead 1941-45.
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I am a professional, norse-talende, Scottish Tourist Guide based near Peterhead and over the last couple of years I have become aware of the Norwegian Naval and secret service activity in Peterhead during WW2. I’d be really interested in reading your book in Norwegian. Is it available as a ebook or on amazon in print? I am also an author myself (lightweight histories of the Aberdeen area) so may be able to help with your English version if you wanted.
Thanks for your message and interest in my book. It is unfortunately no longer available electronically, but I could send it to you (snail mail), provided you pay the postage.
The English version is still in the making, and will be a slightly abbreviated version of the original.
My suspicion is that an English reader will not be very interested in details of my family history, so I’m leaving most of that out.
If you are still interested, please send an email.
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Sorry for the delay in responding to your comment expressing interest in my earlier response. Trouble is I have been busier since my retirement than ever.
I would very much appreciate a copy of your book and info on how to contact you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I now live near Edinburgh. If you ever visit there it would be good to meet you.
As you may gather from my name, Thores, not Torres, my ancestry is norse and my paternal grandmother lived in Orkney which confirms the link.
In my final year at Aberdeen University I had a travelling scholarship to the universities at Oslo, Copenhagen and Lund, my first ever overseas visit and I have visited all the scandinavian countries quite a few times since both professionally and for holidays with my family, always feeling comfortably at home there and appreciating the jokes norwegians, danes, swedes and finns tell against each other when having a drink together.
Kind regards, it would be good to hear from you, also whether your book is still available and how to obtain it.
Orison A Thores.
I have been dabbling in the idea of writing something about my own family and childhood in Peterhead in WW2 when it was subject to a greater number of individual Luftwaffe raids than anywhere in the UK some of them I vividly remember almost 80 years later.
My name is Raymond Ward, during WW2 my father ‘Jack Ward’ was employed as “Salvage Master” on contract to the Air Ministry. Operating out of Peterhead he was responsible for the recovery of any allied aircraft shot down over NE Scottish coastal waters, I have very little detail of his times there but will be visiting Peterhead in or about May this year (2022) and would be extremely interested to hear more of the history of that time.
I hope you are well and have managed to progress the English translation of your book. I appreciated the Norwegian version you kindly sent me but so far have been unable to find someone to translate for me. If you have managed to prepare an english version, perhaps as an ebook please let me know and let me have an indication of how to obtain it or what I can do to facilitate it.
I have an interest in history and naval affairs from my own family background although my own cold war service was in aviation. Two of my ancestors were killed at Trafalgar and are buried at Gibraltar. Another served on Darwin’s voyage in the Beagle and painted events on it for the Admiralty, the only visual record of it apart from Darwin’s notes and sketches. My Mother’s cousin won a Victoria Cross in WW1 for a naval action he commanded in the Mediterranean.
My Father Alexander Thores, commemorated in a street name in Peterhead, activated the naval reserve forces and navy cadets in Aberdeenshire in 1938, at the time of the Munich ” agreement” . He is also commemorated in the Sea Cadets building in Peterhead and the Hall of Remembrance at Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum. He made a significant, unsung contribution to WW2 and especially in relation to Norway .Already in his 60s he had a severe heart attack just after D Day precipitated by the stress of these years and the knowledge he was sending younger men sometimes to their deaths.
Our home was always open to Norwegians when I was a child and he knew the Salvesen family well some of whom served on the Haakon in Peterhead.
If you visit Edinburgh please let me know so that I can say thanks for the book by having you for lunch at the Royal Scots Club and if you have time visiting my Wife and myself in Fife.