Review by D.M. Knights
After the British were driven from continental Europe in 1940, Winston Churchill realized that the British Army would not be strong enough to return for years, yet he saw the need for attacks on the continent in order to maintain a credible threat to Germany and to give hope to the occupied countries. Churchill had an obsessive focus on Norway ever sense the outbreak of WWII, with disastrous consequences in the Norwegian campaign of April-May 1940. Now however, Norway made sense as an area where the hit and run raids contemplated by Churchill could be implemented.
The raid on Vaagso seems a bit weird at first blush as the target wasn’t a radar, gun emplacement or airfield, but rather the target were several fish oil plants. While fish oil plants don’t seem particularly military, the fish oil was used to make vitamin supplements which U-boat crews needed due to the lack of sunlight exposure. Also the fish oil was used to make glycerin, a vital component of explosives.
The town of South Vaagso on Vaagso Island had 4 or 5 fish oil plans. The island was just off the mainland of Norway and was guarded by a small infantry detachment of the Wehrmacht 181st Inf. Div. as well as some naval troops. There were also 6 ancient 10.5cm WWI era German guns on the Island of Maaloy which lay next to the town of South Vaagso and protected its harbor.
This book does an excellent job, in its 80 pages of telling the story of the preparation for the raid, the raid itself and its aftermath. It is an exciting tale well worth devoting an hour or two reading the book. In addition to a well told story the book is illustrated with maps which help make the story clear, as well as many photos most taken during the raid as the British sent along combat photographers so they could exploit the propaganda value of the raid.
I particularly enjoy small unit action stories. This makes this particular book even more enjoyable. If you enjoy the story, you can also read the old Bantam War Book, The Vaagso Raid by Jospeh H. Devins, Jr. which was first published back in 1968. It makes a nice companion to the Osprey Operation Archery book.