Shetland "Hands Across the Sea" Norway



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Kergord House, called 'Flemington' up until 1945, was very much involved in The Shetland Bus operations.

Situated in one of the best known tree plantations in Shetland, Kergord is described as follows by John MacRae of Kergord, a past owner of the property:-

Flemington was requisitioned from Mrs. Winton for use by Major L. H. Mitchell. Mitchell was sent to Shetland in December 1940 by Secret Intelligence Service (S.I.S.) and by Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) to organise the transport of Norwegian Secret Agents to and from Norway. These Agents provided reports of German naval movements along the Norwegian coastline. Others carried out sabotage operations and trained patriotic Norwegians in sabotage and intelligence work.

David Howarth who joined Mitchell in June, 1941, and wrote the book The Shetland Bus in 1951, aptly describes Flemington's use in the early days of military occupation. "The house had entertained some strange visitors in the past winter. Agents waiting for passage to Norway, refugees exhausted by a crossing of the North Sea, and parties of saboteurs in training with their instructors." However, after the first winter, only trained agents were sent to Shetland, whilst all refugees were received in a special refugee camp in Lerwick.
The large first floor bedroom, overlooking the front of Flemington, was converted into a dormitory with about eight beds for the Agents as, right up to VE day, Flemington's primary function was to house Norwegian Agents, either waiting for the right moment to sail, or being de-briefed on return.

As passenger traffic across the North Sea increased, Flemington, not only provided the means of keeping one party separate from another expedition, and preventing unnecessary contact between Agent and Crewmen, it also became a place visited by high ranking officers such as the Admiral Commanding Orkney and Shetland, and the Commander in Chief Scottish Command. The latter had special responsibility for the eventual re-occupation of Norway.

The most distinguished visitor was HRH Crown Prince Olaf of Norway and C in C of Norwegian Forces. He was served a luncheon of roast beef at Flemington in the autumn of 1942.

The top brass came primarily to learn at first hand about the work of the unit, but there was a steady flow of Staff Officers. The unit's own Staff Officers came from London to plan future operations and to ensure that the unit had adequate supply from both civilian and military sources. The Royal Navy sent officers to ensure that operations did not coincide with Destroyer sweeps or MTB raids, and to protect the unit from RAF depth charging.

Much of the planning of the actual operations took place at Flemington as well as the construction and repair of wirelesses and the assembly of sabotage equipment. Many a conference between Skipper, Agent and British Staff Officer took place round the peat fire in the Hall.

In the autumn of 1942 perhaps the most interesting plan that was finalised at the house was that of Operation Title, the aim being to cripple the German battleship Tirpitz.

Commander Slaydon RN arrived in Shetland and dwelt at Flemington, and Capt. Martin de Bertodano and David Howarth, although not dwelling at Flemington, were regular visitors.

Mitchell and his wife left Flemington for Dinapore, a private house opposite the old slipway in Scalloway, in late August, 1942. Mitchell wanted to supervise the completion of the main base at Scalloway. His wife probably welcomed living nearer civilization and away from a hotel housing Norwegian speaking guests.

Rogers, who had joined Mitchell's staff in October 1941, and whose real name was Arthur William Sclater, moved in to Flemington on Mitchell's departure. His Norwegian born wife, Alice nee Collett, undertook to run the house as Norwegian Welfare Officer and without doubt the Norwegian Agents greatly appreciated this appointment. To assist her she had soldier servants replaced soon by Shetland girls. Jessie Leask was cook, Betty Polson and Grace Hutchison, both from Whalsay, were maids.

Hunter Sandison and Robert Henry, who were retained by Mr. Winton, lived in the lodge to the west of the house and were looked after by Babsie Moncrieff, described by Arthur Sclater as a "great character".

On the domestic front, S.O.E. had electricity partially installed in the house. This was wind generated, by a windmill to the west of the garden. This was erratic, so paraffin lamps were the main source of light. The heat source was peat and coal, and for cooking there was a range in the kitchen (now the dining room).

On the 26th March, 1945, Alice Sclater gave birth to their second son, Michael Victor Sclater, in the bedroom overlooking the conservatory. He was baptised in the dining room (now the study). The Naval Chaplain used a submarine's ship's bell as a font. An interesting point is that his birth certificate shows the place of birth as Kergord House and not Flemington.

Mitchell left Shetland in November 1942 for a much more important job. He was a man with brilliant ideas, great charm and an irrepressible sense of humour, and he knew and taught his colleagues all the tricks worth knowing in the intelligence game.

Rogers took over command from Mitchell. He and his wife lived at Flemington until the unit was disbanded in September 1945.

In the last three years, the nerve centre of the unit was Scalloway, where the Base had a direct secret line to London and signals personnel on watch round the clock.


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