Operation Fritham was an Allied military operation during the Second World War to secure the coal mines on Spitsbergen, the main island of the Svalbard Archipelago, 650 mi from the North Pole and about the same distance from Norway. The operation was intended to deny the islands to Nazi Germany. A party of Norwegian troops sailed from Scotland on 30 April 1942, to reoccupy the island and eject a German meteorological party. On 14 May, four German reconnaissance bombers sank the ships in Green Harbour; the commander, Einar Sverdrup, eleven men were killed, eleven men were wounded and most of the supplies were lost with the ships. On 26 May, Catalina P-Peter was flown to Spitzbergen, made contact with Fritham Force and destroyed a German Ju 88 bomber caught on the ground. More sorties delivered supplies, attacked German weather bases, evacuated wounded and rescued shipwrecked sailors. Operation Gearbox superseded Fritham, after HMS Manchester and the destroyer HMS Eclipse delivered 57 more Norwegians and 116 long tons of supplies.
Operation Gearbox II began on 17 September. By autumn, the Allied foothold on Svalbard had been consolidated and the Navy used Spitzbergen as a temporary base to refuel Arctic convoy escorts. On 22 September a Catalina delivered new wireless equipment and in November, the cruiser USS Tuscaloosa and five destroyers delivered more Norwegian troops. In Operation Zitronella Barenstburg was bombarded by a German naval squadron including the German battleship Tirpitz; the Svalbard Archipelago is in the Arctic Ocean 650 mi from the North Pole. The islands are mountainous, with permanently snow-covered peaks, some glaciated. In winter, the islands are covered in the bays ice over. Spitzbergen Island has several large fiords along its west coast and Isfjorden is up to 10 mi wide; the Gulf Stream warms the sea is ice-free during the summer. Settlements were established at Longyearbyen and Barentsburg in inlets along the south shore of Isfjorden, in Kings Bay further north along the coast and in Van Mijenfiord to the south.
The settlements attracted colonists of different nationalities and the treaty of 1920 neutralised the islands and recognised the mineral and fishing rights of the participating countries. Before 1939, the population consisted of about 3,000 Norwegian and Russian people, who worked in the mining industry. Drift mines were linked to the shore by overhead cable tracks or rails and coal dumped over the winter was collected by ship after the summer thaw. By 1939 production was about 500,000 long tons a year, split between Russia; the British Government Code and Cypher School based at Bletchley Park housed a small industry of code-breakers and traffic analysts. By June 1941, the German Enigma machine Home Waters settings used by surface ships and U-boats could be read. On 1 February 1942, the Enigma machines used in U-boats in the Atlantic and Mediterranean were changed but German ships and the U-boats in Arctic waters continued with the older Heimish. By mid-1941, British Y-stations were able to receive and read Luftwaffe W/T transmissions and give advance warning of Luftwaffe operations.
In 1941, interception parties code-named Headaches were embarked on warships and from May 1942, computers sailed with the cruiser admirals in command of convoy escorts, to read Luftwaffe W/T signals which could not be intercepted by land stations in Britain. The Admiralty sent details of Luftwaffe wireless frequencies, call signs and the daily local codes to the computers. Combined with their knowledge of Luftwaffe procedures, the computers could give accurate details of German reconnaissance sorties and sometimes predicted attacks twenty minutes before they were detected by radar. In February 1942, the German Beobachtungsdienst of the Kriegsmarine Marinenachrichtendienst broke Naval Cypher No 3 and was able to read it until January 1943; the Germans left the Svalbard islands alone during the invasion of Norway in 1940 and apart from a few Norwegians taking passage on Allied ships, little changed. From 25 July to 9 August 1940, the Admiral Hipper sailed from Trondheim to search the area from Tromsø to Bear Island and Svalbard to intercept British ships returning from Petsamo but found only a Finnish freighter.
