Operation Claymore
Operation Gauntlet
Operation Anklet
Operation Archery
Operation Musketoon
Operation Freshman
Operation Cartoon
Operation Crackers
Operation Brandy
Operation Checkmate

OVERVIEW

            The word ‘commando’ today conjures up many images of small bands of elite soldiers carrying out raids deep behind enemy lines. Much of  this comes from some of the first operations carried out by British and allied ‘commandos’ during WWII in Norway.
The term ‘commando’ itself came from the Boer war in South Africa from 1899-1902 where bands of irregular Boers called ‘commandos’  would strike swiftly and suddenly at the British army. 

This then was the name to be given to the new force of volunteers being formed in 1940 after Winston Churchill had decreed that Britain must be able to strike back at the Germans so as to keep up morale, tie down German forces and to foster an offensive spirit into an army and people who were staring into the face of an invasion. 
              This article gives a brief description of the commando raids conducted in Norway by the British and Norwegian commandos during WWII.

Operation Claymore
DATE: 04.03.41
LOCATION: Lofoten Islands (Svolvær,Stamsund)
UNIT(S): 3,4 Cdos & a party of Norwegians
NUMBERS: 800

DESCRIPTION: One of the very first commando operations. The targets were a number of fish oil factories which produced glycerine for use in munitions. The mission was a complete success with very little fighting taking place and the targets destroyed. The force returned with 315 volunteers for the Norwegian forces, 60 ‘Quisling’ collaborators and 225 German prisoners. 
The only casualty was a British officer who accidently shot himself in the thigh. In adition some parts to an ‘enigma’ code machine were captured which helped the code-breakers of Bletchley park a great deal. One humorous incident which took place was the sending of a telegram from Stamsund addressed to A.Hitler,Berlin, it said: ‘you said in your last speech German troops would meet the British wherever they landed. Where are your troops?’
Prisoners from 
Operation Claymore

Operation Gauntlet
DATE: 24.08-02.09.41
LOCATION: Spitzbergen (Svalbard) & Bear Island
UNIT(S): Canadians and others
NUMBERS: 1,500

DESCRIPTION: Whilst not strictly a commando operation as the participating troops where Canadian soldiers who had been trained in amphibious warfare. This operation was aimed at destroying the coalmines on Svalbard to prevent them falling into German hands, to evacuate 2,000 Soviet miners to Archangel in Northern Russia and some 800 Norwegians to Great Britain. The radio and weather installation on Bear Island (Bjørnøya) was also destoyed and the people there evacuated.

Not only the mines on Svalbard 
that had to be destroyed, this 
picture shows the radiostation in 
Barentsburg being blown up.

Operation Anklet
DATE: 26-28.12.41
LOCATION: Lofoten Islands ( Reine, Sund & Sørvågen)
UNIT(S): 12 Cdo, ‘Linge’ company
NUMBERS: 300

DESCRIPTION: This operation was in fact designed as a diversion for Operation Archery described below. The force which included men from the Norwegian ‘Lingekompaniet’ landed unopposed and captured the German garrison without a fight, they left two days later after having destroyed installations and taking with them 29 German prisoners as well as over 200 Norwegians.

Operation Archery
DATE: 27.12.41
LOCATION: Vågsøy
UNIT(S): 2,3,4,6 Cdos & ‘Linge’ company
NUMBERS: 800 (including 36 Norwegians)

DESCRIPTION: This operation is one of the most well known and certainly the best photographed as the raid was accompanied by official photographers and cameramen. The raid was to destroy German installations at Vågsøy and the force was to be supported by the RAF who provided air cover and attacked the airfield of Herdla near Bergen. The naval part of the force consisted of one cruiser, four destroyers and two landingships, the warships opened the proceedings with a bombardment of the island of Måløy. 
The commandos were split into five groups, one landed to the West of South Vågsøy to secure the area then move up to the town. The second group landed to the North of the town to prevent German reinforcements getting in. The third group landed on Måløy to deal with the guns and garrison there however the navy had done their job well and the guns were silent, it didn’t take long for the garrison to be subdued. The fourth group landed at the town itself and this proved to be the main center of resistance. The last group was kept onboard ship to act as a floating reserve.

Wounded commando
            The Germans in the town were in greater numbers than expected and the group there called for reinforcements from the group to the West, from the floating reserve and from elements of the group on Måløy. 
Fierce House to house fighting developed but by 13:45 the fighting was over and an hour later the force re-embarked. Behind them they left 15,000 tons of shipping destroyed, warehouses, dockyards, fish-oil processing plants and all German installations destroyed.
98 Germans were taken prisoner along with 4 ‘Quislings’, 77 Norwegians also decided to come with them back to Britain.
The cost to the Germans had been around 150 killed, the British lost 19 men and 57 wounded and the Norwegian force lost 1 man and 2 wounded. The Norwegian killed was an especially painful loss as it was their commander Kaptein Martin Linge who fell during the assault on Måløy. 
            The after effects of the raid had far reaching consequences, the Germans took reprisals against the Norwegian population which prompted protests from the Norwegian king Haakon VII and the government-in-exile. The Germans also began to reinforce and strengthen their defences which was to the allies advantage as this tied down many troops which could otherwise be used elsewhere.

