The Info List - Operation Claymore

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Operation Claymore
Operation Claymore
was the code name for a British commando raid on the Lofoten Islands
Lofoten Islands
in Norway
during the Second World War. The Lofoten Islands were an important centre for the production of fish oil and glycerine, used in the German war industry. The landings were carried out on 4 March 1941, by the men of No. 3 Commando, No. 4 Commando, a Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
Section, and 52 men from the Royal Norwegian Navy. Supported by the 6th Destroyer Flotilla and two troop transports of the Royal Navy, the force made an unopposed landing and generally continued to meet no opposition. The original plan was to avoid contact with German forces and inflict the maximum of damage to German-controlled industry. They achieved their objective of destroying fish oil factories and some 3,600 tonnes (800,000 imperial gallons) of oil and glycerine. The British experienced only one accidental injury; an officer injuring himself with his own revolver; and returned with some 228 German prisoners, 314 loyal Norwegian volunteers, and a number of Quisling regime
Quisling regime
collaborators. Through naval gunfire and demolition parties, 18,000 tons of shipping were sunk. Perhaps the most significant outcome of the raid, however, was the capture of a set of rotor wheels for an Enigma cypher machine and its code books from the German armed trawler Krebs. This enabled German naval codes to be read at Bletchley Park, providing the intelligence needed to allow Allied convoys to avoid U-boat concentrations.[1] In the aftermath, the evaluation of the operation differed, with the British, especially Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
and the Special
Operations Executive, deeming it a success. In the eyes of the British the main value of such actions was to tie up large German forces on occupation duties in Norway. Martin Linge
Martin Linge
and the other Norwegians involved were more doubtful of the value of such raids against the Norwegian coast, but were not made aware of the value of the seized cryptographic information. Following Operation Claymore, the Norwegian special operations unit Norwegian Independent Company 1
Norwegian Independent Company 1
was established for operations in Norway.


1 Background 2 Mission 3 Landings 4 Aftermath 5 See also 6 Notes

Background[edit] After the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
called for a force to be assembled and equipped to inflict casualties on the Germans and bolster British morale. Churchill told the joint chiefs of staff to propose measures for an offensive against German-occupied Europe, and stated: "they must be prepared with specially trained troops of the hunter class who can develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast."[2] One staff officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Dudley Clarke, had already submitted such a proposal to General
Sir John Dill, the Chief of the Imperial General
Staff. Dill, aware of Churchill's intentions, approved Clarke's proposal.[2] Three weeks later, the first commando raid—Operation Collar—took place. The raiders failed to gather any intelligence or damage any German equipment; their only success was in killing two German sentries.[2]

Location of the Lofoten Islands

The commandos came under the operational control of the Combined Operations Headquarters. The man initially selected as the commander was Admiral
Sir Roger Keyes, a veteran of the Gallipoli Campaign
Gallipoli Campaign
and the Zeebrugge Raid
Zeebrugge Raid
in the First World War.[3] In 1940, the call went out for volunteers from among the serving Army soldiers within certain formations still in Britain, and men of the disbanding divisional Independent Companies originally raised from Territorial Army divisions who had seen service in Norway.[nb 1] In November 1940, the new army units were organised into a special service brigade under Brigadier
J.C. Haydon, with four special service battalions.[5] By the autumn of 1940, more than 2,000 men had volunteered for commando training, and the special service brigade now consisted of 12 units which were called commandos.[6] After an inauspicious start, the first large-scale commando raid was to be on the Lofoten Islands, which are just off the Norwegian coast inside the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
and about 900 miles (1,400 km) from Britain. Once at the islands, the raiders would be landed at four small ports, to destroy fish oil-producing factories. All the oil produced was being shipped to Germany, which extracted the glycerine, a vital ingredient in the manufacture of high explosives.[7] The commandos would be transported to the islands aboard two new infantry landing ships, escorted by four Tribal-class and one L-class destroyer of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla.[7] Mission[edit]