On 12 July 1941, the Admiralty was ordered to assemble a force of ships to operate in the Arctic in co-operation with the USSR, despite objections from Admiral John Tovey, commander of the Home Fleet, who preferred to operate further south where there were more targets and better air cover. Rear-Admirals Philip Vian and Geoffrey Miles flew to Polyarny and Miles established a British military mission in Moscow. Vian reported that Murmansk was close to German held territory, that its air defences were inadequate and that the prospects of offensive operations on German shipping were poor. Vian was sent to look at the west coast of Spitzbergen, the main island of Svalbard, ice-free and 450 mi from northern Norway, to assess its potential as a base; the cruisers HMS Nigeria, HMS Aurora and two destroyers departed Iceland on 27 July but Vian judged the apparent advantages of Spitzbergen as a base to be mistaken. The force closed on the Norwegian coast twice and each time was discovered by Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft.
As Operation Dervish, the first Arctic convoy, was assembling in Iceland, Vian sailed with Force A for Svalbard on 19 August in Operation Gau
Liberation of Finnmark
The Liberation of Finnmark was a military operation, lasting from 23 October 1944 until 26 April 1945, in which Soviet and Norwegian forces wrested away control of Finnmark, the northernmost county of Norway, from Germany. It started with a major Soviet offensive. After the occupation of Norway, the Norwegian government-in-exile established a military mission in Moscow under the leadership of Colonel Arne Dagfin Dahl. Anticipating the end of World War II, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union signed an agreement with the Norwegians on 17 March 1944 concerning the administration of Norwegian territory should it be occupied by one of the other three parties; the agreement stipulated that military authorities would have ultimate control over civil administration as long as conflict persisted. After the Moscow Armistice between the Soviet Union and Finland on 4 September 1944, the Petsamo region, still occupied by the Germans, was ceded to the Soviet Union, the Finnish government agreed to remove the remaining German forces from their own territory by 15 September.
During the retreat of the German 20th Mountain Army, called Operation Birke, the decision was made by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht to withdraw from northern Norway and Finland in Operation Nordlicht. While the Germans prepared for this operation, the Soviets decided to seize the offensive initiative on the Karelian Front; the Stavka decided to move against the German forces in the Arctic in late 1944. The operation was to be undertaken jointly by the Karelian Front under the command of General Kirill Meretskov and the Northern Fleet under Admiral Arseniy Golovko; the main operations were to be conducted by the 14th Army, in the Arctic since the beginning of the war. Spearheading the offensive would be the 10th Guards Division, led by Lieutenant General Vladimir Shcherbakov. Soviet Air Forces had been attacking German positions in Finnmark since at least that February. Hammerfest was first attacked on 14 February. On 23 August, they bombed the town of Vadsø, sheltering around 2,000 German soldiers.
Hammerfest was bombed a second time on 29 August. Damaged, what remained of the settlements would be entirely destroyed during the German withdrawal in following months. Soviet preparations, which had lasted for two months, had not gone unnoticed by the Germans. General Lothar Rendulic, who served as both head of the 20th Mountain Army and overall theater commander, was aware of the threat posed by the upcoming offensive. Prior to the start of the Soviet attack, the defending Germans had been ordered to abandon Petsamo on 15 October, Kirkenes by the beginning of November. To stall the Soviets, the Germans enacted a scorched earth policy and began to sabotage local infrastructure and destroy villages in the vicinity. Thousands of civilians from Finnmark and northern Troms were forcibly evacuated to southern Norway. Between 43,000 and 45,000 Norwegian civilians were forced out of Finnmark. Rendulic claimed to have evicted all but 200 Norwegians which he promised he would handle. In reality, between 20,000 and 25,000 civilians avoided relocation, including 10,000 residents of Kirkenes and the Varanger Peninsula who could not be moved due to logistical constraints and 8,500 Saami nomads who were exempt from the removal policy.
