Operation EGV

This was a British two-part naval undertaking ('EGV1' and 'EGV2') in which ships of Admiral Sir John Tovey’s Home Fleet departed Scapa Flow to operate in the northern waters around Murmansk and Arkhangyel’sk in northern Russia soon after the Germans' launch of their 'Barbarossa' invasion of the USSR (23 August/14 September 1941).

The ships of this Force 'M' were the fleet carrier Victorious, heavy cruisers Devonshire and Suffolk, and destroyers Eclipse, Escapade and Inflefield.

As a first stage of the undertaking, Force 'M' was involved in the evacuation of the entire Norwegian population of the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen to the north of German-occupied Norway and the closure of the island’s coal mines to prevent their exploitation by the Germans should they ever decide to occupy Spitsbergen.

On 1 September the British trawler Hazel, Belgian trawler Van Oost and 6,897-ton British tanker Oligarch had arrived at Sveagruva in Spitsbergen, and on the following day the light cruiser Nigeria and destroyers Antelope, Anthony and Icarus had reached the Gronfjord on the same island with the 21,5178-ton troopship Empress of Canada from Arkhangyel’sk to embark the Norwegian civilian population, and the light cruiser Aurora departed Sveagruva for the Gronfjord.

On 2 September, the British warship group centred on Victorious departed Sardam Bay in Spitsbergen to undertake an air attack on a German convoy spotted to the north of Tromsø in occupied Norway. The 8,402-ton oiler Aldersdale refuelled the ships before they departed and then awaited their return on 5 September with the destroyer Escapade.

On 3 September Hazel, Van Oost and Oligarch departed Sveagruva after 'EGV1' and 'EVG2' had ended. The Spitsbergen community had been embarked on Empress of Canada, and the town had then been demolished. The cruisers, destroyers and the troopship (Force 'A') departed Spitsbergen for the Clyde river.

On 4 September, the cruisers were detached from the force.

On the day before this, in 'EGV1', Victorious launched aircraft to attack a German convoy off Tromsø, but as the clear weather provided no opportunity to make a cloud-shielded attack, the aircraft did not attack the convoy and returned to the carrier as ordered.

German air reconnaissance spotted Force 'M', and the rendezvous with Force 'L' for 'Strength' was altered to a position to the North of Hope island.

During the night, Force 'A' detached Empress of Canada, escorted by three destroyers, to head to Scapa Flow, while the rest of the force searched for German shipping off Sværholthavet in Norway.

On 14 September Escapade, Hazel, Van Oost and Oligarch arrived at Reykjavik, Iceland, from Sveagruva, Spitsbergen.

On 10 September, Force 'M' with the fleet carrier Victorious, heavy cruiser Devonshire and destroyers Matabele, Punjabi and Somali departed Bell Sound for 'EGV.2', and the heavy cruiser Suffolk rejoined the force at sea.

On 12 September Victorious launched a three-part air attack. The first and second forces searched for German shipping between Bodø and Jeldenfjord in Norway, while the third force attacked the power station and aluminium factory at Glomfjord in Norway. The aircraft reported torpedoing a 2,000-ton ship, attacked several small ships at Bodø, and damaged
the power station in Glomfjord. They also dropped bombs on the German direction-finding radio station on the island of Røst.