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Brownsea's Danish Amazon

After Danish born Bertha Hartung Olsen had appeared before Swanage Magistrates, she became known as the ‘Brownsea Island Amazon’. It was alleged that the 26 year old, ‘good looking blonde’ had thrown a girl into the sea ‘like a sack of wool’ and had also lifted up the girl’s father by his trousers. The physical training expert had been recruited as a security guard by the Island’s owner, Mary Florence Bonham Christie.

Mrs Bonham Christie had bought Brownsea Island in 1927 for £125,000 and immediately banned both fishing and hunting. She was a keen supporter of the RSPCA and wanted the Island to become a bird and animal sanctuary. To achieve this, she had evicted nearly 200 Island residents. As a result, she was given locally the nickname, the ‘Demon of Brownsea'.

John Walter Batt, a Bournemouth tailor, had been digging for worms as bait on Brownsea Island foreshore for 30 years. He had just received a solicitor’s letter warning him that he had committed a trespass. It was a letter he had decided to ignore. As he began digging on the mud flats with his 18 year old daughter Audrey, a motor launch arrived with Bertha Olsen and Mrs Bonham’s grandson, John on board. Miss Batt jumped into her father’s boat trying to prevent Bertha Olsen from pulling up the rope attached. In the meantime, John Christie towed the other boat into deeper water enabling Miss Olsen to jump into the Batt’s boat. The 18 year old Bournemouth girl was allegedly told that if she did it again she would be undressed, put in a boat and set adrift in Poole Harbour. John Batt told the magistrates that when she saw how his daughter had been lifted up he thought the lifter was a man. Miss Batt admitted she had picked up Audrey Batt’s father by his trousers. Bertha Hartung Olsen was fined 40 shillings (£2) and John Christie 20 shillings (£1) by the magistrates.

Such was the press publicity given to the Dane's court case that Miss Olsen received several marriage proposals sent to Brownsea Island. She was intrigued by a letter from a Scot offering to wed her at Gretna Green. Another man said he had made a reservation at a West End Register Office and if she turned up it would help her case to stay in England. Miss Olsen declined to accept both proposals. However in January 1934, she was compelled to leave the country and return to Denmark. The Home Office refused to grant an extension to her work permit. The original permit had been given to teach Swedish exercises and the Government Department  concluded that it would have been practically impossible for her to do this on Brownsea Island. Back in her home country in January 1935, physical training expert Bertha Hartung Olsen married in Copenhagen.

(Illustration: Brownsea Island's Danish Amazon - Bertha Hartung Olsen.)



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