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Operation EF (1941), also the Raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo took place on 30 July 1941, during the Second World War. After the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, Fleet Air Arm aircraft flew from the aircraft carriers HMS Victorious and Furious to attack merchant vessels in the northern Norwegian port of Kirkenes and the north Finnish port of Liinakhamari in Petsamo.
The War Cabinet and Admiralty pressed Admiral John “Jack” Tovey, commander of the Home Fleet, to attack, despite his reservations that the prospects for success were not commensurate with the risks. The operation was intended to be a surprise but in the far north, the midnight sun at that time of year made it unlikely that the raiding force would go undiscovered.
A German aircraft passed Force P and the carrier aircraft flew over a ship on their flights to Kirkenes and Petsamo, depriving the attackers of surprise. The Kirkenes force was intercepted by several German fighters as the aircraft attacked the few ships to be seen in the harbour, sinking one ship and setting another on fire. Eleven Fairey Albacores and two Fairey Fulmar fighters were shot down, for a loss of two Luftwaffe aircraft.
The force attacking Petsamo faced less opposition, losing a Fulmar to engine failure on the flight to the target and a Fulmar and an Albacore shot down during the attack. Minor damage was caused to jetties, a shipyard and oil storage tanks. The operation has been called an “unqualified disaster”; twelve Albacores and four Fulmars had been lost with nine men killed and 27 taken prisoner for no appreciable result; two Fulmar crewmen reached Russian territory after two days at sea in a dinghy.
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