OBE For Shetland Shipmaster

Published: 4th May 2020

Captain A Henry’s conversation with the King

Captain Andrew Henry, who was awarded the OBE last year, attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 2nd February and received his decoration from H.M. the King.  Captain Henry’s wife and daughter were along with him.

On the 9th October 1941, the King visited Liverpool and spent the day speaking to Captains and men hearing stories of the constant war at sea and of the way in which British convoys are coming safely to port.  The King heard from Captain Henry one of the most astonishing stories of the war.  He told his Majesty of his adventures when he was taken prisoner by the Germans at Narvik and eventually escaped.

“For 17 days we were at Narvik with practically nothing to eat” he told the King. “All we had were two slices of brown bread and two cups of ersatz coffee each day.  One hundred and forty-nine of us had to sleep in one room without even a blanket.

“We made such a fuss about the starvation diet that the Germans who could not get any food at all, let a large number walk over the frontier into Sweden.  It was a terrible journey, because we had to walk through a blizzard.  After several months, with a party of 70 other British sailors and a number of Norwegian sailors, I escaped and sailed away.”

The King then asked “Did you not take a great risk” and Captain Henry replied “ There is no doubt some risk, but we found it very easy”  On hearing this the King laughed so loudly that everybody near wanted to know what the captain had said.

Captain Henry who belongs to Ayres of Selivoe Bridge of Walls settled down in Bristol more than 30 years ago.  He has been sailing captain since before the Great War during which he was twice torpedoed.  He was at Narvik in the spring of 1940 and he received the O.B.E. for outstanding services rendered that year.  He has four brothers;  Capt. John A. Henry, now retired Aires of Selivoe,  Mr William Henry car hirer and County Councillor for Sandsting, Selivoe,  Mr Robert Henry, Gympie Queensland Australia, and Alex Henry Winnipeg, Canada.  A cousin is Mr Alex Henry, merchant, Gruting.

Shetland News 11th June 1942

Note:  This is part of a much bigger story which was published in Coontin Kin no. 103, when Captain Henry along with four other Captains including another Shetlander Jack Nicolson, from Sandwick volunteered for what must by one of the bravest stories of WW11.  Five Norwegian ships were loaded with high grade steel bearings which Britain was desperately short of. They took the ships from Oslo Fjord at half hour intervals, sailed under the noses of the Germans and landed safely at Scapa Flow.  Sadly there was the loss of one life, Nils Rydberg the Swedish mate who was hit by bullets when they were attacked and died later in hospital in Kirkwall.