11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry War Diary July 1941

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1st July 1941 Hafnafjordur

The weather continued to be warm and fine.

2nd July 1941

At 17:30 hours a Lecture was given by Captain Hamilton on “The Umpiring of Exercises” for all Officers and Senior NCOs.

4th July 1941

The Icelandic newspaper “Morgenbladid” announced that American troops would arrive in Iceland during July.

5th July 1941

A Course of six Lectures on Map Reading for Senior NCOs, given by Lieut. R.S. Dyson, commenced.

6th July 1941

At 17:00 hours a large convoy escorted by large American Naval Forces arrived at Reykjavik. Much excitement and speculation took place by all.

7th July 1941

A G.o.C’s Order of the Day was issued, announcing the arrival of American troops. The Order is set out on Appendix A attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

At 11:00 hours a practice of the Field Firing Scheme took place at SANDSKEID.

9th July 1941

A Field Firing Scheme took place in the SANDSKEID – LYKLAFELL area. The details are ser out on Appendix B, a copy of which is attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

10th July 1941

A Brigade Exercise took place between 1st Tyneside Scottish and 11th DLI, with 11th DLI providing the Umpires.

11th July 1941

At 04:30 hours a Force Signal Exercise took place – Battalion HQ moved to KEFLAVIK as part of the exercise.

12th July 1941

The weather continued to be warm and fine.

Captain W.B. Kirkup returned from his Course in the UK. 2/Lieut Humphries returned from a Motor Transport Course in the UK.

14th July 1941

Brigadier P. Kirkup D.S.O., M.C. inspected the Guard of Honour provided by the Battalion.

17th July 1941

At 03:05 hours a Junkers 90 passed over in a South-Westerly direction at about 15,000 feet. Catalinas and Hurricanes were in the air by 03:30 but were unable to engage the enemy.

Ten Officers went to watch a Field Firing demonstration by 147th Infantry Brigade.

18th July 1941

An Inter-Battalion Exercise without troops versus 10th DLI. Battalion and Company HQ’s took part. The information about the exercise is set out on Appendix C – a copy of which was attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

19th July 1941

“R” Company personnel, totalling 30, took over the guard of VATNSMYRI Aerodrome at 18:00 hours under the command of Lt Rowell.

20th July 1941

The personnel from the Aerodrome guard were relieved and moved to the Transit Camp in order to do Aerodrome work while the Battalion was on the Force Exercise. Lt Rowell returned to the unit.

21st July 1941

Force Exercise No 6 commenced – information was set out on Appendix D attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

D Company was left holding the local defensive positions, and this required a temporary amendment to the Hafnafjordur Operation Order – the revision was attached to the War Diary as Appendix E – for details see below.

22nd July 1941

The Force Exercise ended.

23rd July 1941

C Company mounted the VATNSMYRI Aerodrome guard. R Company personnel were recalled from the Transit Camp.

147th Infantry Brigade reconnaissance patrols which had been lost were now found and accommodated in the D Company lines.

24th July 1941

The Leave Party returned. Lt Col R.F. Ware M.C. returned from leave and resumed command of the Battalion.

25th July 1941

Lt Rowell was attached to D Company pending the return of Officers from leave.

27th July 1941

A Company relieved D Company at the KEFLAVIK Watching Post.

28th July 1941

Lt Nicholson and 2/Lt Dunnell were attached to the Base Ordnance Workshops for a week.

Lt Rowell commenced to run a three-day Gas Course for one Officer from each Company – the subject being “How to teach personal decontamination and recognition of gas”.

30th July 1941

A Battalion Mobile Scheme took place towards GRIMSHOLL. The whole Battalion took part (less three Platoons and the B Echelon). Information on the Scheme was set out in Appendix F, a copy of which was attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

Appendices attached to the 11th DLI War Diary for July 1941.

Appendix A – “Order of the Day” 7th July 1941.

The text of the Order was as follows:-

“For strategic reasons, England wishes to concentrate her Forces. Iceland is therefore inviting the U.S.A. to protect the island during the War.

Today we are deeply honoured by the arrival of a token reinforcement of the famous U.S. Marines to co-operate mutually with us in safeguarding Iceland for democracy.

