Operation Vestige

This was a British and Norwegian series of operations by the Special Operations Executive to attack German shipping along the west coast of German-occupied Norway with limpet mines attached by raiders in canoes (3 September 1943/8 May 1945).

The 'Vestige I' plan of 3 September/16 November 1943 was for the raiding party of three Norwegians (Harald Svindseth, Ragnar Ulstein and Nils Fjeld) to operate in the area between Bergen and Ålesund. The party was landed on 3 September by motor torpedo boat, and on the night of 23/24 September attacked the freighter Hermut in the Gulenfjord to the north of Bergen. The ship was damaged by the detonation of the limpet mines and had to be run ashore to avoid sinking. The party was picked up by motor torpedo boat on 16 November.

The parallel 'Vestige II plan of 3 September/17 November 1943 in the same area as 'Vestige I' was based on a two-man raiding party (L. Olsen and I. Næss) which was also landed on 3 September by motor torpedo boat, and initially attempted an attack in Askvoll harbour but was defeated by adverse weather. The two men moved to Ålesund, where they established contact with the ‘Antrum’ operation, and were collected on 17 November by a submarine chaser as part of a Special Intelligence Service operation.

The parallel 'Vestige III' of 3 September/17 November 1943 was based on a two-man raiding party (S. Synnes and H. Hoel), which was also landed on 3 September by motor torpedo boat, and on 6 October attacked the freighter Jantje Fritzen in Ålesund with six limpet mines. The ship was kept afloat after the detonation of the mines, and was towed to Bergen for repair. The two-man Norwegian party was collected together with the men involved in ‘Vestige II’.

The 'Vestige IV' operation of March 1944 was designed to attack shipping in the Egersund area. The three Norwegians of this party (K. Idsand, A. Åkre and K. Endresen) initially failed to carry out any attacks, although unsuccessful attempts were made later against U-boats. A small vessel was sunk in Flekkefjord harbour. The party remained in the field for the rest of the war, however, and early in 1945 was issued with new instructions and carried out a programme of sabotage against German military camps in the area.

The 'Vestige V' operation of 31 March/9 May 1944 was designed to attack shipping loading pyrites at Sagvåg on the island of Stord. The two Norwegians of this party (K. Vilnes and P. Ørstenvik) were delivered by a submarine chaser on 31 March, made several attempts to attack shipping but were again defeated by weather conditions, and were recovered by a submarine chaser on 9 May. There were plans to revive ‘Vestige V’ in August 1944, but the Special Intelligence Service objected and the plan was abandoned.

The 'Vestige VIII' operation of 12 April/1 May 1944 was designed to attack shipping in the Malm area of northern Trøndelag. The two Norwegians of this party (H. Hoel and I. Næss) were landed on 12 April at Skorpen from a submarine chaser but could not carry out any attacks as a result of adverse weather conditions and short nights, and were therefore recovered on 1 May.

The 'Vestige XII' operation of 16 March 1944 onward was designed to attack shipping in Søderfjord area. The three Norwegians of this party (A. Torkildsen, A. Gade-Torp and F. Brandt) were landed on 16 March from a submarine chaser which also delivered the party’s craft that, in this instance, comprised folding rather than fixed canoes. Conditions were so difficult that the party were eventually forced to flee to Sweden without carrying out any attacks.

The 'Vestige XIV' operation of 31 March 1944 was designed to attack shipping in Frederickstad and other Østfold ports. The three Norwegians of this party (R. Larsen, Ø. Hansen and B. Petersen) were dropped by air on 31 March with folding boats and diving suits. On the way to carrying out an attack the party was surprised and after an exchange of shots fled to Sweden. Although the party returned to the field at a later stage no attacks were undertaken.