The Soviets attacked on 7 October. They captured Petsamo on 15 October, but due to supply problems had to halt the offensive for three days. Resuming on the 18th, they advanced down the Petsamo-Tarnet road, reaching the Norwegian border on the evening of 19 October. From here the Soviets would continue towards Kirkenes; the fight for Kirkenes started on October 23 as the Soviet 14th Rifle Division beat off a series of counter-attacks from Tarnet to Kirkenes as they pursued the retreating Germans from Finland. That night, the 45th Rifle Division crossed the Jar Fjord, leaving their tanks and rocket launchers with the 14th Rifle Division. Further south, the 10th Guards Division crossed over a pontoon bridge at Holmfoss, accompanied by KV tanks and self-propelled artillery. On 24 October the 45th Rifle Division met little resistance as it advanced to the edge of Bøkfjord, just across from Kirkenes; the 14th Rifle Division had more trouble at Elvenes, where the Germans destroyed the local bridge to prevent them from crossing the fjord.
Two companies were able to cross the fjord further south, where the gap was only 150–200 meters wide. The 10th Guards Division had advanced within 10 kilometers south of Kirkenes, securing the iron ore mines where many civilians were sheltering; the 28th Rifle Regiment was detached from the Guards division to cut off a potential German escape around the Langfjord, as the forces assigned with this task were low on supplies. Soviet air reconnaissance noticed German columns withdrawing from Kirkenes towards Neiden. Fires and explosions were seen in the town itself, as the withdrawing Germans had set the town ablaze as part of a scorched earth campaign; the 10th Guards Division reached the southern outskirts of the town by 03:00 25 October and engaged the withdrawing Germans. The Soviet forces at Elvenes attempted once again to cross the Bøkfjord at around 05:00; the Germans withstood the assault for about an hour before being forced to retreat by direct attack and heavy artillery bombardment. Using amphibious Lend-Lease vehicles and makeshift rafts, the majority of the Soviet corps were able to cross the river by 09:00.
From there they headed to the southeastern outskirts of Kirkenes. Supported by tanks and artillery, the 10th, 65th, 14th Rifle Divisions cleared out the last of the German rearguard from Kirkenes by midday 25 October. On 26 October the 10th Rifle Division captured a German airfield 15 kilometers west
Operation Cartoon was a British Commando raid on the island of Stord near Leirvik in Hordaland, Norway on the night of 23/24 January 1943. The operation was carried out by 53 men of No. 12 Commando supported by ten men from the Norwegian 10 Commando. RAF Coastal Command co-operated with aircraft from 18 Group; the raiders were transported to Stord by seven Royal Norwegian Navy motor torpedo boats of the 30th MTB Flotila. Their objective was the destruction of the Pyrite mine on the island. On arrival, half the commandos were landed at Sagvåg quay and engaged German defensive positions, while the remainder were landed on the other side of the bay; the commandos carrying 50 lb of explosives reached the Pyrite mine, 2 mi away after twenty-five minutes. The explosive charges put the Stordø Kisgruber mine out of action for a year; as they departed, the torpedo boats attacked a German steamer. The commandos took three German prisoners and equipment, for the loss of one commando killed, two commandos and eight sailors injured.
Admiral John Tovey said afterwards that...the whole operation was as creditable as it was enjoyable to the Norwegians who carried it out. And that month the Norwegians sailed in a whaler to ambush a convoy at Lister light and bring it to Britain; the plan failed and the Norwegians stayed in Norway and at the end of February, hijacked some small vessels and fishing boats to Scotland. The Norwegian MTBs sank two ships in the Norwegian Leads in the middle of March
Altafjord is a fjord in Alta Municipality in Finnmark county, Norway. The 38-kilometre long fjord stretches from the town of Alta in the south to the islands of Stjernøya and Seiland; the 200-kilometre long river Altaelva empties into the fjord at the town of Alta. At Stjernøya and Seiland islands, the fjord splits into two straits before emptying into the Norwegian Sea; some of the larger side-branches off the main fjord include Langfjorden, Kåfjorden, Korsfjorden. The fjord was known as "Altenfjord", was referred to as such by British historians throughout most of the 20th century. A large number of prehistoric rock carvings have been found along the fjord at the bay Jiepmaluokta; these locations at Kåfjord and Amtmannsnes are assigned a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The petroglyphs are dated from 4,200 BC to 500 BC, based on old shorelines and nearby prehistoric settlements. During World War II there was a German naval base along the Kåfjorden, which branches off the main Altafjord; the German battleship Tirpitz was based at the village of Kåfjord.
