Language
Edinburgh

BAFTA Scotland Charity Premier of 'Through Hell and High Water'

The Erskin Hospital and Royal Norwegian Consulate General in collaboration with Taylored Productions invited friends of Norway to a special Premier in Glasgow. In the documentary, "Through Hell and High Water", we meet Nancy Kelly (78) - formerly Nancy Eide - back in her old town. As an 18 year old she worked as a secretary in Hammerfest. Now she's back to tell her dramatic story - which ended with her finding the love of her life.

28/06/2004 :: Mrs Kelly remembers only to well the awful events that happened in Hammerfest nearly 57 years ago. "We had heard on the radio that the German were losing the war. We knew it would only be a question of time before the Russians would come. But then..", Nancy stops to think..."they started burning everything. Many of us couldn't believe what we were seeing. It was like a huge bonfire. We just had to watch...there was nothing we could do."
After the war, Mrs Kelly and her husband moved to America. In the documentary, which is produced in Scotland, with a little help from NRK, she speaks English. Her best friend from the time in Hammerfest, Gunvor Bay (81) still lives in Norway. She remembers what happened very well too.
"The Germans were horrible. We couldn't imagine that such an old town could be destroyed. Absolutelty nothing was left, save the tombstones. No one came to help us. We saw that the Germans had plenty of time to do all the horrible things they did."

In the documentary, we follow them on a boat back to an old hideout at Sørøya. It's was an emotional return. Mrs Bay can't bear the thought of going back to a cave where she and six others lived in hiding. Nancy Kelly leads the way to the cave. "Jesus!" she exclaims when she finally finds the place. "Did we really live here? It's unbelieveable. There were seven of us; Gunvor, her mother, brother and boyfriend and my sister, brother and me. My brother built some shelves and three of us slept on them while the rest slept on the floor. I can hardly believe that we lived here for four months!"

The men hunted or scrounged for food. Mostly fish. They also had an old radio to keep them informed about what was going on in the world. Hardly luxery.

Four British destroyers arrives at Sørøya at high speed with one objective: rescue as many Norwegians as possible. Mrs Kelly remembers: "When we heard about the rescue operation we skied for six hours to get to the other side of the mountain". The British seamen who served on the destroyers remembered the vast amount of people who suddenly appeared infront of them, on skis.

"Gunvor and some of her friends wanted me to go. My brother wanted me to stay. He felt it would be to dangerous. But we didn't have much time. You either went or stayed. But I was young and decided to go and when the destroyer had left it was to late to regret anything" remembers Mrs Kelly. They arrived in Murmansk the next day. "We had no idea where we were, we only knew it was a portcity. Vi were transfered to American Liberty-ships, ready to set sail. We were told that we were leaving again the next day. We didn't know where, only that we were headed for an allied country"

The trip back was not without drama. Eight hours after departure, the ship was torpedoed.
"It happened at dusk. I was asleep in the captains office because I was supposed to be a translater for the other Norwegians onboard. I was thrown to the floor and it went pitchblack. I ran in to where to other women slept. There was mayhem in there. The torpedo had hit amidships. I didn't have time to put any shoes on before I got to the lifeboat" says Gunvor Bay. She feels that it's important that there is now a documentary on what happened. She continues: "There was no warning at all. We just had to make our way to deck and jump in the lifeboats to survive. There wasn't another boat around at all. We were in hell."

The Royal Navy's HMS Onslaught used large nets to "trawl" for survivors. They had to act quickly. In the air, German bombers circled. In the water, German U-boats stalked them.

Once onboard, former Ms Eide met one of her rescuers, the buglar Archie Kelly from Greenock, northwest of Glasgow in Scotland. "The first time I was Archie was when the officers brought the crew down to the mess where we had gathered. He looked so kind, like a teddybear if you like. He was definitely worth a second look" she says proudly.

Archie doesn't regret joining the Navy for a second, despite the dangours:
"HMS Onslought was built on the River Clyde, where I come from. I was proud to serve in the Navy. My father was in the Royal Navy during the Great War and my brother was in the Merchant Navy. I felt like I was part of a large family. Our mission was to protect the convois as best we could. I'll never forget the convoi's to Russia. We called them 'suicide missions' because we never knew when a U-boat would turn up.
The day after we picked up the Nancy and the others, we had awful weather. The Norwegians were all cold and tired. I had to get on top of some of them to show them how to how to get some sleep on a boat, even in the worst of weather. Then Nancy came over and lay down beside me and it made me jump and everyone started to laugh!"

In the documentary, Archie and Nancy meet Gunvor and the other survivors again for the first time since 1945. Archie plays "We'll meet again" on his trumpet and everyone sings along and cries. Mrs Bay says: "When Archie played 'We'll meet again' it was beautiful and had a lot of meaning. What with my age, I'm afraid this was the last time we'll see eachother again."

The premiere attracted 350 guests which bestowed about £3,500 to the ex-Service Men and Women at Erskine Hospital.

After the premiere, the Consulate General hosted a reception at Langs Hotel.

The documentary was aired on The History Channel, Sunday August 24th. It was also screened on BBC on 8 November and NRK.

Send this article to a friend
Print version

Director Elly Taylor with two of her brave actors