Operation Jackpot (i)

'Jackpot' (i) was the British occupation of Spitsbergen island off the north coast of German-occupied Norway (June 1942).

In the spring of 1942 the problems of the Allies� Arctic convoys were a major preoccupation for Admiral Sir John Tovey’s Home Fleet and the Admiralty, so it was inevitable that once again the British should turn their attention toward Spitsbergen, which lies almost directly to the north of the North Cape and therefore 'on the northern flank of the convoys' approach to the Soviet port of Murmansk. It was important for the Allied cause to prevent the Germans from establishing any naval or air bases there, and by September 1941, after the British had evacuated all the Allied inhabitants from the island after the 'Gauntlet' initial landing on 25 August, it had became known that a German meteorological party had established itself on Spitsbergen. The British had not been in the position to spare the forces required to locate and eliminate this party or to reoccupy the island.

But in May 1942, after a preliminary and very difficult reconnaissance by a Consolidated Catalina flying boat of Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté's RAF Coastal Command, a small Norwegian expedition sailed from Iceland. German bombers sank both of the expedition’s ships before the unloading of stores had been completed, however, and there followed a period of almost stumbling irregular operations as there were Allied and German parties in different places, and each side tried to support and supply its own force while attacking that of the other.

The British denial of Spitsbergen to the Germans owed much to a series of remarkable nights by a Catalina of RAF Coastal Command’s No. 210 Squadron under the command of Flight Lieutenant D. E. Healy. In very difficult and hazardous conditions, in the course of flights generally lasting some 24 hours, Healy’s flying boat carried supplies to the stranded Norwegians, attacked the German base, picked up some of the Allied party, sighted survivors of ships sunk in Arctic and performed a host of other tasks.

Warships accompanying Arctic convoys were on several occasions diverted to relieve, reinforce and supply the Norwegian expedition, and as a result it was clear by the autumn of 1942 that the Allies had prevented the Germans from securing a permanent base on Spitsbergen, and had a reasonable hold on the island for their own use.