Operation Posthorn

This was a British carrierborne air attack by elements of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser’s Home Fleet on German airfields and shipping along the coast of German-occupied Norway, and also to provide additional cover for the passage of the JW.57 convoy to the Kola inlet in the northern part of the USSR (10/12 February 1944).

The primary object of the undertaking was the delivery of attacks on German shipping along the coast of Norway between Stadlandet and Yteroerne using carrierborne aircraft, and was carried out by a force comprising the battleships Anson and Free French Richelieu, fleet carrier Furious, light cruisers Belfast and Nigeria, and destroyers Impulsive, Iroquois, Onslaught, Oribi, Serapis, and Canadian Athabaskan and Haida.

This force departed Scapa Flow in the Orkney islands group during the morning of 10 February and headed to the north-east, reaching the flying-off position at 09.00 on the next day. Additional fighter and anti-submarine air escort for the squadron was provided by Air Vice Marshal A. B. Ellwood’s No. 18 Group of Air Chief Marshal Sir William Sholto Douglas’s RAF Coastal Command.

A wave of 10 Fairey Barracuda attack aircraft, escorted by 12 Supermarine Seafire fighters, was launched from Furious. The weather was suitable for flying, but the cloud conditions were poor for dive-bombing. No shipping targets were found along the coast, so the attack was redirected at a ship found beached in two parts in Ervik Bay. Probably the 5,200-ton Ensland, this ship had been prepared for towing, and at least four bomb hits were confirmed on each part of the vessel.

Fighter opposition, in the form of at least two Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and three Messerschmitt Bf 109 machines, were in the air before the arrival of the attacking group, and the German fighters were engaged by the Seafire warplanes, which claimed one shot down, one probably shot down and two damaged for the loss of one Seafire. Only light anti-aircraft fire was experienced and the remainder of the British attacking force returned safely.

The presence of the British squadron was reported by German aircraft, but the ships were not shadowed for any length of time, and returned to Scapa Flow in the morning of 12 February.