HMS Somali leader of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla

The overall commander of the raid was Rear Admiral
L.H.K. Hamilton.[8] The objectives of Operation Claymore
Operation Claymore
were threefold. The Royal Navy were asked to safely escort the transports carrying the landing force to the islands and back. While there, they were to destroy or capture any German shipping or Norwegian shipping working for the Germans and provide naval gunfire support for the landing forces. The naval forces taking part were the escorts from the 6th Destroyer Flotilla: HMS Somali, HMS Bedouin, HMS Tartar, HMS Eskimo, and HMS Legion under the command of Captain C. Caslon. Two newly converted landing ships, HMS Queen Emma and HMS Princess Beatrix, were to transport the landing force.[9] The landing force was provided by the special service brigade under the command of Brigadier
J.C. Haydon. The commandos taking part were 250 all ranks from No. 3 Commando
No. 3 Commando
under the command of Major
J.F. Durnford-Slater, 250 all ranks of No. 4 Commando
No. 4 Commando
under the command of Lieutenant Colonel D.S. Lister. They were supported by a section of Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
of No. 55 Field Company, under command of Second Lieutenant H.M. Turner, and four officers and 48 other ranks of the Royal Norwegian Navy, under the command of Captain Martin Linge.[9] The landing force were to destroy the oil-producing facilities in the ports of Stamsund, Henningsvær, Svolvær, and Brettesnes, engage the German garrison, and attempt to capture personnel found in the area. They were also to detain any supporters of the Norwegian Quisling party and persuade the local population to leave the island and join the Free Norwegian Forces.[9] The force started gathering at Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
in the Orkney Islands
Orkney Islands
on 21 February 1941, and remained there for almost a week before leaving for Norway
just after midnight on 1 March 1941. The landing force was distributed amongst the ships, headquarters special service brigade were transported on HMS Somali. No. 4 Commando
No. 4 Commando
which had been assigned landings at Svolvær
and Brettesnes
were on board HMS Queen Emma. No. 3 Commando, which had been assigned landings at Stamsund
and Henningsvær, were on board HMS Princess Beatrix. The Royal Engineers and Norwegian forces were divided between both the landing ships.[9] The time they had spent at Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
was used getting acquainted with the transport ships and the assault landing craft they would be using to reach the shore. The problems the navy perceived providing gunfire support were also discussed, as the destroyers would not be able to approach closer than 1 mile (1.6 km) to shore owing to the shallows. Because of this, the commandos were trained to rely on their own weapons to provide covering fire and support each other from their landing craft. Plans were also made for them to look after themselves in case the destroyers were called away to deal with a naval threat, which included every man being ordered to take enough rations to last 48 hours ashore.[10] Landings[edit]

British commandos watch the fish oil tanks burning

The naval task force known by the codename Rebel left Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
and headed towards the Faroes. They berthed in the Skálafjørður
at 19:00 hours 1 March 1941 to take on fuel. Refuelling took five hours and the naval task force set out again heading northwards towards the Arctic
to avoid detection by German air and sea patrols. They then turned east and headed towards Norway. They arrived at the Lofoten Islands during the early morning of 4 March 1941, just before 04:00 hours. Entering the Vestfjorden they were surprised to see all the harbour navigational lights illuminated, which they believed to be a sign that they were not expected and had achieved complete surprise.[10] During the planning for the operation, plans were drawn up that called for simultaneous landings at all their targets at 06:30 hours, but on arrival, they decided to postpone the landings by 15 minutes so they would not be landing in total darkness. When they did commence to disembark the landing force, they were all ashore by 06:50 hours.[10] On shore, the landing force commenced their operations unopposed. The only shots fired were by the armed trawler Krebs, which managed to fire four rounds at HMS Somali before being sunk.[10] Other ships sunk by the landing forces were the merchant ships Hamburg, Pasajes, Felix, Mira, Eilenau, Rissen, Andø, Grotto, and Bernhard Schulte, which amounted to 18,000 tons of shipping.[7][11]

