|Part of the Arctic Campaign of the Second World War|
Demolition of a German wireless station
|Date||25 August – 3 September 1941|
Operation Gauntlet was an Allied Combined Operation from 25 August until 3 September 1941 during the Second World War. Canadian, British and Free Norwegian Forces landed on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago, 650 mi (1,050 km) south of the North Pole.
Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. Constituting the westernmost bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea, and the Greenland Sea. Spitsbergen covers an area of 37,673 km2 (14,546 sq mi), making it the largest island in Norway and the 36th-largest in the world. The administrative centre is Longyearbyen. Other settlements, in addition to research outposts, are the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research community of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Spitsbergen was covered in 21,977 km2 (8,485 sq mi) of ice in 1999, which was approximately 58.5% of the island's total area.
Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The islands of the group range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. Administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but forms an unincorporated area administered by a governor appointed by the Norwegian government. Since 2002, Svalbard's main settlement, Longyearbyen, has had an elected local government, somewhat similar to mainland municipalities. Other settlements include the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research station of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Ny-Ålesund is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. Other settlements are farther north, but are populated only by rotating groups of researchers.
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is defined as the point in the Northern Hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface.
Coal mines on the islands were owned and operated by Norway at Longyearbyen and by the Soviet Union at Barentsburg; both governments agreed to their destruction and the evacuation of their nationals. Gauntlet's objective was to deny the Germans the coal, mining and shipping infrastructure, equipment and stores on Spitsbergen and suppress the wireless stations on the archipelago, to prevent the Germans receiving weather reports.
Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe whose territory comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.
Longyearbyen (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈlɔŋjeːrbyːən] is the largest settlement and the administrative centre of Svalbard, Norway. As of December 2015, the town had a population of 2,144. Longyearbyen is located in the Longyear Valley and on the shore of Adventfjorden, a bay of Isfjorden located on the west coast of Spitsbergen. Since 2002, Longyearbyen Community Council has had many of the same responsibilities of a municipality, including utilities, education, cultural facilities, fire brigade, roads and ports. The town is the seat of the Governor of Svalbard. It is the world's northernmost settlement of any kind with more than 1,000 permanent residents. Since 2011 it has been governed by Mayor Christin Kristoffersen.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a Marxist-Leninist sovereign state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.
Gauntlet was a success; the Germans had not known of or had been able to challenge the expedition, the raiders suffered no casualties, the local civilians were repatriated, several ships were taken as prizes and a German warship was sunk on the return journey.
The Svalbard Archipelago lies in the Arctic Ocean about half-way (650 mi (1,050 km)) between northern Norway and the North Pole. The islands are mountainous, their peaks permanently covered with snow, some glaciated. There are occasional river terraces at the bottom of steep valleys and some coastal plain. In winter, snow covers the islands and the bays ice over. The main island, Spitsbergen, to the west, has several large fiords along its west coast; Isfjorden is up to 10 mi (16 km) wide. The Gulf Stream warms the waters, making the sea ice-free during the summer. Settlements were established at Longyearbyen and Barentsberg (inlets along the south shore of Isfjorden), in Kongsfjorden (Kings Bay), north of Isfjorden up the coast and in Van Mijenfjorden to the south. The settlements attracted colonists from several countries and the Svalbard Treaty of 1920 neutralized the islands and recognised the mineral- and fishing-rights of the participating countries. Before 1939, the population consisted of about 3,000 people, mostly Norwegians and Russians, who worked in the mining industry. Drift mines were linked to the shore by overhead cable tracks or rails and coal dumped in winter was collected after the summer thaw. By 1939 production was about 500,000 long tons (508,023 t) a year, roughly evenly divided between Norway and the Soviet Union.
The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceans. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) recognizes it as an ocean, although some oceanographers call it the Arctic Sea. It is classified as an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, and it is also seen as the northernmost part of the all-encompassing World Ocean.
Isfjorden is the second longest fjord in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. It lies on the west side of Spitsbergen, an island in the Arctic Ocean about midway between Norway and the North Pole, and the largest in the archipelago. The mountain of Alkhornet stands on the northern side of the entrance to the fjord, as does the coastal plain of Daudmannsøyra. A portion of Isfjorden is included in the national parks of Norway as Nordre Isfjorden Land National Park. Around the fjord lie many of the largest settlements in Svalbard: Barentsburg, Longyearbyen and Pyramiden.