This is a historic moment on the road to Victory in the anti-Nazi campaign, when ove again the troops of the U.S.A. and Britain stand shoulder to shoulder in a common cause.

The British Forces in Iceland extend to the U.S. Marines the warmest of welcomes, and wish them the best of Good Luck.

To show their deep rooted confidence in their friends, all British ranks will appreciate every opportunity of paying the U.S. fighting Services the recognised compliments of our own Services.

H.O. Curtis Major-General Commanding, Iceland (C ) Force”.

Appendix B – Field Firing Exercise 9th July 1941 – LYKLAFELL.

The first part of the Appendix identified the Safety Officers and the system of signals to be employed during the exercise – which was due to involve live ammunition. The practice on 7th July would not involve any firing.

The convoy – the make-up of which was specified – was due to depart from SLINGSBY Camp. Exercise dress and equipment was described with the arrangements for the various exercise syndicates. Details of the ammunition allotted for the exercise was set out in a table, including Mortar rounds as well as rifle, Bren Gun and Sub-Machine Gun ammunition.

Embussing points for troops mounting their allotted vehicles were pinpointed with map references. The route to the exercise area was set out, with 11th DLI due to join on to the tail of the 1st Tyneside Scottish convoy. Parking areas were identified with the Brigade Light Aid Detachment located at the dispersal point to deal with any repair or vehicle recovery.

11th DLI’s No 2 Platoon was made responsible, under the Brigade Transport Officer, for the Anti-Aircraft protection of the vehicles involved in the exercise.

Troops were due to march from the dispersal point to LYKLAFELL 413003 and were expected to all be in position and ready to start the exercise at 10:20 hours. 187th Field Ambulance were providing a Medical detachment with motor ambulance and a stretcher-bearer party.

The exercise involved 10th DLI, 1st Tyneside Scottish (less two Companies), two Companies and the Reconnaissance Platoon of 11th DLI (under the command of 1st Tyneside Scottish), 143rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery, one Company of the 1/9th Manchesters (machine gunners), and two sub-sections of 294 Field Company, Royal Engineers. Many of the 11th DLI Officers were acting as Safety Officers.

The purpose of the Exercise was to demonstrate and practise the employment of Army Tanks in co-operation with Infantry and supporting arms. It was divided into three phases:-

Phase 1 – The clearing of obstacles including an Anti-Tank Minefield.

Phase 2 – A Tank attack against organised resistance in close co-operation with Infantry and supported by Artillery, Mortars and Medium Machine Guns.

Phase 3 – The exploitation of success by an Infantry Battalion.

The Exercise scenario postulated enemy landings of parachute troops and airborne infantry at the SANDSKEID landing ground and from sea planes landing on Pingvellir Lake. While enemy movement westward had been held due to vigorous action by the Force Reserve a lines of communication link had been maintained by them along the Pingvellir – GEITHALS road.

The enemy had been driven off the SANDSKEID landing ground by the evening of 8/9th July and the Force’s Forward Defence Lines stretched in a line through LYKLAFELL. Two Squadrons of Army Tanks (represented by Carriers in the Exercise) had arrived in Iceland and the G.o.C. had decided to attack the enemy Southern flank positions with them at first light on 9th July (deemed to be 11:00 hours) in close co-operation with Infantry and supporting arms.

To prepare for the attack 70th Infantry Brigade, supported by 143rd Field Regiment and two Platoons of the Manchesters with their M.M.Gs. had been deployed between LYKLAFELL 413003 and VIFILSFELL 4095. Before attacking, enemy obstacles some 500 yards North of LYKLAFELL would have to be cleared – including an Anti-Tank minefield. The two sub-sections of 294 Field Company were detailed to carry out this task.

Appendix C – Inter-Battalion Exercise 10th DLI – 11th DLI – 18th July 1941.

The objectives of the exercise were set out as General Ideas and Special Ideas – the latter being issued to CO’s immediately before the start of the exercise.

