26/27th DEC 1941
Operation Anklet, the second Lofoten Islands raid, was a diversion in support of a larger action at Vaagso further south on the Norwegian coast. There was no opposition to the landing, but a near miss from a German bomber convinced the planners that in future operations of this kind, air cover would be provided as a matter of routine.
The Lofoten Islands lie off the Norwegian coast about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. In appearance and size they resemble the Outer Hebrides off the north west coast of Scotland. They were selected by Combined Operations HQ as a relative safe diversionary target to coincide with the main Vaagso raid some 300 miles south. [Photos courtesy of Capt OB 'Mickey' Rooney's family; 1) Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, 2) En route to Norway.]
Since the first Lofoten Raid in March 1941 the German forces in Norway had been strengthened including air cover (as Churchill had expected). Feints and major raids were now a legitimate tactic to divert attention, confuse the enemy and to promote the idea in the collective mind of the German High Command that Norway was a serious option for the launch of an invasion of mainland Europe from the UK. [Photos; 3) Cruiser Arethusa on escort duty to Norway, 4) Sorvagen Landed on Quay.]
300 men from No 12 Commando and a number from 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; 5) Vorge Fjord, 6) Surveying craft sent from admiralty to pick up captured documents.]
The landings were unopposed as the men, wearing white hooded overalls, entered two harbours on the westerly island of Moskenesoy. The towns of Reine and Moskenes 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.
Admiral Hamilton on his Cruiser HMS Arethusa, with 8 destroyers in support, was tempted to consider a prolonged stay. There was after all no sunrise in these latitudes between the 10th December to 3rd January so the risk of attack from the air was much reduced. However a bomb dropped by a German seaplane on the 27th fell close to the cruiser so Harrison decided to withdraw having completed the mission successfully.
Two radio transmitters were demolished, several small German boats captured and a few Germans and Quislings taken prisoner - and there was disruption of sea communications in the area. The raid had served its purpose and all men and equipment returned safely. 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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