The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension the North Atlantic Drift, is a warm and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and stretches to the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The process of western intensification causes the Gulf Stream to be a northward accelerating current off the east coast of North America. At about, it splits in two, with the northern stream, the North Atlantic Drift, crossing to Northern Europe and the southern stream, the Canary Current, recirculating off West Africa.
From 25 July to 9 August 1940, the Admiral Hipper sailed from Trondheim to search the area from Tromsø to Bear Island and Svalbard (formerly Spitsbergen) and intercept British ships returning from Petsamo but found only a Finnish freighter.Action to deny Germany its coal exports was mooted by the British War Cabinet and the Admiralty soon after the German occupation of Norway in 1940. It was also desirable that wireless stations on the islands, which supplied un-coded weather reports which were useful for German military operations, be suppressed. After Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, German occupation of the islands could threaten the Arctic convoy route to North Russia. On 12 July 1941, the Admiralty was ordered to assemble a force of ships to operate in the Arctic, in co-operation with the USSR, despite objections from Admiral John (Jack) Tovey, commander of the Home Fleet, who preferred to operate further south, where there were more targets and better air cover.
Admiral Hipper, the first of five ships of her class, was the lead ship of the Admiral Hipper class of heavy cruisers which served with Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. The ship was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg in July 1935 and launched February 1937; Admiral Hipper entered service shortly before the outbreak of war, in April 1939. The ship was named after Admiral Franz von Hipper, commander of the German battlecruiser squadron during the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and later commander-in-chief of the German High Seas Fleet. She was armed with a main battery of eight 20.3 cm (8.0 in) guns and, although nominally under the 10,000-long-ton (10,000 t) limit set by the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, actually displaced over 16,000 long tons (16,000 t).
Tromsø is a municipality in Troms county, Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the city of Tromsø. Outside Norway, Tromso and Tromsö are alternative spellings of the name.
Bear Island is the southernmost island of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago. The island is located in the western part of the Barents Sea, approximately halfway between Spitsbergen and the North Cape.
Rear-Admirals Philip Vian and Geoffrey Miles flew to Polyarnoe in northern Russia and Miles established the British military mission in Moscow. 450 mi (720 km) from northern Norway, to assess its potential as a base. The cruisers HMS Nigeria, HMS Aurora and two destroyers departed Iceland on 27 July but Vian found that the advantages of a base at Spitsbergen, were negated by the obstacles of weather and proximity to German bases in Norway. The force closed on the Norwegian coast twice and each time was discovered by Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft and retired.Vian reported that Murmansk was too close to German held territory, that its air defences were inadequate and that the prospects of offensive operations on German shipping were poor. Vian was then sent to reconnoitre the west coast of Spitsbergen, the main island of the Svalbard Archipelago, which was mostly ice-free and
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Philip Louis Vian & Two Bars was a Royal Navy officer who served in both World Wars.
Admiral Sir Geoffrey John Audley Miles, KCB, KCSI was a senior Royal Navy admiral who served as Deputy Naval Commander, South East Asia Command under Lord Mountbatten during the Second World War, as the Senior British Representative on the Tripartite Naval Commission and as the last Commander-in-Chief, Indian Navy of the unified Royal Indian Navy.
HMS Nigeria was a Crown Colony-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy completed early in World War II and served throughout that conflict. She was named for the British colony of Nigeria.
On 26 July 1941, the Canadian Corps in Britain offered to provide sufficient troops for a landing on Spitsbergen, to garrison a naval refuelling base for four months and then withdraw before winter.Force 111 was to be raised, comprising two battalions of a Canadian infantry brigade less transport and attached units including an anti-aircraft battery. The Canadians offered the HQ of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Arthur Potts) and its signal section, the 3rd Field Company Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE).
The unnumbered Canadian Corps was the first corps-level military formation established by the Canadian Army during the Second World War between late 1940 and mid-1942. A four-division Canadian Corps had existed during the First World War. However, during World War II Canada's military contribution was to increase to the scale of a five-division, two-corps army and the formation was eventually redesignated as I Canadian Corps on April 6 1942.
Arthur Edward Potts CBE, ED was a Canadian general officer, active in both World War I and World War II.
The Canadian Military Engineers (CME) is the military engineer branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. Members of the branch who wear army uniform comprise the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers.
