Island family’s quest to track down Fleetwood hero painting

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A special painting which symbolised a dramatic sea rescue in Iceland could still be on the wall in someone’s home. Now, a Faroe Island family are trying to trace its whereabouts in honour of their grandad

Heri Simonsen, who lives in the Faroe capital of Torshavn, has shared the story of his grandfather Sigurd Simonsen who sailed and fished the Northern seas, landing his catch in Aberdeen during the Second World War.

He was the owner and captain of a newly-built trawler called Vón, pronounced Vovn, and was part of a fishing fleet which sailed the dangerous Icelandic waters to supply fish, which was in high demand, to mainland UK.

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Heri explained: “During the Second World War the Faroe Islands were fortunately occupied by the British Army and not the Nazis.

The Faroe Islands trawler VonThe Faroe Islands trawler Von
The Faroe Islands trawler Von | other

“The British Occupation lasted from April 12 1940 to the midst of May in 1945. In 1944, Vón was rescued by an HMS destroyer.

“The vessel rescued Vón from crashing against a dangerous cape in Iceland near Snæfellsjøkull, west of Reykjavík.

“The destroyer’s captain was from Fleetwood and my grandfather recalled that he worked on board a Fleetwood fishing trawler prior to the Second World War.

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“In gratitude to this heroic captain from Fleetwood, my grandfather and the other Vón crew members paid an Icelandic female painter to paint a beautiful painting of Vón and the destroyer which performed the rescue.

Faroe Islands fisherman Sigurd SimonsenFaroe Islands fisherman Sigurd Simonsen
Faroe Islands fisherman Sigurd Simonsen | other

“The colour painting illustrated the vessels at port in Reykjavík in Iceland and includes the Snæfellsnes Cape.

“My grandfather and some other crew members of Vón went onboard the destroyer and handed the Fleetwood captain this beautiful painting as a token of their gratitude, that he and the crew of the destroyer had, in very harsh weather conditions, whilst Vón was drifting towards the dangerous Cape with a broken engine, saved their lives.

“The Fleetwood captain was very moved by this gift, and my grandfather recalled that he said: ‘To me this colour painting has more value than several thousand pounds’.

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“We are yearning to know if this painting still exists in a home in Fleetwood.

The Faroe Islands World War Two Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum ww2.foThe Faroe Islands World War Two Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum
The Faroe Islands World War Two Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum | other

“Maybe it is hanging on a wall in a living room of one of the children or grandchildren of the Fleetwood captain.

“Unfortunally my grandfather had forgotten his name.

“We would like to learn and know his name - the great hero from Fleetwood.

“And if the painting is still in existence, we would love a copy of it to be displayed at The World War Two Museum in The Faroe Islands.

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“My grandfather also recalled that the Fleetwood captain was around the same age as he was. So the hero we are searching for was born around 1912.”

Tomorrow, May 16 is the 75th Anniversary of the ending of the friendly British Occupation of The Faroe Islands.

The islands had their fair share of devastation and loss during the war but also created new families. More than 200 girls married soldiers, many of them staying there after the war, becoming part of the community. Heri’s mum, who was just four years old at the end of the war, recalled how the soldiers were friendly and children would venture to the British camps. They all learned to say the phrase ‘chocolate for eggs’ which meant the soliders were given fresh eggs and the children received chocolate and candy in return.

Fleetwood Museum is also helping Heri and his family with the search.

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Sue Porter, who volunteers with Friends of Fleetwood Museum, said: “I have contacted Heri Simonsen to say I would get in touch with everyone involved with the museum and that the museum would help as much as possible.

“If anyone has information please contact the museum on 01253 876621 or email [email protected].” Faroe Islands Museum

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