The raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo
took place on
31 July 1941
World War II
. The Royal Navy air arm launched this unsuccessful
raid from 2 aircraft carriers, (HM
ships Victorious and
Furious) to inflict damage
on merchant vessels owned by Nazi
Germany and Finland.
was meant to show support for their new ally the Soviet Union.
Russian Civil War, Finland declared
independence from the Soviet Union with the north port of Petsamo under the Treaty of Tartu
(1920). In the Winter War
Union occupied Petsamo.
In the following peace agreement
only the Finnish
part of the Rybachy Peninsula was ceded to the Soviet Union
(321 km²), although the Soviet Union had occupied all of
Petsamo during the Winter War. In 1941, during the Continuation War, Petsamo was used by
Nazi Germany as a staging area for the attack towards Murmansk.
is in Norway, which was
neutral at the start of the war, but was invaded by Germany and
officially broke out between Britain and Nazi Germany on the 3rd September 1939.
In December Joseph Stalin decided to invade Finland and, although
they put up a stubborn defense, Finland had to give up some of
territory after they agreed to sign an armistice. Subsequently
Denmark and Norway were invaded in April 1940 and France was
defeated in May.
By June 1940 Britain was the only European country standing against
. However, after defeat in
the Battle of Britain
focused eastwards and invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 and
Finland fought as a co-belligerent, in what is known the Continuation War
During Operation Barbarossa
the Finns regained all the land they had lost in the Winter War.
British, who were afraid the Russians may cede the Ukraine to
Germany, decided that the best way to show the support to their new
ally would be to attack ports occupied by the Axis: the use of
aircraft from ships having previously been shown effective at
Taranto and against
force, consisting of the two carriers and six destroyers, left
Flow for Seidis Fjord in Iceland on 23 July
They arrived two days later, refuelled and sailed the
following day for Norway. The strike was supposed to be a surprise
attack but, since it was light for 24 hours a day at that time of
year, surprise was almost impossible and was lost when the
attacking force was spotted by aircraft shortly before launch of
launched nine Fairey
, nine Swordfish
and six Fairey Fulmars
from 800 Squadron
. In the end, the harbour
was almost entirely empty and the raiders claimed sinking only one
small steamer and the destruction of several jetties. One Albacore
and two Fulmars were lost.
The raid on Kirkenes was a disaster. The Luftwaffe had been
allerted and had their Bf109
and Bf 110
fighters in the air
and waiting. Victorious
launched two sub flights
consisting of a total of twelve Albacores from 827 Squadron
, eight Albacores from
, and nine
Fulmars from 809 Squadron
The aircraft had to attack by flying over the mountains and the
fjord rather than attacking from the sea. There were only four
cargo vessels within the harbour. The aircraft released their
torpedoes quickly to get away from anti-aircraft fire, sinking one
2,000 ton vessel and setting another on fire and causing minor
damage ashore. One Bf 109 and two Bf 110s were claimed shot down
for the loss of eleven Albacores and two Fulmars with a further
eight Albacores damaged.
The attack was a failure. Unlike the Battle of Taranto, it had no
impact on the course of the War. A number of aircraft and their
even harder to replace aircrews were lost. Some say that Britain
needed to show its commitment to Russia and some say it was
pointless. But Britain had showed it was willing to make sacrifice
to win the War.
The references differ on the numbers of aircraft claimed. Sturtivant states one Bf 109 and two Bf 110, the Fleet Air Arm Archive web site states two Bf 109s and one Bf 110.