A battalion each of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Edmonton Regiment was attached and two field hospitals of the 5th Field Ambulance Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC) and detachments of administrative troops accompanied the expedition. The War Office added the 40th Field Battery Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA), with eight 25-pounder field guns from the 11th Field Regiment RCA; Force 111 was ready by 4 August.
The Canadians embarked on RMS Empress of Canada in Glasgow, sailed for No. 1 Combined Training Centre at HMS Quebec (shore establishment), Inveraray on Loch Fyne and began rehearsing the landings. On 11 August, Potts was told that the operation had been considerably reduced in scope, and on 16 August, Potts was ordered to ensure "that the Germans get no advantage out of Spitsbergen between now and March, 1942". The operation was to be a landing of a force sufficient for the demolition or the removal of mining equipment, coal and the transport and harbour infrastructure. Wireless and weather stations were to be disabled; the Russians were to be transported to Archangelsk and the Norwegians to Britain.
Russian and Norwegian civilian representatives and a Norwegian army officer, the Governor Designate of Spitsbergen, would accompany the expedition to manage civilian matters. Force 111 returned to Surrey except for the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade HQ with 29 Canadian officers and 498 other ranks from the Edmonton Regiment (Major W. G. Bury) and the 3rd Field Company RCE (Major Geoffrey Walsh), 84 men of the Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.) and administrative parties, 14 British officers and 79 men, including 57 Royal Engineers and a Norwegian infantry party (Captain Aubert) with three officers and 22 other ranks, a total of 645 men.
The expedition sailed from the River Clyde on 19 August in Empress of Canada and rendezvoused with Force A (Vian) with the cruisers Nigeria, Aurora and the destroyers HMS Anthony, Antelope and Icarus. The ships put in at Hvalfjörður in Iceland to refuel and departed on the evening of 21 August. Late on 22 August, the destination of the force was revealed to the troops. Force A met the oiler Oligarch and its trawler escorts on the evening of 24 August, west of Spitsbergen and as the force approached, an aircraft made a reconnaissance flight over Isfjorden, the large inlet on the western coast of Spitsbergen island, the most populated area of the archipelago. At 4:30 a.m., Icarus landed a signal party at the Kap Linne wireless station at the entrance to the fiord, where they were welcomed by the Norwegian operators. The big ships entered Isfjorden, steamed on to Grønfjorden at 8:00 a.m. and anchored off the Russian mining township of Barentsburg. Potts went ashore to confer with the Russian authorities about the embarkation of the population and its delivery to Archangelsk as the Canadians occupied other Russian and Norwegian settlements along Isfjord.
The evacuation proceeded slower than planned because the Russian Consul wanted machinery and stores loaded on Empress of Canada as well as personal effects. Empress of Canada set out for Archangelsk at midnight on the night of 26/27 August, escorted by Nigeria and the destroyers. Aurora stayed behind to guard the landing parties and assist in the embarkations from the remoter settlements. The Canadian engineers set fire to about 450,000 long tons (457,221 t) of coal dumped at the mines, fuel oil was poured into the sea or burned and mining equipment was removed or sabotaged, during which, Barentsburg was mysteriously burned down. On the evening of 1 September, the Empress of Canada and its escorts returned from Archangelsk to Green Bay. Normal business was kept up at the wireless station by the Norwegian Military Governor Designate, Lieutenant Ragnvald Tamber except for bogus reports of fog, to deter Luftwaffe air reconnaissance. Three colliers sent from the mainland were hijacked along with a whaler, ice-breaker, tug and two fishing boats. On 2 September, about 800 Norwegians boarded Empress as did 186 French prisoners of war, who had escaped from German captivity and been interned in the USSR until the German invasion. The force sailed for home on 3 September, with 800 Norwegian civilians and the prizes.
Force A departed Svalbard at 10:30 p.m. on 3 September, after ten days' occupation, having never been in darkness. Anders Halvorssen preferred not to join the Norwegian army-in-exile, hid and remained on the island. The final wireless message was transmitted on the evening of 3 September and the sets at Barentsburg, Longyearbyen, Kap Linné and Grønfjord were destroyed; as Force A made its return journey, a German station was heard calling Spitsbergen. The spurious weather reports had led to the cancellation of Luftwaffe weather reconnaissance flights by the Wettererkundungsstaffel (Wekusta 5).
