History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Operation GAUNTLET

(Note: this article describes the planning and execution of Operation GAUNTLET. As this operation did not involve combat, there is not a separate article for actions on Spitsbergen listed in the Battle Honours articles.)

Spitsbergen was an island in the Svalbard archipelago located some 370 miles from the northern point of Norway, and only 600 miles from the North Pole. In 1941, the island was considered an area of some importance, even though the island was 1,200 miles from Scotland and even further from occupied France. A small force of Allied soldiers, including troops of the Canadian Army, landed on the island in what became the only major operation of Canadian forces from the United Kingdom that year.

Background

 

The island had been well known to Europeans since its discovery in 1596 by the Dutch. While many nations laid claim to the island, stemming mainly from its value to the whaling industry, by 1911 the Encyclopedia Brittanica was still able to report the island had never been permanently inhabited. By the time the First World War began, the whaling trade had died out and the island's location - so far north as to ensure 112 days of the year were spent in total darkness - discouraged any permanent settlement.

However, coaling began on the island in 1900, and by 1922 about 1,000 miners, mainly Norwegian, were residents of the island. A treaty in 1920 ceded sovereignty of Spitsbergen to Norway, with a formal proclamation of sovereignty taking place on 14 Aug 1925. The Norwegian settlement Longyearbyen had been founded in 1906 by John Munroe Longyear, main owner of the Arctic Coal Company of Boston. ("Byen" is Norwegian for "the city"). Following the war, Longyear City became the largest settlement on the island.

The Svalbard Treaty of 9 Feb 1920 had placed the arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen as an overseas part of the Kingdom of Norway. As a compromise among the signatories, despite Norwegian sovereignty not all Norwegian law applied and the treaty only partly demilitarized the island. The original signatories included Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States - all these signatories were given equal rights to run commercial activities (mainly coal mining) on the islands. The Soviet Union later signed in 1924 and Germany in 1925.

Norway took over governorship in 1925 and immediately enacted a series of environmental protection measures.

Soviet interest in the island grew until 1931 when a Soviet state coal company began operation on the island. By Jun 1941, when the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany, the population of Spitsbergen was approximately 2,800 people, 2,000 of whom were Soviets. The majority of the population lived on the banks of the Isfjord (Ice Sound) - a large inlet 55 miles long which contain rich seams of coal. While Germany had not paid notice to the island following their conquest of Norway in 1940 (at that time also a signatory to a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union), the invasion of the USSR allowed Germany to cast its gaze at the predominantly Soviet-populated island. Britain - in agreement with the Soviet Union - agreed to deny the island to the Germans.

The Operation

The operation was planned in the last week of Jul 1941; the British Chief of the Imperial General Staff made General A.G.L. McNaughton the offer of Canadian participation and an ambitious scheme was originally proposed to land an under-strength brigade without transport to establish a naval anchorage and refuelling base, and then retire in four months before the winter freeze. 111 Force' would be largely Canadian, providing two infantry battalions and attached units, with the British providing administrative units and a light anti-aircraft battery. The Canadian contribution would include the headquarters of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade (including signals section), the 3rd Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, The Edmonton Regiment, two 50-bed field hospitals from 5th Field Ambulance, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, a detachment of a Field Cash Office, Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps. Early in Aug, the 40th Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery (eight 25-pounder Guns) was added to 111 Force.

Suitably clad machine gunners of the Saskatoon Light Infantry on aircraft sentry duties during the voyage. Canadian staff officers on the transport; Lieutenant R.L. Proctor, Major W.S.Murdoch, Brigadier Potts, Captain W.H.T. Wilson.

A reconnaissance of the island by Royal Navy vessels as well as naval objections to the plan delayed the departure of the force; in the meantime the Canadian troops selected for the raid carried out route marches and practice in landings and boat drills at the Combined Operations Training Centre in Inverary, Scotland. On 11 Aug, the plan was considerably reduced, with the objective now the destruction of the coal mines. On 16 Aug, the new plan was approved, aimed at ensuring "that the Germans get no advantage out of Spitsbergen between now and March, 1942."

The objectives were listed as:

  • The landing of a force for the destruction where necessary (or the removal where applicable) of:
    • Coal mining facilities
    • Stocks of free coal
    • Transit facilities between mines and wharves
    • Harbour facilities
    • Wireless Stations
    • Meteorological Stations wherever found
    • The repatriation of all Russians to Archangel
    • The removal to the United Kingdom of all Norwegians

The large number of Canadians who had been tasked for the mission was considerably reduced, with many returning to Surrey from their concentration point in Inverary much disappointed.

Brigadier A. E. Potts, ED, commanding the force, was left with 46 officers and 599 other ranks (29 officers and 498 other ranks of which were Canadian).

