Operation Lombard

This was a British diversionary naval operation against German shipping along the north coast of German-occupied Norway, in the area of Ålesund, to distract German attentions from north-western France and so support the imminent ‘Overlord’ (28 May/2 June 1944).

The operation was extemporised after the cancellation of ‘Tiger Claw’ and ‘Cambridge’, and was undertaken by carrierborne aircraft of a detachment of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser’s Home Fleet, namely Force 7 under the command of Vice Admiral Sir Henry Moore, the fleet’s second in command. Force 7 comprised the fleet carriers Victorious and Furious, heavy cruisers Berwick and Devonshire, and destroyers Nubian, Wager, Wakeful, Whelp and Wizard, and departed Scapa Flow in the Orkney islands group on 28 May for its designated flying-off position off the Altafjord area.

Off the Færoe islands group, Force 7 was strengthened by the arrival of the destroyers Marne, Matchless, Meteor, Milne and Musketeer after these had fuelled at Skaalefiord in the Færoe islands group; this allowed Nubian and Whelp to be detached back to Scapa Flow.

Before the British ships reached their flying-off position on 30 May, Milne intercepted a sighting report from a U-boat believed to be within 30 miles (48 km). The combination of this and reports of wholly unfavourable flying conditions in the target area persuaded Moore to cancel ‘Tiger Claw’ and ‘Cambridge’, and instead to head south to undertake ‘Lombard’ in the area of Ålesund.

The ships of Force 7 reached the appropriate flying-off position in good flying conditions on 1 June. A strike force of six Fairey Barracuda attack aircraft and 22 Vought Corsair fighter-bombers was launched from Victorious, and another of 10 Barracuda attack aircraft and 12 Supermarine Seafire fighters from Furious. The aircraft then made for and attacked a German convoy that had been sighted and reported by a de Havilland Mosquito reconnaissance aeroplane of the RAF during the afternoon. All three merchant ships were hit by bombs and the escorting Flak ships were nearly all hit by the fighters, two of the former and one of the latter later sinking. There was no German air opposition, and the attackers lost one Barracuda and one Seafire.

After the returning aircraft had landed by 23.05, Force 7 retired at high speed to the south-west, and arrived back in Scapa Flow during the afternoon of 2 June. During these operations,

Fraser provided a diversion by departing Scape Flow on 29 June with the battleships Duke of York and Anson, light cruisers Bermuda and Jamaica, and destroyers Nubian, Wessex and Whelp. Fraser’s detachment head to the north, passing some 30 miles (48 km) east of the Færoe islands group on 30 May so that the ships would be spotted and reported by German reconnaissance aircraft. Fraser succeeded in his objective, for a German aeroplane sighted and reported his detachment. Fraser then reversed course and regained Scapa Flow in the afternoon of 30 June.