On 5 September a Luftwaffe sortie was flown over Svalbard and the crew found Spitsbergen deserted and the coal dumps on fire. Wekusta 5 resumed flights and on 10 September the crew saw Halvorssen waving to them at Longyearbyen. The crew saw a river terrace at Sònak in Adventfjorden, about 4 mi (6.4 km) away, which was about 1,500 yd (1,400 m) long and could serve as a runway. On 25 September, a Ju 52 landed safely at Sònak but was unable to send a message due to the low power of its radio; a Ju 88 managed to land on 27 September, finding the party and the Norwegian defector. A plan to establish a temporary base was abandoned after an odd illumination, resembling searchlights, was seen in the sky; the two aircraft hurriedly took off for Norway in case it was the British.
The British cruisers diverted towards the Norwegian coast to hunt for German ships and early on 7 September, in stormy weather and poor visibility, found a German convoy off Porshanger, near the North Cape. The cruisers sank the training ship Bremse but two troop transports, with 1,500 men aboard, escaped. Nigeria was thought to have been damaged hitting a wreck. After the war it was surmised that Nigeria had hit a mine. 7/8 September.Force A returned to the Clyde on the night of
Gauntlet was successful; the Germans had not known of or had been able to challenge the expedition. The raiders had suffered no casualties, the local civilians were repatriated, several ships were taken as prizes and one German warship was sunk on the return journey.After the operation, the British expected the Germans to occupy Svalbard as a base for attacks on Arctic convoys but the Germans were more interested in meteorological data, the Arctic being the origin of much of the weather over western Europe.
Arctic expert Erich Etienne made a proposal on his return to Norway, to set up a weather station on Svalbard to obtain better weather data and to relieve Wekusta 5 of the burden of flying in the long night of the polar winter. Operation Bansö (Unternehmen Bansö) began on 8 October with the flight of a Ju 52 to Svalbard to transport a weather party of four men and ten labourers to convert a house 2.5 mi (4.0 km) from Longyearbyen, near the landing ground at Sònak. On 18 October, the crew of a Ju 52 heading for Longyearbyen saw several British ships near the island and next day the crew of an He 111 spotted four British minesweepers in Isfjorden. The two Ju 52s and the He 111 abandoned the airstrip; engine trouble delayed one of the Ju 52s for two hours but clouds of dust in the valley obscured the German aircraft and they went unseen. The all clear was given on 22 October and by 9 November, Bansö was operational, after 38 flights which carried 5 long tons (5 t) of equipment and 24 builders to the island; on 2 November, a Ju 88 escort for a Ju 52 was caught by a gale force wind and crashed soon after taking off from Banak, the crew being killed.
Svalbard is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean roughly centered on 78° north latitude and 20° east longitude. The archipelago is the northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway. The three main islands in the group consist of Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. There are also a number of smaller islands, such as Barents Island (Barentsøya), Kvitøya, Prins Karls Forland, Kongsøya, Bear Island, Svenskøya, Wilhelm Island and other smaller islands or skerries.
Barentsburg is the second-largest settlement on Svalbard, with about 470 inhabitants (2015), almost entirely made up of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. It is the site of the Barentsburg Pomor Museum.
The polar archipelago of Svalbard was first discovered by Willem Barentsz in 1596, although there is disputed evidence of use by Pomors or Norsemen. Whaling for bowhead whales started in 1611, dominated by English and Dutch companies, though other countries participated. At that time there was no agreement about sovereignty. Whaling stations, the largest being Smeerenburg, were built during the 17th century, but gradually whaling decreased. Hunting was carried out from the 17th century by Pomors, but from the 19th century it became more dominated by Norwegians.
Pyramiden is an abandoned Russian coal mining settlement on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Founded by Sweden in 1910 and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927, Pyramiden was closed in 1998 and has since remained largely abandoned with most of its infrastructure and buildings still in place. Since 2007, there have been efforts to make it a tourist attraction.
Operation Zitronella, also known as Operation Sizilien (Sicily), was an eight-hour German raid on Spitzbergen, in the Svalbard Archipelago, on 8 September 1943. The battleships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst, plus nine destroyers, sailed to the archipelago, bombarded settlements in Isfjorden and covered a landing party. Six Norwegians were killed and 31 were taken prisoner; One German died of wounds and fifteen were wounded.
Arktikugol is a Russian coal mining unitary enterprise which operates on the islands of Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. Owned by the Government of Russia, Arktikugol currently has limited mining in Barentsburg. It has carried out mining operations and still owns the towns of Pyramiden and Grumant, with its port at Colesbukta. The company is headquartered in Moscow and is the official agency through which Russia, and previously the Soviet Union, exercised its Svalbard policy.
