• Si Biggs

Operation Claymore

Unit/ Formation: Combined Ops


Location: Lofoten Islands


Period/ Conflict: World War II


Year: 1941


Date/s: 4th March 1941


Operation Claymore was a British commando raid on the Norwegian Lofoten Islands 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 economy.



The landings were carried out on 4 March 1941, by the men of No. 3 Commando, No. 4 Commando, a Royal Engineers section and 52 men from the Norwegian Independent Company 1.


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 t (3,500 long tons) of oil and glycerine.


The British experienced only one accident; an officer injuring himself in the thigh with his own revolver[ and returned with some 228 German prisoners, 314 loyal Norwegian volunteers and a number of Quisling regime collaborators.



Through naval gunfire and demolition parties, 18,000 tons of shipping were sunk. Perhaps the most significant outcome of the raid was the capture of a set of rotor wheels for an Enigma machine and its code books from the German armed trawler Krebs. German naval codes could be read at Bletchley Park, providing the intelligence needed to allow Allied convoys to avoid U-boat concentrations.

The pom-poms of one of HM Ships silhouetted against the snow covered mountains as she lies in Kirke Fjord. © IWM (A 6799)

Lieutenant R L Wills sent a telegram to one, A Hitler of Berlin, from the telegraph office at Stamsund. "You said in your last speech, German troops would meet the British wherever they landed. Where are your troops?"


Lord Lovat and some of his men took a bus to a nearby seaplane base. The commander of the base later complained about the "unwarlike" behaviour of the Commandos and undertook to report accordingly to the Fuhrer!



Allied troops returning from shore in landing craft after raiding the Lofoten islands, Norway, 4 March 1941. IWM


In the aftermath, the evaluation of the operation differed, with the British, especially 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 and the other Norwegians involved were more doubtful of the value of such raids against the Norwegian coast but were not told of the value of the seized cryptographic information. Following Operation Claymore, the Norwegian special operations unit Norwegian Independent Company 1 was established for operations in Norway.

You said in your last speech, German troops would meet the British wherever they landed. Where are your troops?

Lieutenant R L Wills sent a telegram to one, A Hitler of Berlin, from the telegraph office at Stamsund.

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