It was subject to attacks by British X class midget submarines in September 1943, in 1944 to air strikes in April, July and September, after which Tirpitz was relocated to Tromsø, where a final bombing raid in November sank the battleship
British occupation of the Faroe Islands
The British occupation of the Faroe Islands in World War II known as Operation Valentine, was implemented following the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. It was a small component of the roles of Nordic countries in World War II. In April 1940, the United Kingdom occupied the strategically important Faroe Islands to preempt a German invasion. British troops left shortly after the end of the war. At the time of the occupation, the Faroe Islands had the status of an amt of Denmark. Following the invasion and occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, British forces launched "Operation Valentine" to occupy the Faroe Islands. On 11 April, Winston Churchill — First Lord of the Admiralty — announced to the House of Commons that the Faroe Islands would be occupied: We are at this moment occupying the Faroe Islands, which belong to Denmark and which are a strategic point of high importance, whose people showed every disposition to receive us with warm regard. We shall shield the Faroe Islands from all the severities of war and establish ourselves there conveniently by sea and air until the moment comes when they will be handed back to Denmark liberated from the foul thraldom into which they have been plunged by German aggression.
An announcement was broadcast on BBC radio. An aircraft of the Royal Air Force was seen over the Faroese capital Tórshavn on the same day. On 12 April, two destroyers of the British Royal Navy arrived in Tórshavn harbour. Following a meeting with Carl Aage Hilbert and Kristian Djurhuus, an emergency meeting of the Løgting was convened the same afternoon. Pro-independence members tried to declare the independence of the Faroe Islands from the Kingdom of Denmark but were outvoted. An official announcement was made announcing the occupation and ordering a nighttime blackout in Tórshavn and neighbouring Argir, the censorship of post and telegraphy and the prohibition of the use of motor vehicles during the night without a permit. On 13 April, the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Suffolk arrived at Tórshavn. Colonel T. B. W. Sandall and Frederick Mason met with the Danish Prefect; the Prefect responded with what Sandall took to be a formal protest, although Hilbert maintained that owing to the occupation of Denmark he was unable formally to represent the Danish government.
He duly accepted the British terms on the basis that the UK would not seek to interfere with the internal affairs of the islands. A formal protest was made by the Løgting. 250 Royal Marines were disembarked to be replaced by other British troops. Cordial relations were maintained between the Faroese authorities. In May, the Royal Marines were replaced by soldiers of a Scottish Regiment. In 1942, they were replaced by the Cameronians. From 1944, the British garrison was reduced; the author Eric Linklater was part of the British garrison. His 1956 novel The Dark of Summer was set in the Faroe Islands during the war years. On 20 June 1940, five Swedish naval vessels arrived in the Faroe Islands. Four were destroyers bought from one with civilian passengers. Britain seized all the ships under armed threat, moved them to the Shetland Islands. Although Sweden was a neutral country and not at war with Britain, the British feared Germany would seize them if they continued to Sweden. After political negotiations Sweden secured their return.
The British Navy had stripped equipment and caused damage to the ships, which Britain gave compensation for. The Swedish commander was criticized by other Swedish officers for conceding the ships without resistance. A plaque has been erected by British veterans in Tórshavn Cathedral expressing thanks for the kindness shown to them by the Faroese people during their presence. 170 marriages took place between British soldiers and Faroese women. The Faroe Islands suffered occasional attacks by German Luftwaffe aircraft in the course of the war, but an invasion was never attempted. Drifting sea mines proved to be a considerable problem and resulted in the loss of numerous fishing boats and their crews; the trawler Nýggjaberg was sunk on 28 March 1942 near Iceland. During the war, Faroese ships had to hoist the Faroese flag and paint FAROES / FØROYAR on the ships' sides, thus allowing the Royal Navy to identify them as "friendly". To prevent inflation, Danish Krone banknotes in circulation on the islands were overstamped with a mark indicating their validity only in the Faroe Islands.