  • 3rd Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers (200 men commanded by

Major G. Walsh)

  • One company plus one platoon from The Edmonton Regiment (commanded by Major W.G. Bury)

  • Machine Gun Detachment (84 all ranks) of The Saskatoon Light Infantry (MG) (commanded by Captain G.F.P. Bradbrooke)

  • Detachment from the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals

  • Detachment from the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps
  • Detachment from the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps
  • Detachment of Norwegian infantry (3 officers, 22 other ranks) under Captain Aubert
  • Detachment of the British Army (14 officers and 79 other ranks of No.s 2, 5, 9 and 12 Commandos, including 57 all ranks of the Royal Engineers.

Training concentrated on landings on enemy controlled coastline; the engineers focused on demolitions, the use of tractors on beaches and dock equipment in addition to improvised rafts, and the construction of beach roadways.

On 19 Aug 1941, Operation GAUNTLET launched, with the Empress of Canada carrying the small force escorted by Force "A" including the cruisers Nigeria and Aurora and the destroyers Anthony, Antelope and Icarus under the command of Admiral Vian. The force sailed first to Hvalfjord, Iceland to refuel, then sailed on 21 Aug. On the evening of 22 Aug Canadian soldiers were first informed of their destination.

After a rendezvous with the oilier Oligarch and escorting trawlers on 24 Aug, the force approached Spitsbergen on the morning of the 25th. Aerial reconnaissance of the Ice Sound detected no enemy activity. A party of signallers landed at the wireless station at Kap Linne's wireless station at 0430, where the Norwegian staff greeted them "cordially". By 0800 the larger ships had entered Green Bay and anchored off of Barentsburg, a Russian mining village.


Canadians at Spitsbergen. An early style of 1937 Pattern entrenching tool is worn by the man in the foreground.Photo via Ed Storey.

The Russian Population

The first task of GAUNTLET was to remove the Russian population of the island to Archangel in the Soviet Union. Brigadier Potts went ashore to discuss the evacuation soon after the fleet anchored off of Barentsburg, while military parties occupied Russian and Norwegian settlements along the Isfjord.

The business of embarking the Russian community in the Empress of Canada gave the Canadian Army one of its very few contacts during this war with its Soviet allies. All evidence indicates that the general relationship between the Canadians and the Russians was thoroughly friendly, and the troops were almost embarrassed by the gifts which were pressed upon them.1

However, the official relationship was worrisome, but the Russian Consul in Barentsburg insisted that heavy communal machinery be carried away in addition to personal belongings. Admiran Vian reported that the "instillation of sweet reason" became a primary task, and that Brigadier Potts managed this "without detriment...to the relations which should exist between Allies."2

The Empress of Canada sailed for Archangel escorted by Nigeria and three destroyers on the night of 26-27 Aug. These ships were back at Green Bay on 1 Sep having completed their mission. In Archangel they had picked up 186 French officers and men - prisoners of war who had escaped from Germany to Russia where they had been interned before the invasion of Russia by Germany. The French soldiers shared in the hard work once ashore at Spitsbergen.

Demolitions

While Aurora remained at Spitsbergen to protect the force and assist in the liquidation of remote Norwegian settlements, an estimated 450,000 tons of coal (situation in giant free piles) on the island were destroyed by fire, and large quantities (estimated at 275,000 gallons) of fuel oil, petrol and grease were poured into the sea or burned.

The oilfire at Barentsburg impressed even those who had seen the London fires of 1940. One witness wrote, "exploding barrels were seen to a height of about 250 feet and were thrown out from the pile, flaming, to a distance of from 350 to 400 feet."3

Essential parts of mine machinery at Longyearby, Barentsburg and other settlements was destroyed or removed, with the power plants receiving special attention.. Barentsburg was largely destroyed by an accidental fire of undetermined origin.

Captain Perry Hall, an experienced mining engineer and officer of a Tunnelling Company of the Royal Canadian Engineers, had been attached to 111 Force especially for his expertise.

The unused wireless station near Barentsburg was demolished, as was an overhead conveyor system used to bring coal from one of the Longyear City mines to the dockside.


The last boatload off the island looks back at the destruction of Barentsburg
Barentsburg circa 1999, and photographed during the raid. The white building in the centre of town was a Communal Centre with dining hall, laundry and public offices. At right are large coal piles.

