Early in the morning of March 4th 1941, a flotilla of British cruisers put ashore 550 British and 53 Norwegian Commandoes at Svolvær, Stamsund, Henningsvær, and Brettesnes. Captain Martin Linge, commanded the Norwegian force.
During the attack, the British ships sank 8 German and one Norwegian ship – the Coastal Steamer ‘Mira’ – which failed to stop when ordered. The captain of the ‘Mira’ later explained that a German officer stood behind him with a pistol.
The landing completely surprised the German garrison and the attackers quickly destroyed eleven fish oil processing plants, set fire to a large oil tanker, and partially destroyed a power plant. Three hundred and fourteen Norwegians accepted the offer to board the British ships in order to join the Norwegian forces in England. Two hundred and thirteen German prisoners were taken on board as well as 12 Norwegian N.S. members.
The raid was considered a great success but the German leadership in Oslo reacted with fury: Terboven ordered several buildings to be burned and took 63 hostages. These were the first civilian Norwegians to be imprisoned at Grini, the newly commissioned camp outside of Oslo.
The Norwegian chiefs of staff in England had been consulted in the planning of this first raid on Lofoten but the Norwegian Government in London had not been informed. This caused a certain amount of discord.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this raid did not surface until several years after the war when it became known that one of the British ships had salvaged a technical document from the German trawler, Krebs. 1) This document assisted the work in the breaking of the ‘Enigma’ code that allowed the Allies to monitor most of the German radio transmissions for the remainder of the war.