The Faroese króna was fixed at 22.4 DKK to £1 Sterling. Emergency banknotes were issued and Faroese banknotes were printed by Bradbury Wilkinson in England. During the occupation, the Løgting was given full legislative powers, albeit as an expedient given the occupation of Denmark. Although in the Icelandic constitutional referendum, 1944, Iceland became an independent republic, Churchill refused to countenance a change in the constitutional status of the Faroe Islands whilst Denmark was still occupied. Following the liberation of Denmark and the end of World War II in Europe, the occupation was terminated in May 1945 and the last British soldiers left in September; the experience of wartime self-government left a return to the pre-war status of an amt unrealistic and unpopular. The Faroese independence
Operation Mardonius was a military operation directed against German ships in occupied Norway and carried out in 1943 by the British Special Operations Executive. The outcome of the operation was sinking of two ships in the harbour of Oslo, Ortelsburg of Hamburg and Tugela. While training with the Norwegian Independent Company 1 in England and Scotland, Max Manus and Joachim Rønneberg developed the initial draft for naval sabotage based on small magnetic limpet mines with time delay, delivered to the ship from kayaks, using a long iron stick to place the limpet on the ship's side, they did not get any immediate response to the plan. Manus developed a revised plan along with Gregers Gram, this time much more detailed; the plans were approved, they started the preparations, doing experiments and training. The two SOE agents Max Manus and Gregers Gram were sent to Norway and parachuted into Østmarka east of Oslo on 12 March 1943, they landed near the lake Øyeren, just south of Tonevann, along with several containers with weapons and provisions.
Their primary mission was sabotage operation directed against German ships in the Oslofjord. The sabotage took place on the evening of 27 April 1943. In addition to Manus and Gram, two local resistance people, Einar Riis and Halvor Haddeland took part in the operation, they were thus four men in two canoes, first paddled to the island Bleikøya, where they earlier had deposited equipment for the operation. They waited on Bleikøya until darkness, but weather conditions were not ideal because of starlight when the cloud cover disappeared. Gram and Haddeland headed with their canoe for the ship Ortelsburg of Hamburg, where they placed four limpet mines with time delay, they placed limpets on a second ship, Sarpfoss. Manus and Riis paddled towards Grønlia. Another target ship, Winrich von Kniprode, was abandoned because the area was lit due to ongoing night work. Next day, on 28 April, the mines on Ortelsburg exploded, the ship sank within minutes. A charge left on Bleikøya detonated, as did a mine attached to an oil lighter.
The charge on Tugela exploded, while charges on Sarpfoss did not detonate. A coordinated attempt to destroy ships at the shipyard Akers Mekaniske Verksted did not succeed. After the sabotage operation and Gram departed to Stockholm and continued to England. In June 1943 they were decorated with the War Cross with Sword, awarded by King Haakon at a ceremony in Nethy Bridge in Scotland. Manus and Gram returned to Norway in October 1943. Gram was killed during a fight with the Gestapo in November 1944, while Manus survived the war and died in 1996, 81 years old. Operation Mardonius was featured in the 2008 film Max Manus: Man of War, produced by John M. Jacobsen; the film's description of Mardonius deviates somewhat from the actual course of events, due to dramaturgic motives. Aksel Hennie played the role of Max Manus. Haddeland and Riis were not featured as characters in the film.
Operation Goodwood (naval)
Operation Goodwood was a series of British carrier air raids conducted against the German battleship Tirpitz at her anchorage in Kaafjord, during late August 1944. It was the last of attack on Tirpitz made by the Home Fleet during 1944, to eliminate the threat Tirpitz posed to Allied shipping by badly damaging or sinking the warship. Previous raids on Kaafjord conducted by Fleet Air Arm aircraft had involved only one air attack, in Operation Goodwood several attacks were made over a week; the Royal Navy hoped. The British fleet departed its base on 18 August and launched the first raid against Kaafjord on the morning of 22 August; the attack failed and a small raid that evening inflicted little damage. Attacks were conducted on 24 and 29 August and were failures. Tirpitz had been hit by two bombs during the raid on 24 August but neither caused significant damage. British losses during Operation Goodwood were 17 aircraft to all causes, a frigate sunk by a submarine and an escort carrier badly damaged.
