Operation Dynamite

'Dynamite' was a British unrealised plan for an amphibious operation to take and hold Stavanger in German-occupied Norway (1941/42).

'Dynamite', 'Jupiter' (i) against targets in the far north of Norway and 'Ajax' against Trondheim were the three most important of the many British plans to make a return to the European mainland supported by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and steadfastly opposed by all the senior British military leaders and the US civil and well as military leadership.

The 'Anklet' and 'Archery' commando raids of March and December 1941, against targets in the Vågsøy and Lofoten islands off the west coast of Norway, had shown that the British now possessed the capability to project power, if only on a temporary basis, onto the European continent. This was a prerequisite which was entirely necessary for the opening of any 'second front', however distant in time ant such event might be. The German 'Barbarossa' invasion of the USSR on 22 June 1941 gave the issue new impetus, and Churchill immediately and wholeheartedly pledged the UK’s material aid and moral support to the USSR. Although they welcomed and indeed demanded material aid, the Soviets insisted steadfastly that British provide a more practical type of support, most specifically in the opening of a 'second front' on the European mainland so as to relieve pressure on the hard-pressed Soviet armies. A 'second front', in Soviet thinking, was something which would force the German to withdraw a minimum of 40 divisions from the Eastern Front. The Soviet leader, Iosif Stalin was full of suggestions and in July 1941 wrote to Churchill that it seemed to him that the military situation of the USSR, as well as of the UK, would be considerably improved if a new front could be established against Germany either in the west (northern France) or the north (Arctic).

In fact Churchill had already started to think about the latter option and, even before the start of 'Barbarossa', the Future Operational Planning Section of the British Joint Planning Staff had begin in April 1941 to consider operations in Norway. This consideration was only cursory, but then Churchill’s interest led to the preparation of a fuller study of such an operation.

The Joint Planning Staff’s paper of 19 May 1941 envisaged 'Dynamite' as the establishment of a beach-head in Norway as the first step toward an overland advance on Oslo, the capital of Norway, and this set the tone for all the following studies on operations in Norway by being generally lukewarm. The Joint Planning Staff dismissed the notion’s strategic objects, which had been seen as an intensification of economic pressure on Germany and the establishment of some sort of platform for future offensive action against Germany. As all but the Baltic parts of Germany were within the range of bombers based in England, the Joint Planning Staff arrived at the conclusion that the British would not gain any appreciable advantage by establishing air bases in Norway from which to attack Germany. Moreover, the requirement of two sea passages (between the UK and Norway and between Norway and Germany) and German control of their approaches, was a major factor militating against the use of Norway as an invasion base for any assault against the German mainland. The Joint Planning Staff therefore arrived at the recommendation that the capture of Stavanger alone could be a useful alternative, but even this would require a major reduction in the capability of the German army and, more especially, the German air force as the latter’s strength in Norway was in itself sufficient to render very unlikely the success of any amphibious assault.

It was this stage that the matter of any return to Norway remained until the Stalin tried to exert pressure on Churchill. As indicated by Stalin’s letter of July to Churchill, the Soviets called for Allied offensive action action in France and/or the Arctic. The Soviets went as far as to suggest a joint attack on northern Norway with the purpose of relieving the German pressure on Murmansk, which the Germans were threatening in 'Platinfuchs' from northern Finland. The Joint Planning Staff was again opposed as it believed that the demands of any 'Dynamite' on British naval and air power would be too great, but Churchill was adamant and the task of planning 'Dynamite' against Stavanger was allocated to General Sir Alan Brooke, the commander-in-chief, Home Forces, but the British military command’s lack of enthusiasm for the concept eventually filtered through to Churchill as the whole project was allowed to wither and die as other concepts for Norwegian operations came to the fore.