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~ LOFOTEN ISLANDS 2nd RAID ~

 OPERATION ANKLET - 26/27th DEC 1941

Operation Anklet, the second Lofoten Islands raid, was a diversion in support of a much larger action at Vaagso, over 300 miles to the south, on the Norwegian coast.

[Photo; Rear Admiral L H K Hamilton, DSO, who was in command of naval operations. IWM (A 6822)].

There was no opposition to the landing but a near miss from a German bomber convinced the planners that  air support would be provided on future operations.

 [Map courtesy of Google Map Data 2017].

Background

The Lofoten Islands lie off the Norwegian coast about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. In appearance and size, their rugged terrain resembles the Outer Hebrides, off the north west coast of Scotland. The Islands were selected by Combined Operations HQ as a relatively safe, diversionary target to coincide with the main Vaagso raid, some 300 miles south.

Plans & Preparation

Since the first Lofoten Raid in March 1941, the German forces in Norway had been strengthened, including air cover, much as Churchill had hoped for and expected. For very little effort on the part of the Allies, Germany had redeployed tens of thousands of additional troops, waiting for an invasion or major raid that never happened. Feints and concurrent raids were now a legitimate tactic to divert attention, confuse the enemy and to promote the idea that Norway was a serious option for the launch of an invasion of mainland Europe, from the UK.

Action

300 men from No 12 Commando, with some members of the Royal Norwegian Army, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel S S Harrison, landed at 06.00 hours on Boxing Day. The planners had timed the raid in the expectation that the German garrison would be caught off guard. This was especially likely after the Christmas festivities of the day before.

Photos below courtesy of Capt OB 'Mickey' Rooney's family.

 Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. En route to Norway. Cruiser Arethusa on escort duty to Norway. Sorvagen. Landed on Quay. Vorge Fjord. Surveying craft sent from admiralty to pick up captured documents.

The landings were unopposed as the men of 12 Commando, wearing white hooded overalls, entered two harbours of  Reine and Moskeneson, on the east side of the island of Moskenesoy. The towns were soon occupied and a small number of German prisoners and quislings were taken, including those manning the wireless station at Glaapen.

A large supply of French chocolates and cigarettes was found and distributed to grateful locals. However, there was concern about reprisals and many locals wanted the British forces to stay. 

[Map courtesy of Google Map Data 2017].

Admiral Hamilton, on his Cruiser HMS Arethusa, with 8 destroyers in support, was tempted to extend his stay, since, at these latitudes, there was no sunrise from the 10th December to 3rd January. Attack from the air seemed most unlikely, however, a bomb dropped by a German seaplane on the 27th, fell close to the cruiser, causing Harrison to withdraw, having successfully completed the mission. 

Outcome

Two radio transmitters were demolished, several small German boats captured and a few Germans and quislings taken prisoner. Sea communications in the area would be disrupted for some time. The raid had served its purpose, with all men and equipment safely returned. However, this was the last time such a raid was undertaken without air support. The nature of this form of warfare was changing, as both sides assimilated past experiences into future planning.  

Summary of Action

Allied Forces: Sea - HMS Arethusa & 8 Destroyers. Land - 300 men from No 12 Commando.

Axis Forces: Land - Local German Garrison. 

Outcome (Positive): A unopposed diversionary raid. Two radio transmitters demolished. Capture of several small German boats, Germans and quislings.

Outcome (Negative): None.

[Photo; Troops returning from shore in landing craft personnel (ramped) on their return from the Lofoten islands, Norway, where they were landed to blow up the oil tanks. Smoke can be seen rising from the shore. IWM (A 3321)].

Further Reading

There are around 300 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page. They, or any other books you know about, can be purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). Their search banner link, on our 'Books' page, checks the shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. Just type in, or copy and paste the title of your choice, or use the 'keyword' box for book suggestions. There's no obligation to buy, no registration and no passwords.

