I'm no history expert but stories you pick up when younger stick with you into adulthood and to be honest there's no better way to engage with history than knowing the surrounding where you were brought up. I don't have any personal stories with regards to WW2 that can be considered that dramatic but having grown up in the Northern Isles of Scotland (both Shetland and Orkney) you're surrounded by so much history so it's hard to ignore (and history that descends all the way back to pre history passing through detailed Stone Age and Viking histories). In particular I enjoy the history of Scapa Flow in Orkney which is a large natural harbour that has been, for the last few decades, a port of call for these great oil tankers that pick up and transfer oil from the north sea oil pipelines. But in the first half of the 20th century it was the home of the Royal Navy in both wars - considered far enough from Germany and large enough to house Britain's then considerable naval machine.
After the signing of the Armistice in 1918 the German High Seas Fleet was interned in Scapa Flow - 70 odd ships I think. Rather than pass their vessels into the hands of the British the German's thought better and decided to sink them there and then. Since then most the ships have been salvaged and taken away but there remains a few German ships that remain on the sea bed and it's now a popular (albeit dangerous) destination for professional divers. As for the Second World War, Scapa Flow is perhaps best known as the scene of one of the most daring and successful maritime missions of the war. Just a month after war was declared, a German U boat (U-47 commanded by Gunther Prien) sneaked in under cover of darkness during a clear, calm autumn night (a rarity in Orkney) navigating around the small islands and through the tight and intricate inlets of water to enter Scapa Flow and sink HMS Royal Oak - a very much decorated but by then dated ship. That's now a war grave and many of the bodies that went down with the ship remain on her. Gunther Prien the U boat commander was celebrated at home and awarded the highest military honor (Iron Cross isn't it?) by Hitler himself. Winston Churchill ordered the construction of barriers that now act as causeways between various islands that would make Scapa Flow impassible coming in east from the North Sea.
Shetland's history doesn't quite have the grand amphitheater of war that was Scapa Flow but it's WW2 history is no less dramatic for it was the scene of the 'Shetland Bus' - a North sea crossing set up by MI6 and Norwegian resistance fighters between occupied Norway and Shetland (which lies almost equidistant between mainland Scotland and Norway) where they could transport and smuggle agents and equipment from the UK to Norway. It was based in a lovely little village on Shetland called Scalloway where boats disguised as fishing vessels set off for Hordaland in Norway. Some missions ended very badly, Wikipedia details the story of a small village called Televag near Bergen that was the scene of a Nazi reprisal after one of the Bus missions was exposed. Such events only strengthened the historical ties between those islands and Norway - even the Prime Minister of Norway visited Scalloway a few years ago to commemorate which is a big deal in Shetland! But it's a lovely place (both Orkney and Shetland) and I suppose their remoteness betrays the very active and deep histories both the Northern Isles inhibit and I think when you move away from them you only realise the true qualities of home and see the aspects that you took for granted when you were younger. When you do come back it is with a greater appreciation of the place.
« Last Edit: Mar 12, 2018 10:41:04 pm by Frankly, Mr Shankly »