British Policy and Strategy towards Norway, 1941–45 by Christopher Mann (auth.)

By Christopher Mann (auth.)

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In addition to the damaging of the Tirpitz, the pocket battleship Lützow sailed from Altenfjord for the Baltic on 26 September, further weakening the Kriegsmarine’s strength in Norway. 98 The Home Fleet was too far off to intercept and Coastal Command’s 18 Group had been depleted of available torpedo aircraft by the demands of the Mediterranean. Vice Admiral Henry Moore, commanding the Home Fleet in the absence of the new C-in-C Admiral Bruce Fraser, demanded that 18 Group’s commander, Air Vice Marshal Aubrey Ellwood, launch an attack.

The Hipper was more successful in a second attempt in February 1941. The battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sank or captured 22 merchantmen, totalling nearly 116,000 tons, between 23 January and 22 March 1941. 3 Raeder’s strategy appeared to be paying dividends. The British Admiralty was aware that the Bismarck was completing her trials and kept close watch on her by air reconnaissance and reports from agents. Given the strategic situation at the time, the only use Raeder could have for the Bismarck was in the Atlantic.

None was found at Petsamo and the British lost 13 aircraft over the heavily defended Kirkenes. Admiral Sir John Tovey, C-in-C Home Fleet reported that: The material results of this operation were small and the losses heavy … here is no doubt that some of the survivors felt that an attack on such poor targets against such heavy opposition was not justified and their morale was rather shaken until they appreciated the political necessity for the operation. As British politicians cast around for action to be taken in support of the Soviet Union, a number of largely token gestures were made by British 16 British Policy and Strategy towards Norway forces.

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