Operation Gunhouse

This was an Allied unrealised plan for a special forces mission to sabotage the German airfield at Lakselv near Banak in German-occupied Norway (February 1943).

The first proposals for an air facility at Lakselv had resulted from Norwegian military considerations in the early 1930s. Despite its policy of neutrality, Norway feared the possibility of an occupation by foreign powers to take advantage of the country’s strategic position. The Norwegian military therefore wanted to build airfields throughout the country to increase the deployability of its air force’s assets. The Finnmark region was regarded as a key location, given the increased level of Soviet militarisation on the Kola peninsula. Increased funding became available from 1937, which allowed a triangular runway arrangement to be built Banak in the following year. This was used by a detachment of the Norwegian naval air service.

Banak was taken over by the Luftwaffe during the German occupation of Norway during World War II. Within the context of 'Barbarossa', the Germans planned an attack on the northern part of the USSR, this 'Platinfuchs' undertaking to be launched from Finnmark, in which Banak became the primary air base in northern Norway. By September 1940, the main runway had been enlarged to 1,095 by 220 yards (1000 by 200 m), and was constructed largely of wooden planking. Three hangars were built, allowing the air base to accommodate bombers with limited maintenance capabilities.

The Banak air base’s primary role in World War II was as the launch pad for air operations against the Allied Arctic convoys passing to the north of the North Cape and to the south of Spitsbergen. Expansion of the base’s facilities continued, and by 1943 there were two parallel runways, each 1970 yards (1800 m) long. The base was largely destroyed during October 1944 as the Germans withdrew from Finnmark in 'Nordlicht' (iii).