German forces suffered the loss of damage to 7 ships. In late August 1944, responsibility for attacking Tirpitz was transferred to the Royal Air Force. In three heavy bomber raids conducted during September and October 1944, the battleship was first crippled and sunk. Historians regard Operation Goodwood as a significant failure for the Fleet Air Arm and attribute its results to shortcomings of its aircraft and their armament. From early 1942, Tirpitz posed a significant threat to the Allied convoys transporting supplies through the Norwegian Sea to the Soviet Union. Stationed in fjords on the Norwegian coast, the battleship was capable of overwhelming the close-escort forces assigned to the Arctic convoys or breaking out into the North Atlantic. To counter this threat, the Allies needed to keep a powerful force of warships with the British Home Fleet, capital ships accompanied most convoys part of the way to the Soviet Union. Several air and naval attacks were launched against Tirpitz in 1942 and 1943.
On 6 March 1942, torpedo bombers flying from the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious attacked the battleship while she was attempting to intercept Convoy PQ 12 but did not achieve any hits. Bombers from the Royal Air Force and Soviet Air Forces attempted to strike Tirpitz in her anchorages several times in 1942 and 1943 but failed to inflict any damage. On 23 September 1943, two British X-class midget submarines penetrated the defences around the battleship's main anchorage at Kaafjord in northern Norway during Operation Source, placed explosive charges in the water beneath her; this attack caused extensive damage to Tirpitz. Following Operation Source, the task of attacking Tirpitz was assigned to the Home Fleet's aircraft carriers. Following months of preparations, a successful attack involving two strike forces of 20 Fairey Barracuda dive bombers escorted by 40 fighters was conducted on 3 April 1944. While Tirpitz's crew suffered heavy casualties during this operation, the battleship was not badly damaged.
She was placed out of action for several additional months while repairs were completed. The Home Fleet initiated a further four raids against Tirpitz between April and July 1944, though the battleship was only attacked during the last of these operations; these attacks were hindered by the transfer of many of the Home Fleet's airmen to other units following Operation Tungsten, as the replacement aircrew were less experienced. The first raid began on 21 April but cancelled three days when agents stationed near Kaafjord reported bad weather over the target area; the Home Fleet put to sea to attack Tirpitz again in mid-May in. A strike force of 27 Barracudas escorted by Vought F4U Corsair and Supermarine Seafire fighters took off from the carriers HMS Furious and Victorious on 15 May, but returned to the ships without attacking after they encountered heavy cloud over Kaafjord; the next raid, Operation Tiger Claw, was initiated in late May but cancelled due to bad weather on the 28th of the month.
The subsequent attack was timed for mid-July, before the resumption of the Arctic convoys, suspended since April 1944 to free up ships for the Normandy landings. The strike force of 44 Barracudas and 40 fighters dispatched on 17 July reached the target area, but found Tirpitz cloaked in a protective smokescreen and the attack failed to inflict any damage on the battleship. In the weeks after Operation Mascot, Tirpitz continued to prepare for potential combat operations. Following trials in the sheltered waters of Altafjord, she put to sea on 31 July and 1 August to train with her protective destroyers. Additional smoke generators were installed around Kaafjord to improve the area's strong defences; these activities were reported by spies, the British Admiralty interpreted them to mean that Tirpitz was being readied for a raid against Allied shipping. To defend against this threat, it was decided to conduct further attacks against the battleship at her anchorage in Kaafjord at the time of the next series of Arctic convoys.
In reality, the German Navy was not planning to use Tirpitz offensively as she would be vulnerable to the superior Allied naval and air forces if she put to sea. Instead, the battleship was being maintained in active service to tie down Allied warships and aircraft; the failure of Operation Mascot convinced the commander of the Home Fleet, Admiral Sir Henry Moore, that the Fleet Air Arm's main strike aircraft, the Fairey Barracuda dive bomber, was not suited to operations against Kaafjord. As the dive bombers' slow speed gave the defenders of Kaafjord enough time to cover Tirpitz in a s