Bamse was a Saint Bernard that served aboard a Norwegian minesweeper during World War II. Despite his cute and cuddly appearance – Bamse means “cuddly bear” in Norwegian – he was extremely tough. Bamse was originally brought on board by the ship’s captain. When the captain tried to take Bamse with him when leaving for another posting, the crew, who had grown fond of the dog, threatened to leave the ship if he was taken away. They loved the dog so much that they would have mutinied rather than lose him.
Bamse became legendary in Dundee and Montrose, where the ship was stationed during World War II. He rode buses alone with a specially made bus pass tied around his neck, made sure that drunken sailors made it back to their posts, and allegedly put a stop to bar fights. Once, he rescued a crewman who’d fallen overboard by diving in to drag him to safety. He rescued another crewman cornered by a knifeman by barreling into the attacker and dragging him into the water. But Bamse was more than just a hero—he was also a peacemaker. It was reported that when sailors got into fights on board, he forced them to stop by standing on his hind legs with his paws on their shoulders as if to say, “Calm down, it’s not worth it.” And Bamse wasn’t just famous in Scotland, where his ship was based—every Christmas, he was dressed in a little sailor’s hat and photographed so that his picture could be put on Christmas cards and sent to the crewmates’ relatives in Norway!