Burning oil tanks seen from HMS Legion

Additionally, the force that landed at Stamsund
destroyed the Lofotens Cod Boiling Plant. Two factories were destroyed at Henningsvær
and 13 at Svolvær. In total, about 800,000 imperial gallons (3,600 m3) of fish oil, paraffin were set on fire.[11] They captured 228 prisoners of war, seven from the Kriegsmarine, three from the Heer, 15 from the Luftwaffe, two from the Schutzstaffel
(SS), 147 from the Merchant Navy, and 14 civilians.[11] Perhaps the most significant outcome of the raid, though, was the capture of a set of rotor wheels for an Enigma cypher machine, and its code books. These were rescued from the sinking Krebs, although her commander, Lieutenant Hans Kupfinger, threw his machine (one of three known to be on the island) overboard minutes before he was killed. Documents found disclosed the Kriegsmarine
Home Waters key for February, and also helped solve the April traffic which was sent between 1 March and 10 May.[1] Their capture enabled Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park
to read all the German naval codes for some time, and provided the intelligence needed to allow Allied convoys to avoid U-boat concentrations.[12] By 13:00 hours, both the infantry landing ships HMS Princess Beatrix and HMS Queen Emma
HMS Queen Emma
had embarked all their troops and were ready to sail.[10] With them came 300 volunteers for the Free Norwegian Forces in Britain.[7] Aftermath[edit] Operation Claymore
Operation Claymore
was the first of 12 commando raids directed against Norway
during the Second World War.[13] The German response to these raids was to eventually increase the number of troops they had stationed there. By 1944, the German garrison in Norway
had risen to 370,000 men.[14] By comparison, a British infantry division in 1944 had an establishment of 18,347 men.[15] Both of the commando units involved in the raid, No. 3 and No. 4 Commandos, would become part of the 1st Special Service Brigade that took part in the Normandy landings
Normandy landings
in June 1944. After the successful completion of the mission, Prime Minister Churchill issued a personal memo "to all concerned ... my congratulations on the very satisfactory operation" See also[edit]

naval operations of World War II

Notes[edit] Footnotes

^ The 10 independent companies were raised from volunteers in second line Territorial Army divisions in April 1940. They were intended for guerrilla-style operations in Norway
following the German invasion. Each of the 10 companies initially consisted of 21 officers and 268 other ranks.[4]


^ a b West 2015, p. 10. ^ a b c Haskew, pp. 47–48 ^ Chappell, p.6 ^ Moreman, p.13 ^ Joslen, p. 454 ^ Haskew, p. 48 ^ a b c d Chappel, p. 12 ^ "The Royal Navy
Royal Navy
during the Second World War: A6801 (photograph)". Imperial War Museum
Imperial War Museum
Collection Search. Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 5 July 2010.  ^ a b c d "No. 38331". The London Gazette
The London Gazette
(Supplement). 22 June 1948. p. 3687.  ^ a b c d e "No. 38331". The London Gazette
The London Gazette
(Supplement). 22 June 1948. p. 3688.  ^ a b c "No. 38331". The London Gazette
The London Gazette
(Supplement). 22 June 1948. p. 3689.  ^ Chappell, p.13 ^ Messenger, p.15 ^ Chappell, p.14 ^ Brayley & Chappell, p.17


Brayley, Martin; Chappell, Mike (2001). British Army
British Army
1939–45 (1): North-West Europe. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-052-8.  Chappell, Mike (1996). Army Commandos 1940–1945. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-579-9.  Haskew, Michael E (2007). Encyclopaedia of Elite Forces in the Second World War. Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1-84415-577-4.  Joslen, H. F. (1990). Orders of Battle, Second World War, 1939–1945. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84342-474-6.  Messenger, Charles (1991). The Last Prussian: a Biography of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, 1875–1953. Brassey's. ISBN 0-08-036707-0.  Moreman, Timothy Robert (2006). British Commandos
British Commandos
1940–46. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-986-X.  West, Nigel (2015). Double Cross in Cairo: the true story of the spy who turned the tide of war in the Middle East. London: Biteback Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84954-796-3.  Tovey, Admiral
Sir John C. Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, Despatch on raid on military and economic objectives in the Lofoten Islands (Norway) 1941 Mar.

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