Tag Archives: Norway

Intelligence operations to Norway

Thursday, 13 February 1941

Stradishall – Dordogne

F/Lt Keast flies an operation to France. Keast writes a summary of operations since October, in which he records this trip’s target as a successful sortie to Fontainebleau, but as Philip Schneidau will not be dropped until March, this is erroneous.

The operation appears instead to be the drop of BCRA agent Maurice Duclos (‘Saint-Jacques’), with a wireless operator. The target is near the village of Saint-Cirq, 6 kilometres west of Bugue, in the Dordogne. Duclos’s wireless operator is John McLennan, the nom-de-guerre of John Mulleman. Duclos lands awkwardly, breaking his right leg, and he is arrested almost immediately by the French authorities.

Keast takes off in Whitley T4264 at about 1830, and lands at Tangmere at 0158, about 7.5 hours, Although his logbook records the flight duration as 5 hours 30 minutes, this is way too short for a trip to the Dordogne; the independent Stradishall times are about right.


Jack Oettle flies an 11-hour operation in Whitley P5029 to Norway, where he drops the SIS agent Sverre Midtskau*. (Mark Seaman confirms the agent and the date as 13-14 February.) He lands at Sumburgh in the Shetlands, but the Whitley sustains damage to the tail when landing. Oettle, his crew and aircraft are therefore stranded, and are unavailable for operations in the immediate future.


*Mark Seaman: ‘Special Duties operations in Norway’, article No. 18 in ‘Britain and Norway in the Second World War’, ed. Patrick Salmon (HMSO), p. 170.
Seaman’s principal sources are:

  1. TNA AIR 20/8224, and
  2. the Air Historical Branch summary ‘Special Duties Operations in Europe’, in TNA AIR 41/84

TNA AIR 14/2527 Stradishall Ops Officer’s log

Friday, 2 January 1942


Operations to Norway would normally be flown from an RAF station in the far north, such as Wick or Kinloss. But this sortie is well within a Whitley’s range from Stradishall, for the target is near the south-west tip of Norway, a distance of less than 500 miles. The target is near the farm of Gunvald Tomstad at Helle, a small hamlet south of Flekkefjord.

The agents to be dropped are Odd Starheim and a wireless-operator, Andreas Fasting. (The use of the latter’s real surname as his RAF codename is an uncharacteristic lapse, though early codenames were sometimes a laboured pun on some aspect of the agent, perhaps to help desk-officers remember which codename applied to which agent.) Mark Seaman notes that his correct codename was ‘Biscuit’. They are to be dropped with two packages, presumably W/T sets.

Starheim had escaped from Norway to Scotland by sea in August 1940, and had been landed back in December 1940 as Operation Cheese, an intelligence operation by SOE. He recruited Tomstad in early 1941, and warned the British of the Bismarck’s sortie to the Atlantic in April. He escaped via Sweden in June 1941. Now he was to return to Tomstad’s farm.

P/O Smith takes off in Whitley T4166 from Stradishall at 20.25, and crosses the Norfolk coast at Cromer at 20.31. This is his first trip as skipper, and he was fortunate not to have been flying with Sgt Reimer on the 27th. The port airscrew has been giving him trouble, which may be a characteristic failure of the exactor control system for the airscrew pitch. Smith is able to climb to 8,500 feet, rather less than normal, before levelling out above scattered strato-cumulus.

At midnight he makes landfall ten miles south of Flekkefjord. The 2nd Pilot guides Smith to the target area: the agents are dropped at 00.23 from 2,900 feet, which implies that the target is on high ground. Two camouflaged canopies and one white one are seen to open, but the despatcher reports that he has four static lines; there is no repeat of the static-line failure (or failure to be clipped on) that caused the loss of Dr Carl Bruhn in December.

To disguise the aircraft’s purpose, leaflets are dropped over nearby towns Fede and Rôrvig (the latter unidentified). Seventeen minutes after dropping the agents the Whitley crosses the cast south of Flekkefjord, and they set course for base, climbing back to 8,500 feet for the return trip across the North Sea. Unsurprisingly they encounter icing, and gradually descend. They cross the north Norfolk coast at 2,000 feet just after 4 a.m., landing back at Stradishall at 04.45.


TNA AIR 20/8334, encl. 138A
‘Special Operations Executive: A new instrument of war’, Mark Seaman, p. 80

Monday, 5 January 1942

Three operations, possibly four, are planned for this night. All are to Norway, and the targets are distant enough to require the aircraft to set off from the UK’s far north. W/Cdr Farley, CO of 138 Squadron, flies one of the two Whitleys, and Sgt E.E. Jones the other. We have only Farley’s report on his attempt, plus data from Air Transport Forms (ATFs). Sgt Jones either does not write one or it has been lost. Other information comes from SOE and MI5 files and post-war history of the Norwegian resistance.

