The first raid of any magnitude in World War II was the Lofoten Raid on 4 March 1941. It happens in the darkest hour of war when Churchill desperately needed a victory and a bright spot. The English Prime Minister himself called the first months of 1941 “The darkest hour”. About 500 English soldiers plus 52 Norwegians participated.
Captain Martin Linge
Magnar Pettersen storms out early in the morning with his camera to take pictures when he understands what’s going on. Outside Lofoten War Memorial Museum, which was then a post office with a telegraph and many telegraph ladies on the 2nd floor, he meets a tall English officer on the sidewalk. Magnar, who had taken Lingaphone’s language course with gramophone records in English, wanted to try his skills, and said to the English officer who just stood and scowled at him:
– It is allowed to take pictures?
Then it came back in singing Sunnmøre; – Get rid of that camera or it will go to sea.
It was Captain Martin Linge who stood there. Linge learns that there is a German radio station, a Luftwaffe department, in Kabelvåg on Arbeideren, and organizes his own program. With a truck in front with a machine gun on the roof and two buses following with soldiers, Linge sets off. They park outside by the church and make their way to Kabelvåg on foot. The worker is stormed and 15 German liaison officers are captured.
The raid led to the sinking of a large number of ships. Among them is the Mira route, which was sunk by mistake and killed 7 civilians. Cod liver oil foundries were blown up and over 200 Germans captured.
Over 300 of the population spontaneously escaped with the English forces consisting of 5 destroyers and two large canal ferries that had been converted into transport ships. When Hitler heard of the friendly reception the English had received, that we had shouted cheers for them, he became “tight” and believed that it should not go unnoticed. General Keitel, chief of the General Staff, believed that all of Svolvær should be wiped out.
Reichkommissar Terboven arrived on 5 April by seaplane together with SS General Redies. Aggressive German soldiers burn 8 houses in Svolvær, 1 house in Kabelvåg and Henningsvær plus 3 in Stamsund before director of Råfisklaget Overå manages to stop the house burning when he threatens that the fishermen will leave the Lofoten fishery.
But over 100 are arrested and Lofoten gets the first 64 prisoners at Grini. The Gestapo will be headquartered for Lofoten and Vesterålen in Svolvær. The Germans spend the rest of the war building bunkers, which led to Svolvær being the place in the Norway that has the most bunkers, tunnels and positions within 2 square kilometers.
Photograph coloured by William Hakvaag from Lofoten War Memorial Museum.