Operation Brawn

'Brawn' was a British abortive carrierborne air attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in the Altafjord of German-occupied northern Norway (12/18 May 1944).

The operation was planned as a repeat of 'Tungsten' in combination with 'Proteus', itself a repeat of 'Veritas' for an armed reconnaissance of Narvik within 'Fortitude'. The two undertakings were to be effected by the same force while the Escort Carrier Squadron’s 'Pot Luck' acted as a diversion farther to the south with attacks on German shipping off the Norwegian coast. Comprising the fleet carrier Victorious, the heavy cruisers Devonshire and Kent, and the destroyers Marne, Matchless, Milne, Musketeer, Oribi, Savage and Venus, Force 7 departed Scapa Flow on 11 May under the command of Vice Admiral Sir Henry Moore, second in command of the Home Fleet. The lighter units rendezvoused in the Skálafjørður of the Færoe islands group, and the entire force then steamed toward the Norwegian coast to reach the designated flying-off position during the afternoon of 14 May.

It was now clear that the weather was unsuitable for flying, and the force stood off to the north-west until the following day. Even though conditions were far from suitable during the afternoon of 15 May, the attacking force was launched in the hope of an improvement over the target. The target was covered by a thick bank of cloud with no apparent opening, however, and the strike had no option but to return, landing without incident.

With the tactical advantage of surprise now lost, Moore decided to abandon 'Brawn' and head south to undertake 'Proteus' on the following day. By 09.00 on 16 May the weather conditions had deteriorated to the point that flying operations were not feasible, and Moore decided to withdraw Force 7 to the north-west. A weather reconnaissance was flown by two Fairey Barracuda single-engined attack aircraft from Victorious in an effort to locate a break in the weather so that 'Proteus' could be attempted. One Barracuda returned and reported bad weather conditions for at least 120 miles (195 km) south-west, and the other Barracuda missed the ship and was lost.

Moore then abandoned 'Proteus' and ordered his ships back to Scapa Flow, which they reached in the afternoon of 18 May.