10th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, War Diary March 1941

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For a more complete picture of activity this War Diary should be read in conjunction with the 70th Infantry Brigade War Diary for the same month.

1st March 1941

The cost of the fire damage at Bordeyri was estimated at £30,000. The villagers depended entirely on the refrigeration plant and the Co-op Store – both of which buildings had been destroyed.

The cause of the extensive fire appeared to have been the rafters in the chimney of the billet catching fire.

Blonduos had some 4 to 5 feet of snow. Men stationed there carried a sack of coal each from the village – “like porters on an Arctic expedition” to heat their accommodation.

4th March 1941

A 50-man fatigue party dug out a trench linking the lake to the Power Station – working in three tiers in snow 20 feet deep.

5th March 1941

The Inter-Brigade relief of forces was completed. The 10th Battalion DLI was to be relieved by 1st /5th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment once the weather conditions permitted the interchange to take place. As a result, the 10th Battalion DLI temporarily came under the command of 147 Brigade.

(As a result of this change in command relationships, the activities of 147th Brigade assume a greater degree of interest in the history of these units, at least for a short while.

The Icelandic historian Fridthor Eydal, in his own research into the wartime activities in this part of Iceland, consulted the American National Archives and discovered some documents which were relevant to 147th Brigade. He kindly made these available to me and I have therefore attempted to extract from them material which is important in the context of the history of 10th DLI. The documents will be summarised in the relevant datal order and incorporated into this work. They have, of course, been formally declassified).

6th March 1941

The supply of electricity was restored to Blonduos. Fatigue parties were still battling the weather to maintain the Camps and the flow of supplies.

7th March 1941

A second ENSA Concert Party arrived – left for the north on 8th March and returned to give another show on 10th March. (A Veteran Carrier Driver – based at Blonduos at this time – claimed in interview that he and his colleagues never saw any of the entertainment groups during their stay in that Camp, and maintained that position even when this element of the War Diary was drawn to his attention).

8th March 1941

Heavy rain began falling and a thaw started. Even Icelandic lorries were finding the roads impassable. The use of transport was restricted inside camp due to the damage caused to roads and tracks in the prevailing weather conditions.

13th March 1941

The Commander of 147th Brigade addressed a secret memorandum to Iceland Force HQ in which he questioned the role of the 10th DLI detachment of troops and Carriers at Blonduos in the possible sets of cicumstances in which they might find themselves. The memorandum was written after discussions with Lt Col Marley, Battalion Commander.

The Brigadier understood that Lt Col Marley had discretion to either stand and fight an invading force, or to withdraw East or West, and apparently considered these to be rather vague as instructions. The Brigadier preferred the Lt Col to be ordered to make a strong a resistance to any invader as possible, but to have discretion to withdraw should circumstances warrant. If he did so, he would withdraw Southwards on to his own Battalion, would increase the volume of troops available as a Mobile Force in the North-West Sub-Sector and might be able to strike at the flank of any enemy who had landed South-West of Blonduos and were themselves moving South.

If the detachment had been placed at Blonduos with the aim of protecting the flank of 146th Brigade then the troops may have to be withdrawn to the West.

In addition, the Brigadier raised the questions of transport for the detachment and intercommunication. The detachment had available only one 8 cwt truck, one 15 cwt truck and one 30 cwt truck - thus requiring further transport to move the G1098 scale of equipment, ammunition and weapons in a withdrawal, with further transport still required for supplies. He had doubts as to whether local villagers would be in a position to make adequate civilian transport available. As regards intercommunication, alternative means would be required if indeed a flank protection role was required - possibly sourced from 146th Brigade themselves.

He went on to remind Force HQ that the Mobile Reserve in the North-West Sub-Sector was only one Company strong. If the troops and Carriers could be spared from the Blonduos-Reykerskoli area it would double the strength of the Reserve at Borganes and enable a better resistance to be offered at FRODHUS, HVITARVELLIR or other approaches leading to Hvalfjordur.

The Brigadier also pointed out that the existing instructions regarding the role of the Borganes Platoon, listed to immediately defend the HVITARVELLIR Bridge, was expected to return to its Mobile Reserve role as soon as it had been relieved by the Akranes Platoon.

His memorandum concluded with a request for guidance on the points raised and a response being sought on the final proposal to allocate the Carriers and troops from Blonduos to the Borganes Reserve.

Attached to the papers were location maps of the Blonduos and Reykerskoli Defences prepared in November 1940 and forwarded to Foce HQ by Lt Col Marley. In a later plan (April 1942) of the Blonduos Camp the huts damaged by fire were identified.

It is not known what response he did receive to the problems being posed.

19th March 1941

A Field General Court Martial tried 4453520 Pte Conlin J. for offences under the Army Act. (The War Diary gives no detail of the alleged offences, nor the result of the Court Martial).

20th March 1941

A Sherry Party was given for the local inhabitants by the Battalion. (Discussions with local Library staff in Borganes – mounting a local photographic history exhibition – suggest that relationships between the Brigade’s troops and the local population at these locations were reasonable. Mention has already been made of the high regard the local Icelanders had for Cpl Lowes – Section Commander at the Skagastrond post).

The weather had turned cold again, with a heavy frost.

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