The Germans occupied Norway in April 1940, but it wasn’t until a year later that the British prepared their response: it took the form of a commando raid on Lofoten. The aims were threefold: firstly, it was thought that a successful attack would boost British morale; secondly, it was a way of tying German troops down to garrison duty along the Norwegian coast; and thirdly, the British wanted to destroy as much of Lofoten’s plentiful supply of herring oil as they could, to prevent the Germans using it as a raw material in the manufacture of their explosives.

In April 1941, the first commando raid hit Svolvær, Stamsund and Henningsvær, while a second, a few months later, attacked Reine and nearby Sørvangen at the southern end of Lofoten. The first was the more successful, bagging two thousand prisoners and destroying hundreds of barrels of oil, but the Germans extracted a bitter revenge by burning down the houses of all those Norwegians deemed to have been sympathetic to the invaders.

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