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

From 70 Brigade
Jump to: navigation, search

(Source document WO176/331 at The National Archives).

9th October 1940

Details were set out in a one-page Appendix to the War Diary, dated 8th October, and effective on the 9th October, of the scale of arms distribution throughout the Battalion, both by sub-unit and location. Deficiencies were to be drawn from the Quartermaster’s Stores immediately, while any surplus weapons were to be returned to store forthwith.

(The document is of interest as it gives information on the manpower involved in each sub-unit, as well as the way in which they are armed. At this stage – in the Operation Order described later in this page - the instructions were for Companies to form four Platoons but the scale of weapons imply that the 10th Battalion Companies had three Platoons each at this date – based on the assumption that each Platoon had one anti-tank rifle, one 2” mortar and two or three Light Machine Guns [usually the Bren Gun]. Officers were armed with pistols and the men each carried a rifle. No provision in this table is made for Section Commanders to carry a sub-machine gun, as happened shortly afterwards when the Thompson became standard issue for Section Corporals.

The table also usefully lists the structure of the Headquarters Company and shows it as including:-

Company Headquarters – one Officer and six men.

Carrier Platoon – one Officer and 29 men, with seven Light Machine Guns and two anti-tank rifles.

Anti-Aircraft Platoon – one Officer and 15 men, with four Light Machine Guns and four anti-tank rifles.

Mortar Platoon – one Officer and 16 men with two 3” Mortars.

Pioneer Platoon – 20 men with one anti-tank rifle and two 2” mortars.

Tank-hunting Platoon – one Officer and 30 men, with one Light Machine Gun, two anti-tank rifles and a 2” mortar.

Signals Platoon – one Officer and 35 men.

Administrative Platoon – two Officers and 92 men.

Each of the Rifle Companies has between 139 and 153 men – with six Officers each, while Battalion HQ contains seven Officers and 48 men.)

19th – 20th October 1940

There took place a visit by Lord Gort in his role as Inspector General to the Forces. He watched various schemes being carried out by the Battalion.

20th October 1940

Pte White M 4455597 was accidentally killed when the Bren Carrier he was driving overturned.

(Pte White, who was stationed at Blonduos, is one of only two casualties buried in the village Cemetery, which overlooks the sea. His grave is tended well, like others looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who have been of considerable help during the compilation of this work. His DLI Regimental Number suggests he enlisted in May 1939, but this cannot be proved without access to his personal records.)

23rd October 1940

The rest of the Brigade’s transport arrived on the S.S. BLACKHEATH.

24th October 1940

The rest of the Brigade arrived at Reykjavik on board H.M.Transports EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA and ANTONIA, escorted by the Destroyers H10, H44 and the armed merchant cruiser H.M.S. LETITIA.

The Brigade strength included the 143rd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery and 187 Field Ambulance.

25th October 1940

An Artillery Battery arrived at Borganes.

28th October 1940

At 09:00 hours the balance of the Company transport moved from Reykjavik to Borganes – three vehicles were abandoned due to mechanical defects, bad roads and poor weather – the convoy arrived at 23:00 hours.

29th October 1940

Two more vehicles arrived at Borganes, the drivers having lost their way during the night.

The three abandoned vehicles were successfully recovered by Motor Transport personnel.

(At some stage during October 1940 – the actual date is uncertain as the document in the file is undated – the Battalion issued Operational Order No. 2 – which ran to 9 pages – and there is probably one Appendix page missing from the file. This Order is the basis for the tasks of the Battalion in the event of an enemy seaborne landing.

As has been seen elsewhere in these War Diaries, the document is set out in a standard format – Information, Intention, Method, Administration and Inter-Communication.

INFORMATION – ENEMY. Germany may be expected to attack Iceland in conjunction with a main attack on Great Britain. This could be carried out by sea-borne troops in shallow draft boats or by raids on the important Ports.

INFORMATION – OWN TROOPS. The Battalion was expected to man defensive areas at Blonduos, Bordeyri, Akranes and Borganes. In addition, a Mobile Reserve would be maintained at Borganes to reinforce the Bordeyri area, to prevent penetration Southwards.

INTENTION. To deny enemy landings at the defensive areas to the last man and the last round and to move the Mobile Reserve to reinforce the above area. There was a Primary Role of reinforcing Bordeyri.

METHOD – GENERAL. All Rifle Companies to form four Platoons.

METHOD – DEFENSIVE AREAS. Blonduos – D Company, less one Platoon, and the Carrier Platoon, less one Section. Details set out in Appendix A as follows.

Blonduos was to be defended unless it became untenable, in which case the troops would withdraw Eastwards to form a defensive flank to prevent further enemy penetration into the area. The Fire Plan map is missing from the file. If withdrawal became necessary it would be done in phases, using high ground to cover movement and, should the road South be cut by the enemy, the force was to contact 146th Brigade, and come under their orders. Bordeyri – One Platoon of D Company – details on Appendix B. [This is the Appendix that is missing from the War Diary file.]

