Operation Henry (i)

This was a British operation, in response to ‘Weserübung’, to land some 350 Royal Marines and seamen of the light cruisers Glasgow and Sheffield at Namsos, on the west coast of central Norway, by means of three destroyers (13 April 1940).

The cruisers had departed Scapa Flow in the Orkney islands group on 11 April with the destroyers Afridi, Mashona, Matabele, Mohawk, Nubian, Sikh and Somali on a sweep to locate and destroy German shipping taking troops to Norway as part of ‘Weserübung’, and ‘Henry’ (i) was schemed as a preliminary step toward the delivery of the more substantial Allied forces earmarked for the recapture of Trondheim in what became ‘Maurice’ (ii).

This was the first British landing of the Norwegian campaign. A force of about 350 Royal Marines and seamen, under the command of a marine officer, Captain W. F. Edds, were landed by destroyers at dusk, men from the cruiser Sheffield moving into position in the area to the east of Namsos, and those from Captain F. H. Pegram’s Glasgow in the area to the south of the village of Bangsund, pending the arrival of the 2,165 men of Brigadier C. G. Phillips’s 146th Brigade. The British parties encountered no opposition, though Pegram was certain that their presence had been spotted from the air; the Germans had in fact intercepted a British signal of 12 April which mentioned Namsos and with Mosjøen as suitable for a landing. A small military advance party which accompanied the expedition reported early in the morning of the following day after consultation with Norwegian officers: the report stated that the Germans had made a daily air reconnaissance; that there was very small chance of concealment for any considerable force at Namsos or Bangsund; that local deployment was impossible as a result of the snow, for which the British lacked equipment; and that a move to the south by any force greater than battalion strength would be both slow and conspicuous from the air. Major General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, the British commander for Norway, arrived across the North Sea by flying boat on 15 April, but was delayed by an air raid in the Namsenfjord, in which the only staff officer accompanying him was wounded.

A later arrival, on 18/20 April, was the 5th Demi-Brigade des Chasseurs Alpins, which was transported and landed by three French armed merchant cruisers (5,818-ton El Djezair, 5,079-ton El Kantara and 5,818-ton El Mansour) under the command of Contre-amiral Jean Emmanuel Cadart. This FP.1 convoy was escorted by the French destroyers Bison, Epervier and Milan. Other elements of this French undertaking were the carriage and landing of supplies by the transport Ville d’Oran in the FP.1B convoy escorted by the destroyers Chevalier Paul, Maillé-Brézé and Tartu, and supported by the light cruiser Emile Bertin under the command of Contre-amiral Edmond L. H. M. Derrien. More distant cover was provided by the British battle-cruiser Repulse.

As the convoy approached its destination during the evening of 18 April, U-34 attacked the cruiser, and in the morning of 19 April U-46 attacked one of the destroyers, but these were both unsuccessful as a result of torpedo deficiencies. During the afternoon of 19 April the convoy was met by the British light anti-aircraft cruiser Cairo. While they were being unloaded, the French ships were attacked by Junkers Ju 88 bombers of Hauptmann Claus Hinkelbein’s II/Kampfgeschwader 30, and Emile Bertin was damaged. As the cruiser left Namsos, she was attacked unsuccessfully by U-51. On 20 April the British sloop Auckland was damaged by a bomb and the trawler Rutlandshire was driven ashore, later to be salvaged by the Germans and commissioned as Ubier.