Departure

On 2 Sep, the entire Norwegian population of Spitsbergen - about 800 persons - was taken aboard the Empress of Canada, leaving the island devoid of humans and at 2230hrs on 3 Sep, the Empress with its escorting destroyers and cruisers sailed from the island. The cruisers left the convoy on 6 Sep to engage German vessels in Norwegian waters (sinking the training ship Bremse and other vessels). The Royal Navy had also profited from the Spitsbergen action by capturing three laden colliers that had been working for the Germans, as well as a tug, two sealing vessels, and a whaler.


After ferrying the civilian population of various settlements to the fleet of ship, the RCE destroyed stocks of coal and port facilities. A steam-turbine power plant was kept operational to resupply the task force with fresh water.

 

Working Conditions

CMHQ Report 74 states that The ten days' sojourn in Spitsbergen had been a change for the Canadian troops, but certainly not a rest. Throughout the occupation the men worked in shifts of four hours on duty and four hours off. The sun never went far below the horizon and the nights were extremely short, never getting completely dark. It was found that "officers and men on their return to Britain frequently found it hard to say how long the occupation had actually lasted" as a result.

While arctic kit had been issued, the weather was not unduly cold and troops were able to work in their Battle Dress. The "North Atlantic Drift", a branch of the Gulf Stream, helps keep the climate warmer than one might expect for such a northerly latitude.

Conclusion of the Operation

By 3 Sep 1941 the task force had completed its work, leaving eight engineers behind to complete final demolitions.

The last task in this respect was the destruction of the wireless stations at Kap Linne and Longyear City. All through the occupation these stations had remained in operation, communicating normally with German-controlled stations in Norway, and transmitting weather reports, apparently as usual. Actually the messages thus sent were less ingenuous than they appeared; for on several occasions they reported fog conditions which did not exist. The object was to discourage aerial reconnaissance which might lead to discovery of what was going on in Spitsbergen and its surrounding waters. It appears, in fact, that the deception was completely successful and the Germans never realized that anything was wrong until wireless transmission ceased; for when the expedition was well out at sea on its way back to Britain their station at Tromsoe was heard calling Spitsbergen and inquiring urgently why it did not answer.

The force was back in the UK by 9 Sep 1941.

Aftermath

In addition to denying the Germans coal, the absence of a German meteorological station in the north meant that Allied weather data would always be more accurate and up to date than the data the Germans were using. In Jun 1944, this would play a role in the success of the Normandy Landing, as German meteorologists would have no way of knowing the stormy weather in the first week of Jun would be interrupted by a brief break of weather suitable for parachute and amphibious landings.

Allied and German forces returned to Spitsbergen briefly in the autumn on 1941, and in the summer of 1942 a small force of troops - mainly Norwegian - established a garrison. In Sep 1943 the establishments there were raided by a German naval force. Operation Zitronella (also known as Operation Sizilien) landed a battalion of German troops on Spitsbergen, supported by the battleship Tirpitz in one of her rare sorties out of port. After a short stay, the German forces voluntarily withdrew, after the Luftwaffe installed a weather station on Hopen Island. Weather conditions prevented an Allied response to the German invasion until the spring.

After the German invasion, the Allied garrison was strengthened and the island remained in Allied hands until the end of the war, though after the intial raid in 1941, Canadians played no part in further events.

Trivia

From CMHQ Report No. 74:

Many of the men included in the Spitsbergen force had been members of the Canadian expedition which was organized to take part in the projected attack on Trondheim in the Norweigian campaign of 1940, but which never sailed. It was poetically just that these should now get this new opportunity. And it was particularly appropriate, perhaps, that the Edmonton Regiment should be well represented in this Arctic operation; for this unit claims to be the most northerly Infantry Regiment in the British Empire, and many of its men serving in this expedition came from the region of Peace River. This adventure, however, was to take them into latitudes which were not those of Northern Alberta, but those of Ellesmere Island.

The transport which carried the force to Spitsbergen was, again appropriately enough, a liner famous in the River St. Lawrence in time of peace, and which, since the outbreak of war, had carried many Canadian soldiers to the United Kingdom.

Longyear City" (Longyearbyen), Spitsbergen in 2002. Wikipedia photo. Western Spitsbergen, from the website of Dr. Ólafur Ingólfsson, Professor of glacial and Quaternary Geology, University of Iceland.

Notes

  1. Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume I: Six Years of War: Canada, Britain and the Pacific. p.305

  2. Ibid, p.305
  3. Stacey, C.P. The Canadians at Spitsbergen, article in Canadian Geographical Journal, Aug 1942.

Other Sources

  • Spitsbergen Operation: Online article by retired Warrant Officer Don Thomas, assistant curator at the Canadian Military Engineer Museum.
  • REPORT NO. 74, HISTORICAL OFFICER, CANADIAN MILITARY HEADQUARTERS: "Further Material on the SPITSBERGEN Operation, August-September, 1941."


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