Operation Haudegen was the name of a German operation during the Second World War to establish meteorological stations on Svalbard. In September 1944, the submarine U-307 and the supply ship Carl J. Busch transported the men of Unternehmen Haudegen to the island. The station was active from 9 September 1944 to 4 September 1945 but lost radio contact in May 1945. The soldiers were capable of asking for support only in August 1945 and on 4 September, were picked up by a Norwegian seal hunting vessel and surrendered to its captain. The group of men were the last German troops to surrender after the Second World War.
Operation Fritham was an Allied military operation during the Second World War to secure the coal mines on Spitsbergen, the main island of the Svalbard Archipelago, 650 mi (1,050 km) from the North Pole and about the same distance from Norway. The operation was intended to deny the islands to Nazi Germany.
Adventdalen is a 30-kilometre (19 mi) long valley that follows Adventdalselva on the island Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. The valley and the river flow into Adventfjorden and further into Isfjorden.
The economy of Svalbard is dominated by coal mining, tourism and research. In 2007, there were 484 people working in the mining sector, 211 people working in the tourism sector and 111 people working in the education sector. The same year, mining gave a revenue of 2.008 billion kr, tourism NOK 317 million and research 142 million. In 2006, the average income for economically active people was NOK 494,700, or 23% higher than on the mainland. Almost all housing is owned by the various employers and institutions and rented to their employees; there are only a few privately owned houses, most of which are recreational cabins. Because of this, it is nearly impossible to live on Svalbard without working for an established institution. The Spitsbergen Treaty and Svalbard Act established Svalbard as an economic free zone and demilitarized zone in 1925.
Svalbard, Norway, is a vast, very sparsely inhabited Arctic archipelago. With fewer than 3,000 inhabitants in four communities, plus some smaller meteorological and scientific outposts, there are no communities connected by road. Off-road motorized transport is prohibited on bare ground, but snowmobiles are used extensively during winter, both for commercial and recreational activities. Transport from Longyearbyen to Barentsburg and Pyramiden is possible by snowmobile at winter, or by ship all year round. Road systems exist within the communities of Longyearbyen, Barentsburg, Sveagruva and Ny-Ålesund. All settlements have ports and Longyearbyen has a bus system.
Isfjord Radio is a coast radio station, weather station and hotel located at Kapp Linné on the island Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Norway. The station was established in 1933, and has played an important role in the telecommunications between the Svalbard archipelago and the outside world. The station was destroyed by both sides during World War II, and rebuilt in 1946. The station was important for ships traffic and air traffic. Satellite communications were established in 1979, but depreciated when a fiber optic cable between Svalbard and the mainland was finished in 2004. Isfjord Radio was automated and depopulated in 1999. Parts of the outdated installations have been preserved as a historical site.
Pyramiden Heliport is a heliport located at Pyramiden in Svalbard, Norway. The airport is owned and operated by Arktikugol, who owns the mining town. The airport consists of a gravel runway and apron measuring 90 by 40 meters and a small terminal building. There is capacity for up to three helicopters on the apron. Flights are carried out by Spark+ using two Mil Mi-8 helicopters. Flights are flown to Barentsburg Heliport, Heerodden and Svalbard Airport, Longyear at irregular intervals.
Agriculture in Svalbard – the world's northernmost – has a short history, and remains a minor economic factor, but has nonetheless had a culturally and socially significant role, as well as an ecologic impact. Svalbard is also home to the Global Seed Vault, which serves to protect the world's biological and agricultural diversity. Polar Permaculture Solutions, AS was formed in January 2015. Polar Permaculture has been focused on producing locally grown food in town, and also with composting food waste.
Operation Gearbox was a Norwegian and British operation on the Arctic island of Spitzbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago, during the Second World War. Operation Fritham, an earlier expedition in two ships, arrived on 13 May but met disaster after being spotted by a Luftwaffe Ju 88 bomber. Next day, four Fw 200 reconnaissance bombers attacked and killed fourteen men, including Einar Sverdrup, the commander. Eleven men were wounded, two mortally, one ship was sunk and the other set on fire.
Operation Gearbox II was a Norwegian and British operation during the Second World War on the Arctic island of Spitzbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago. Operation Fritham, the first attempt to establish a base had been defeated when the two ships carrying the force were sunk by Luftwaffe bombers on 14 May.