Operation ANVIL/LARK

According to an Air Transport Form (ATF) from December 1941, ANVIL consists of two agents. The target is given as Lillehammer, and the departure date is an optimistic 4 December. A later ATF, with a ‘delivery date’ of 23/12, identifies ANVIL’s target as ‘E.NE. Lillehammer’, deep in the hinterland of Norway’s southern bulge, near the Swedish border. LARK, on the other hand, is on the coast, south-west of Trondheim and some 180 miles west of ANVIL. They are both some 350 miles further north than CHEESE/FASTING of a few nights before.

The operation is to be flown by W/Cdr Walter Farley from RAF Wick, almost at the north-eastern tip of Scotland. Sgt E.E. Jones is to fly another operation (ANCHOR) to the same area of Norway as ANVIL, possibly to the same drop site, so it is baffling as to why they are not combined, especially as the targets for ANVIL and LARK are so far apart.

The two pilots and their crews attempt to fly to Wick in preparation for the attempt. At 11.12 W/Cdr Farley asks the Ops Room to signal Wick for permission to operate two Whitleys from there tonight. Twenty five minutes later Wick signals back that they can accommodate two Whitleys and their crews. Farley will fly NF-K (Z9158) and Sgt Jones will take NF-A (Z9125), both taking off at 13.30; they plan to reach Wick at 16.30, the route being Peterborough – York – Sterling (sic) – Westerdale – Wick.

They take off about an hour later than planned. Farley (who has swapped into Whitley NF-C) gets as far as Linton-on-Ouse, and plans to operate from there. He takes off at

It is hard to believe, given Britain’s capabilities at the start of 1942, but LARK was intended to prepare the ground for an invasion of Norway about half-way along the west coast, with the aim of bisecting the country and isolating German forces north of Trondheim.

Operation ANCHOR (probably also CROW)

There is no report by Sgt Jones on his operation, to which Farley refers only obliquely in his report. We can, however, trace Jones’s progress through the Stradishall ops log. At 08.35 Stradishall is told that Sgt Jones is to fly a cross-country to Middleton St George at 09.45, but this is cancelled ten minutes later. (This may have been for some technical modifications, postponed.)

Jones takes off three minutes after Farley and somehow gets through to Wick, though briefly he is mis-understood to have landed at Leuchars. He plans to operate from Wick: at 21.10 Wick’s Station-Commander asks Stradishall for clarification about his responsibility for Sgt Jones’s Whitley; F/Lt Hockey signals back that he has full discretion regarding the weather. The operation is cancelled.

At 15.17 the next day there is a favourable Met. forecast for that night (the 6th). Unfortunately, as Jones taxies out he damages a wing and has to abandon. On the 7th, at about midday, Jones is signalled to standby for operations that night and for the 8-9th, and therefore ordered to return to Stradishall at the first opportunity. (It would appear that ANCHOR has been cancelled.) At 15.36 a cypher signal arrives from Wick indicating that Sgt Jones was returning. Actually he takes off at 13.30. Wick later signals that Jones has been ordered to land at Thornaby, but an aircraft that does there, initially reported to be Jones’s, turns out to be a Hudson. By six p.m. there is no news of Jones, and the log shows that everyone fears the worst; at 18.55 the Air Ministry is informed that he is overdue. At 19.30 Group wants to know Jones’s call-sign. At 20.20 a signal comes in that Whitley ‘A’ has force-landed at Prestwick with all its instruments U/S (unserviceable). His passengers have been accommodated and they are all returning tomorrow.

ANCHOR is Torbjorn Gulbrandsen, and CROW is his wireless-operator, Ernst Kirkby Jacobsen. They are eventually inserted by sea on the 24th February 1942. In May 1942 ANCHOR is captured, and after interrogation by the Gestapo he escapes and makes a successful return to the UK. Later, CROW also manages to return to the UK, and it soon becomes clear that ANCHOR has been allowed to escape by the Germans.  The Gestapo gained ANCHOR’s co-operation, at considerable cost to the Norwegian resistance, after the Gestapo threatened Gulbrandsen with action against his family. He spends the rest of the war at STS26.


Pilots’ Ops reports: TNA AIR 20/8334, Encl. 129A (Another copy of the first page at Encl. 137A.)
Stradishall Log: TNA AIR 14/2529
TNA HS 2/159 & 160 Operation LARK
TNA HS 2/149 Operation ANCHOR
TNA HS 2/152 Operation CROW
TNA KV2/ 829 MI5 file on ANCHOR