10th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, War Diary November 1940

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5th-6th November 1940

The Battalion C.O. visited the troops stationed at Blonduos and at the coast watching station at Skagastrond – heavy snow fell overnight.

The men were apparently in good spirits despite this lonely and monotonous duty.

The locations, especially Skagastrond, were likely to be isolated in winter.

(Indeed, Skagastrond was cut off for six months, leaving the Section position, under the command of Cpl Lowes, possibly the British Army’s most isolated post. However, note must also be taken of the existence, in Iceland, of coast-watching positions held by Naval personnel, which were even smaller and, if possible, even more isolated.)

7th November 1940

The C.O. experienced a frozen journey back to Battalion HQ at Borganes.

9th November 1940

Several journeys had to be abandoned due to the state of the roads and the overall weather conditions.

10th November 1940

Officers skated on a frozen lake. B Company held a “Best Hut” competition. (This is a small example of the type of initiatives which Brigade Units developed to relieve monotony and maintain morale.)

15th – 18th November 1940

Brigadier Kirkup visited and inspected the Battalion. Commander Royal Engineers agreed to build a Concert Hall.

On the 16th November the Brigadier congratulated the Battalion, at a Social Evening for Officers and Sergeants, on upholding the good name of the Regiment.

19th November 1940

The Brigadier was finally able to leave for REYKIRSKOLI via Akranes having earlier abandoned the road journey. (The author can verify that the road conditions were indeed too hazardous to make the journey any earlier – from a conversation with the Brigadier’s driver.)

24th November 1940

Sets of Skis (and presumably relevant clothing) arrived – Ski Platoon training commenced. (This will be referred to in more detail in later pages.)

25th November 1940

A Concert Party from 1st Tyneside Scottish performed for the Battalion and then moved north on 26th November, returning on 29th November. (A conversation with a Veteran – stationed at Blonduos – included a reference to the fact that men stationed there “never did see any such organised entertainment”, so either his memory is slightly at fault, or the Concert Party did not actually reach Blonduos.)

28th November 1940

Severe gales at night – one building was blown away, several under construction were damaged. It was extremely difficult to walk, owing to the wind strength. (Veterans comments about the conditions in Iceland often refer specifically to the high and intense winds experienced as an element of the weather conditions.)

29th November 1940

A Battalion Boxing match was held – HQ Company beat A Company in the final. (Games and sporting activities were again a frequent attempt to maintain morale within Units stationed in Iceland.)

Appendix B to the November War Diary (other Appendices seem not to have survived) concerns the Reorganisation of the Battalion and is dated 28th November – to be brought into effect with effect from 1st December 1940. Again, the sub-Appendices which detail the various establishments are missing.

The Companies are listed in their operational locations and as being based on normal War Establishments.

Each Rifle Company – A, B, C, and D – is shown as having 5 Officers and 118 Other ranks.

HQ Company is shown with 7 Officers and 212 Other Ranks – with some attached to other Companies for tactical reasons, and the Carrier Platoon (less one Section) detached to D Company at Blonduos.

Battalion HQ has 7 Officers and 47 Other Ranks – with, again, some men detached for tactical reasons to other Companies, There is, in addition, a Y Company, consisting of 5 Officers and 71 Other Ranks – these are the first-line reinforcements, the use of which would be controlled by Battalion HQ.

There were also two separate Platoons – one of Specialists (C Platoon) – with two Officers and 30 Other Ranks at Borganes and a Rifle Platoon ( D) of 1 Officer and 30 Other Ranks at Akranes (it is thought this would be the Platoon earmarked to defend HVITAVELLIR BRIDGE).

It is unfortunate that the other supporting Appendices are missing as that would have given a good example of how the War Establishments – set out in Whitehall – were applied in practice in the Field.

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