After Great Britain was driven from continental Europe in disgrace, it realized that the offensive capabilities it wanted to employ against Germany must be tried elsewhere. Thus, after winning the battle of Britain, it shifted its main weight of forces to fight in the deserts of North Africa. The ensuing struggle eventually caused some cheer for the politicians in WhiteHall and the public, as the two sides slugged it out in 1941-42 until the Germans themselves suffered their first defeat. Britain, now assisted by the United States, finally vanquished their hated foe for the first time on the ground.

While this was going on, though, Britain still yearned for some sort of offensive capability in Europe. It was determined to find one because the humiliating withdrawal in 1940 had left Britain thirsty for revenge. It already worked with the resistance forces of occupied countries to infiltrate agents and establish an effective means of keeping the Germans off balance, but voices called for something more solid.

They needed to sew something in such a way that the Third Reich’s forces would truly feel the impact. In other words, they needed something that could inflict major blows quickly and be a true representation of Britain’s desire to storm the continent once again. So they turned to the only men able to provide such a capability… the Commandoes. And in an operation soon to come, they would use hundreds instead of handfuls of these warriors to get the job done in such a way that the results of it would be felt all the way to Berlin.

Combined Operations, the department to which the Commandoes reported, knew hitting places like occupied France and Holland were perfectly feasible, yet risky given the size of German forces in the countries and the number of targets they had in mind for this particular mission.

So, they looked north towards another country under Nazi rule. Norway. More specifically, a series of tiny, windswept islands just off the coast, inside the arctic circle, some 900 miles from Britain. They were known as the Lofoten Islands, and contained small ports ringed with fish oil processing facilities. In wartime fish oil was important for it was refined into glycerin, a primary ingredient for the manufacturing of high explosives. The ports of the islands were always busy loading the holds of cargo ships and shipping the product to the mainland, and perfect for a surprise attack.

A plan was devised in Winter 1941, and the requisite number of Commandoes that were needed to carry off such a mission determined at 500 men with support. It was the largest force to date, but entirely necessary to take and hold the islands, then destroy their facilities as well as the ships.

From the 1st Special Service Brigade, Commando Groups 3 and 4, they selected 250 men. No. 3 was commanded by Major J.F. Durnford-Slater, and No. 4 was commended by Lieutenant Colonel D.S. Lister. These two units would be supported by a section of Royal Engineers, as well as four officers and 48 other enlisted ranks of the Royal Norwegian Navy. All forces would come under the command of Rear Admiral L.H.K Hamilton, and would be transported by two landing ships surrounded by a flotilla of five destroyers.

Training began, and the operation was given the code name Claymore.