Operation Musketoon
DATE: Night 20-21.09.42
LOCATION: Glomfjord
UNIT(S): 2 Cdo
NUMBERS: 12

DESCRIPTION: This operation was given the task of destroying the power station in Glomfjord which was providing power to an aluminium plant in the area. Captains Black and Houghton along with 8 other ranks and 2 Norwegians set off from Scotland onboard a Free French submarine on the 11th Sept. Arriving 4 days later they then had a 3 day approach march over the mountains to the target arriving on the 18th, they decided to attack the objective on during the night of the 20th-21st. Complete surprise was achieved, however as the party withdrew and the charges were going up they encountered Germans which forced them to split up. In the confusion one of the British was killed, one of the Norwegians mortally wounded and the two officers wounded, they along with four others were captured however the other Norwegian and three of the British managed to make their way into Sweden and eventually on to Britain individually. As for the prisoners, the two officers were to become the first to suffer under Hitlers infamous ‘Commando order’ by being shot by firing squad.

Operation Freshman
DATE: Night 19-20.11.42
LOCATION: Vemork
UNIT(S): Royal Engineers
NUMBERS: 32

DESCRIPTION: The famous attack on the heavy water plant at Vermok will be discussed in greater detail in another article. 

Operation Cartoon
DATE: Night 23-24.01.43
LOCATION: Stord
UNIT(S): 10,12 Cdos
NUMBERS: 63

DESCRIPTION: A complete success, this operation’s aim was to destroy the pyrite mine on the island of Stord near Leirvik. Members of 12 Cdo were accompanied by 10 men from the Norwegian troop of 10 (IA) Cdo under Captain Harald Risnes, 7 MTB’s of the 30th (Royal Norwegian Navy) MTB flottila were used as transport. Half the force were landed at Sagvåg quay and engaged the defending German positions there whilst the remainder were landed on the other side of the bay. The mine which was 2 miles away was reached in 25 minutes by the men who were carrying 50lbs of explosives each. The charges were set and the mine put out of action for a year. Meanwhile 3 of the MTB’s went on to Leirvik in search of shipping but found none. However on the way back a ship was attacked and left in a sinking condition, mines were also laid. The raid netted 3 German prisoners as well as a quantity of papers and equipment, this was achieved for the loss of 1 commando killed, 2 commando’s and 8 sailors injured.

Operation Crackers
DATE: 24.02-01.03.43
LOCATION: Sognefjord
UNIT(S): 10,12,30 Cdos
NUMBERS: 16

DESCRIPTION: The original object of this operation was to attack an observation post and take a look at another, rough seas prevented this, so instead an observation post was manned for a week undetected, gathering information.

Operation Brandy
DATE: Night 14-15.02.43
LOCATION: Floroe
UNIT(S): 10,12 Cdos
NUMBERS: 7

DESCRIPTION: This was a Norwegian operation with Lieutenant Rommetveldt who commanded the Norwegian commandos, taking 6 of his men aboard two Norwegian MTB’s (motor torpedo boats) for an operation into Florø harbour. 2 German ships were torpedoed and a third struck a mine laid by the MTB’s. One of the MTB’s ran aground and had to be abandoned.

Operation Checkmate
DATE: 29.04.43
LOCATION: Haugesund
UNIT(S): 14 Cdo
NUMBERS: 6

DESCRIPTION: Attempted attack on shipping at Haugesund. 4 attempts to pick up the party failed due to bad weather and no trace of them was found. One ship may have been attacked.
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OTHER OPERATIONS
Numerous other operations were planned, trained for and begun before being called off for many different reasons ranging from Weather to long daylight hours in the summer and from bad luck to bad planning. It must also be mentioned that the SOE (Special Operations Executive) which had responsibility for conducting espionage, sabotage and liason with local resistance groups were heavily involved in planning and coordinating the raids carried out after Archery .
 
 

10 (Inter-Allied) COMMANDO

This special unit formed in June 1942 consisted of troops from the occupied countries. Each troop initially would consist of 4 officers and 83 other ranks. Countries represented included France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Yugoslavia and of course Norway whose troop became No.5 (Norwegian) Troop. A ‘miscellaneous’ troop was also created with members coming from the axis countries such as Germany and Austria.
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