The Vaagso Raid; The Commando Attack That Changed The Course of World War II by Joseph H. Devins.

Lofoten Museum's  page on the Lofoten 2nd Raid.

Commandos and Rangers of World War 2 by James D. Ladd. Published in 1978 by MacDonald & Jane's. ISBN 0 356 08432 9

Commandos 1940 - 1946 by Charles Messenger. Published by William Kimber, London 1985. ISBN 0 7183 0553 1

The Watery Maze by Bernard Fergusson published 1961 by Collins.

Correspondence

My father, Sub Lt (Sp) TBC Miller RNVR (photo opposite), took part in Operation Anklet in December 1941. He left us some secret papers about it. He was a Sub-Lieutenant in Naval Intelligence attached to Admiral Hamilton of the cruiser HMS Arethusa. He led twelve Norwegian (sailors or resistance?) in a fishing boat and captured four armed Germans in Soorvagen and two Norwegian collaborators. He was very upset at having to arrest the Norwegians in their homes because it was Christmas time and one of the wives took something from her Christmas tree and gave it to her husband before he was taken away. I do not know what happened to these men but I hope they were cared for. I expect that they were taken to England for questioning and were  probably released after the war?

The removal of the Germans made it easier for Major Torrence and his commandos to destroy the Radio Transmitter on Skomvaer Island. My father was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his action and we have the medal, his report to Flag Officer, Force J (Admiral Hamilton) and his uniform.

 

See signal from Flag Officer, Force J (Admiral Hamilton) on cruiser HMS Arethusa, to all his officers after the operation.

William Miller

 

 

 

 

News & Information

 

Memorial Maintenance

We have a small band of volunteers who take turns to visit the memorial each month, particularly during the growing season, to undertake routine maintenance such as weeding keeping the stones and slabs clear of bird dropping, lichen etc. and reporting on any issues. If you live near the National Memorial Arboretum and would like to find out more, please contact us.

Remember a Veteran

You can pay a personal tribute to veterans who served in, or alongside, the Combined Operations Command in WW2 by adding their details and optional photo to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages on this website.

Read the Combined Operations prayer.

Events and Places to Visit

To organisers: Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our  webpage free of charge.

To everyone else: Visit our webpage for information on events and places to visit. If you know of an event or place of interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event or place of interest, click here.

To visit the webpage click here.

Facebook

Why not join the thousands who visit our Facebook page about the Combined Operations Command in appreciation of our WW2 veterans.

See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major Combined Ops events are highlighted on their anniversary dates with links to additional information.

You are welcome to add information, photos and comment or reply to messages posted by others.

Find Books of Interest 

Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook

This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

Restoration of Geoffrey Appleyard's  Memorial 

Click on the image if you'd like to contribute to the improvement of the memorial to Geoffrey Appleyard, DSO, MC and Bar, through the purchase of a limited edition print of a book about him. Geoffrey achieved so much in service with No 7 Commando, No 62 Commando, the Small Scale Raiding Force and the Second SAS Regiment. He was posted Missing in Action in July 1943, aged 26.

www.bramleywarmemorial.com/major-geoffrey-appleyard-book-now-available-for-purchase/

The Gazelle Helicopter Squadron Display Team

The Gazelle Squadron is a unique team of ex-British Military Gazelle helicopters in their original military colours and with their original military registrations. The core team includes four Gazelles, one from each service; The Royal Navy, The Royal Marines, The Army Air Corps and The Royal Air Force. A fifth Gazelle in Royal Marines colours will provide intimate support for the team. Their crest includes the Combined Operations badge. The last, and possibly, only time the badge was seen on an aircraft was in the early mid 40s. A photo of the Hurricane concerned is included in the 516 Squadron webpage.

Legasee Film Archive

As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee is looking for veterans from any conflict who would like to have their stories filmed for posterity. Films are now available on line. www.legasee.org.uk

New to Combined Ops?

Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

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