This dramatic newsreel from British Pathé, first shown in early 1942, depicts Operation ‘Archery’, the British Commando raid on Vågsøy and Måløy on 27 December 1941, and the bitter street fighting in Måløy town.
The raid, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Durnford-Slater and Major Jack Churchill, involved elements of No.3 and No.2 Commando and was supported by medics from No.4 Commando, a demolition/engineer party from No.6 Commando. Several Norwegians – led by Martin Linge – from Norisén (Norwegian Independent Company No.1) of the SOE, were also involved.
In total, some 570 Commandos were deployed on this relatively large effort. At the same time, a smaller force of 300 Commandos were to land at Lofoten in the diversionary Operation ‘Anklet’
The Commando force was embarked on the landing ships HMS Prince Charles and HMS Prince Leopard on 26 December, but problems with those vessels – which led to minor flooding on Prince Charles – delayed the operation by 24 hours. The light cruiser HMS Kenya provided fire support for the raid, as did four destroyers; Onslow, Oribi, Offa, and Chiddingfold.
The Commandos were organised into five units, one acting as an offshore reserve, while the others tackled their objectives. The first group secured the area to the north of Måløy, another group captured the strongpoint at Holvik, while two groups secured the town and destroyed stores, an ammunition dump, and the fish-oil factories.
The Royal Navy were to suppress the coastal defences – a trio of 130mm guns – and to sink shipping.
The raid began just before dawn, with a bombardment that knocked out the coastal guns before they could fire effectively. As a result, just one hit was scored on the British ships, killing four sailors. The landing progressed smoothly, and all objectives outside of the town were quickly taken. However, what the British did not know was that a unit of Gebirgsjäger formed the town garrison.
The elite mountain troops had been sent to Norway to rest, but were skilled at fighting in rough terrain and at close range, and amongst their ranks were a number of skilled snipers. The fighting in Måløy became bloody, and necessitated the British use their reserve. The British were assisted by Norwegian civilians, some of which ran ammunition up to them or carried away stretchers.
By mid-afternoon, the British had achieved their objectives. The navy had sunk ten ships, whilst the Commandos destroyed several military and communications buildings, stores, the ammunition dump, four factories, and had captured a complete German naval code book. They had also captured 100 German soldiers and Norwegian Quislings, whilst evacuating 70 Norwegian loyalists. Around 70 German soldiers had been killed, while the Commandos lost 17 killed – including Martin Linge – and 53 wounded. The RAF lost eight aircraft.
The diversionary raid on Lofoten had resulted in another intelligence coup – the capture of a working Enigma machine. Several Quislings and 200 loyalists were returned to Britain and no Allied troops were lost. However, there was heavy damage inflicted to the cruiser HMS Arethusa, bombed by a German aircraft. ‘Anklet’ was not supported from the air, and was the last major British Commando raid to not have air cover.
The result of ‘Archery’ and the 11 other raids on Norway was that the Atlantic Wall defences were strengthened and the German garrison there swelled to nearly 400,000 troops by 1944, diverting men and resources from other theatres.