Operation Performance

This was a British partially successful operation for a break-out by Norwegian merchant vessels, supported by British warships and aircraft, from Sweden to the UK (31 March/1 April 1942).

Planned by the Special Operations Executive, this operation was a logical successor to the similar ‘Rubble’ of January 1941, when five Norwegian merchant ships had broken out through the Skagerrak from Göteborg and reached the UK under escort of two cruiser and destroyer forces despatched to their aid by Admiral Sir John Tovey, commander of the Home Fleet.

The Admiralty authorised the second effort on 11 March 1942. A number of difficulties, including adverse weather, led to the operation’s postponement to the evening of 31 April, when the 10 merchantmen left Göteborg to attempt to break through to the UK via the Kattegat and Skagerrak. No aircraft or warship cover could be provided during the first day, but on 1/2 April Captain A. K. Scott-Moncrieff’s force of six destroyers (Escapade, Eskimo, Faulknor, Valorous, Vanity and Wallace) and aircraft of Air Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas’s RAF Fighter Command and Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferté’s RAF Coastal Command were despatched.

Only two tankers (the 10,324-ton BP Newton and 461-ton Lind) reached the UK. The 12,358-ton whaling depot ship Skytteren, 6,222-ton tanker Buccaneer, 1,470-ton freighter Gudvang and 1,282-ton freighter Charente were either sunk by German warships (V 908, V 1604, V 1609, V 1612 and V 1613) or were scuttled by their crews, while the 6,305-ton tanker Rigmor was sunk by German torpedo bombers and the 5,343-ton tanker Storsten succumbed to a mine. The two remaining freighters, the 5,653-ton Lionel and 5,263-ton Dicto, returned to Göteborg.

The episode had major political repercussions. There was an exchange of strongly worded diplomatic letters between Germany and Sweden, the Swedes were extremely angry that the British had orchestrated the illegal armament of the ships despite the fact that they were interned in a neutral country, and the Norwegian government-in-exile was very unhappy with the British about the loss of so many ships. This was one of the reasons why a later plan, for the escape of the two ships which had returned to Göteborg, was not implemented.