Borganes – One Platoon of A Company, One Platoon of C Company, a Composite Platoon and the Tank-hunting Platoon with one Section of the Anti-Aircraft Platoon of HQ Company – details on Appendix C as follows. Defensive posts were to be constructed in each Platoon area, in the expectation of a seaborne attack, and converted to Pillboxes as time permitted. Road blocks were to be set up. One Platoon was to be positioned left and one right, with the HQ Company Platoon as the reserve, and their Tank-hunting Platoon as the Mobile Reserve. The boundaries were set out on a map which, again, is missing from the file.

Akranes and area – B Company, plus a detachment from 160 Field Ambulance – details set out in Appendix D as follows.

The plan was to defend the town and deny it to the enemy, including denying HVITAVELLIR BRIDGE and maintaining that for the movement of our own troops. Defensive localities had already been prepared, including a position at the Bridge. One Platoon was planned to cover the Shipyard and beaches to North and South, together with the promontory West of the line between Marley Camp and the West Quay. A second Platoon was to cover the main quay and the beaches to its West. These positions were all intended to oppose any enemy landings from the sea. A Rifle Platoon, drawn from the Company, was to man a roadblock covering the approaches from Borganes and IMRIHOLMUR with one Section, while its remaining two Sections provided a reserve at Company HQ.

Two suitable concrete buildings for conversion to defensive blockhouses had already been reconnoitred – for occupation when circumstances warranted - one garage near the Shipyard area and one house near the Greenfields position. The latter would have supported the road block on the route from Akranes, which ran through that position. The positions would be permanently garrisoned once an attack was expected. [There were a considerable number of Appendices covering the expected matters but none seem to have survived to be included in the file]. The Appendix does mention a Naval Coast Watching Post at the extreme end of the Akranes promontory, manned by Naval personnel and with a field telephone.

MOBILE RESERVE – A and C Companies – less one Platoon each, plus HQ Company [Signals, Two Sections of the Anti-Aircraft Platoon, Mortar Platoon, One Section of the Carrier Platoon and the Administrative Platoon].

The action to be taken by the Battalion in the event of an enemy attack – notified by the Code Word “Julius” – was in two phases.

In the first phase, all troops were to be ready to move at ten minutes notice, reconnaissance parties from A, C and HQ Companies were to proceed to Battalion HQ, and all available civilian transport was to be requisitioned. One Platoon of B Company was to standby to move to HVITAVELLIR BRIDGE at ten minutes notice using transport to be requisitioned.

In the second phase – after the order to move had been given – the standby Platoon was to go to the HVITAVELLIR BRIDGE and take up positions for its defence. This was a key point in the defence scheme [see notes above from Appendix D].

The mobile column – the main part of the Battalion - would, on receipt of the move order, proceed by “bounds” to occupy defensive positions at the South end of HRUTAFJORDUR. The bounds were identified as:-

the bridge over the ravine at Telegraph Office, PRODUS [about 12 miles from Borganes]

the North end of the GRABRORARHRUN lava bed [about 19 miles from Borganes]. At this point C Company was expected to detach a Platoon for road flank protection.

The North end of the bridge over the stream at the hairpin bend North of KROKUR Telegraph Office [about 31 miles from Borganes]

The road junction at the South end of HRUTAFJORDUR. Once this had been reached successfully, A Company would send a detachment forward to STADUR, and C Company would send a detachment two miles further forward on the Bordeyri road on the East side of HRUTAFJORDUR.

Each bound was to be made good before the next was attempted.


As usual this section of the Order covered Rations, Stores, Equipment, Arms and ammunition, Transport and Medical. The troops were expected to sleep and cook in the field, and rations were to be brought up as necessary from Borganes, while sleeping bags, blankets and Tropal Coats were to be taken in transport. Normal ammunition scales to be used, plus first reserve, with Battalion reserve held under Unit arrangements. A mobile Regimental Aid Post was to be formed, travelling with Battalion HQ in the Mobile Column.


Civilian telephones were expected to be used, but with codenames and cipher employed to avoid security problems. Wireless stations were planned to be established with the Mobile Column and at Blonduos and Akranes. Battalion HQ would, depending on circumstances, either be at Borganes or with the Mobile Column. Appendix E to the Operation Order sets out in considerable detail the source, and deployment, of transport. This allows us to see who was expected to be in each vehicle, what stores it was to carry, and what proportion of the vehicles were expected to be requisitioned.

Runners were mounted on motorcycles, as were the Regimental Police, M.T. fitters and several of the Intelligence Clerks and Signallers. The Regimental Sergeant Major had particular responsibilities for the reserve of ammunition, and travelled in the 30cwt truck in which it was carried.

The Medical component of the Mobile Column consisted of the Medical Officer and Sergeant, travelling in a 15cwt truck with the medical stores, plus an ambulance containing the equipment for a Regimental Aid Post plus two stretcher-bearers.

Company troops were largely expected to be carried in requisitioned buses.)

To contact the author by e-mail with any queries, or to send information - click here.