Operation Archery was a raid that was carried out by the British Commandos during World War II. The raid occurred on Vaagso island in Norway on December 27, 1941, resulting in a successful Allied operation, where all objectives were accomplished as planned. Few casualties were sustained by the British with a total of eight supporting aircraft were downed along with twenty-two ground troops. German casualties numbered around 130 and ten ships were sunk. The main objective of the raid was to destroy the fish oil production vats located on the island that were being used to produce high explosives for Germany. More importantly, the raid was meant to make the German High Command choose to deploy thousands more troops to defend Norway from attack which would then weaken forces along the Eastern Front.

Furthermore, the raid on Vaagso was part of a string of raids launched almost every two weeks in late 1941 to early 1942 in order to probe German defenses for a larger invasion and to disrupt German troop movements.[1] Some of the more famous raids include The St. Nazaire Raid and the The Dieppe Raid; these raids of which took place in France. Another raid which took place in Norway just earlier was Operation Anklet

Planning and Preparation

For the raid, the British had organized around 550 commandos to take part in the raid, and had acquired four destroyers, a light cruiser, a submarine, and two large landing ships which deployed smaller LCAs. Also in support of the raid was the RAF which had agreed to send in support aircraft to attack German troops.

Germany had several hundred men located in the general area ready to repulse the attack and they were highly specialized in close quarters combat after fighting on the Eastern Front, but dazed and confused, they could only do so much to defend the town.[2] British forces set sail for Vaagso island on the 26th of December, 1941.

The Battle

Operation Archery 2

British Officer O'Flaherty being escorted to a dressing station to receive aid for being hit by a sniper's bullet in the right eye

The battle had begun early in morning with a preparatory bombardment by British warships and a short bombardment by RAF bombers to cover the landings. The landings were split up into five groups with one acting as a reserve force. However, as resistance stiffened with one of the commando groups, this fifth group was quickly deployed to help quell the German garrisons. Several hours later, the resistance had faded and the commandos were all but ready to disembark with their successes. The garrison in the town was defeated, the defenses destroyed, and the fish oil tanks still alight. The commandos then left with one hundred and twenty German prisoners and an unexpected prize, a complete copy of all of the German Kriegsmarine Naval codes used with the Enigma Machine


  1. Ford. Ken. Operation Archery: The Commandos and the Vaagso Raid 1941. Osprey Publishing. (2011), Page 11-12

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