Banken

The Banken was based at a private residence beside Rosefield Mill where the majority of Norwegians were billeted, and the family’s front room was rented by the Norwegian Army for use as a bank.[1] This was so that Norwegians could save rather than spend or risk losing their cash, because as James Hutcheon noted “they were plentifully supplied with money, particularly the whalers who had been away for eighteen months”.[2] Hence, as Erik Aanensen remembered, “they had disembarked and received their saved earnings and salary in London” from the Norwegian government-in-exile, and “the seamen and even more the whalers were well off.”[3]

Aanensen described how the only possessions most sailors had on reaching Dumfries, many after being torpedoed, were “the trousers, the jumper and the turnshoes they wore”, but that “one thing most of them had apart from those belongings was money.”[4] Kristian Jahr confirms that the 1939-40 season had proven quite lucrative for merchant seamen and particularly the whalers, providing them with “quite a bit of cash” so that “it was not long before they, in addition to their uniforms, had secured a complete new wardrobe.”[5]

The relative wealth of most Norwegians created the potential for tension with local people. As one contemporary complained they “had been a bit boisterous when they arrived because they had so much money” – apparently that remark prompted a smiling King of Norway’s reply that “Now of course… everything will be different, for you will have the money.”[6] So it was that by Hutcheon’s account this “most motley crew… made for our outfitters’ shops and were transformed from a short and trouser brigade to handsome, well-set-up ‘glamour boys’. Shaved and washed they descended on our pubs and places of entertainment.”[7]

It was this “rather licentious spending” on arrival, according to Aanensen, which prompted Lt-Col. Stenerson to establish Banken and, despite lacking authority to confiscate money, “put a certain pressure on the lads” to either deposit their money or open a regular account.[8] Apparently that pressure successfully curtailed careless spending in those early days and Banken continued to be staffed by a sergeant and two military translators, with the money kept in a safe beneath a makeshift desk.[9] Not all Norwegians were so well off as the whalers though, especially those who had fled Norway in small boats. Thus, Aanensen explains, Stenerson went further by establishing ‘The Soldiers Fund’ in order to “help individuals in need of a contribution besides their salary.[10]

[1] Erik Aanensen, Når vi kommer inn fra havet: historien om Den Norske Brigade i Skottland 1940-1945 (Oslo: Dreyer, 1974), p.55

[2] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.2 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[3] Erik Aanensen, Når vi kommer inn fra havet: historien om Den Norske Brigade i Skottland 1940-1945 (Oslo: Dreyer, 1974), p.55

[4] Erik Aanensen, Når vi kommer inn fra havet: historien om Den Norske Brigade i Skottland 1940-1945 (Oslo: Dreyer, 1974), p.55

[5] Kristian Jahr, ‘Dumfries and Norway’ (1962), p.3 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[6] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.5 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[7] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.2 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[8] Erik Aanensen, Når vi kommer inn fra havet: historien om Den Norske Brigade i Skottland 1940-1945 (Oslo: Dreyer, 1974), p.55

[9] Erik Aanensen, Når vi kommer inn fra havet: historien om Den Norske Brigade i Skottland 1940-1945 (Oslo: Dreyer, 1974), p.55

[10] Erik Aanensen, Når vi kommer inn fra havet: historien om Den Norske Brigade i Skottland 1940-1945 (Oslo: Dreyer, 1974), p.81

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