The general objective of the exercise was to practice the Battalions in the mechanism of command in mobile operations – which is why only the Battalion’s and Companies’ headquarters were actually taking part. The scenario was based on an invasion of Iceland with 11th DLI simulating the enemy force and 10th DLI carrying out an operational role. The attack was deemed to have fallen on Hvalfjordur in the Western Sector and on Hafnafjordur and Reykjavik in the South West Sector. Both ports had been subjected to a “Zeebrugge” style of attack with, in addition, parachute troops being landed.

As this material was part of the 11th DLI War Diary only their copies of the instructions were filed. They were simulating being a Parachute Battalion landing in the Hafnafjordur area reinforcing an earlier paratroop landing following a heavy bombing raid and armour being landed via transport ships - aimed at securing ground from which VATNSMYRI Aerodrome and the seaplane base could be brought under observation and direct fire.

The CO was free to make his own arrangements for concentrating the Battalion although was briefed not to move further forward than a line from HOVINGHAM LANE 206073 to the HOSPITAL 2400. The Company at SLINGSBY HILL was to represent a Parachute Company making a reconnaissance and feeding information back to HQ.

Appendix D – Force Exercise No 6 from 21st to 23rd July 1941.

The exercise scenario was again based on a potential invasion – largely by air but with key seaborne elements, although both ships and aircraft were simulated for the purpose of the exercise.

Effectively the 70th and 147th Infantry Brigades were pitted against each other.

11th DLI, less D Company, were a simulated enemy seaborne landing force, deemed to have some ashore at Reykjavik on 21st July and to have taken up a position, with their supporting artillery, at SALMON BRIDGE 2606 as a covering force to protect the rest of the invading force as they landed. A group of 30 men were expected to have landed at Kaldadarnes Aerodrome during the morning. Participant troops were to adopt differentiating headdress – steel helmets in the case of 70th Brigade and Field Service Caps with a blue band for 147th Infantry Brigade.

No live ammunition was to be taken on the exercise but, as usual, to guard against real invasion or other enemy threat, live rounds would be carried in sealed boxes easily available for distribution if and when necessary.

The remainder of the document was concerned with the administrative and transport arrangements. The further briefing papers on the conduct of the exercise, apart from a single sheet describing the Movement Instructions for the Battalion and the timing of the embussing and debussing process, were not filed with the War Diary, so it is feasible that they were destroyed for security reasons at the time.

Appendix E – Force Exercise No 6 from 21st to 23rd July 1941 – Defence of Hafnafjordur.

While the rest of the Battalion was taking part in the Force Exercise No 6 over several days, amended arrangements had to be made for the real defence of Hafnafjordur.

The intention was…”Although the number of troops is small the Sub-Sector will be defended to the last man and the enemy denied a firm footing whatever the cost”.

The defence was in the hands of D and R Companies as follows:-

D Company:-

16 Platoon (less one Section) – HVALEYRI Camp.

17 Platoon – GARDAR Camp.

18 Platoon – TOWN AREA.

One Section 16 Platoon – KEFLAVIK.

The Officers commanding B and D Companies were to detail six men with experience of Medium Machine Guns to man those Posts in the case of genuine emergency – they would be attached to the relevant Platoons of D Company.

C Company:-

The Officer commanding was to detail two NCOs and nine men from the Company to take over the guard of AMOTHERBY Camp – principally to mount guard over the stock of reserve ammunition and to provide a “prowler” guard in the Camp.

A Company:-

The Officer commanding was to detail two Corporals from the R Company men at AMOTHERBY and six men of A Company to remain in SLINGSBY Camp. They should have some M.M.G. experience and would take over the guns in an emergency.

B Company:-

A Cook would be detailed from the Company to remain at HVALEYRI Camp.

A Section of the 1/9th Manchesters would remain in CLOISTERS Camp as support.

Major K.K. Walmsley of 1st Tyneside Scottish would command the South Western Sector during the exercise period and the Sub-Sector would be commanded by 2/Lieut Grant of 11th DLI. The normal emergency codes and signals would remain in use.

Arrangements were made for rations, transport and medical cover and the contact telephone numbers were made available should an emergency arise – the exchange being manned by R Company signallers, and the telephones in each Camp by orderlies from D Company.

Appendix F – Brigade Commander’s Exercise – 30th July 1941.

This described the arrangements for a Mobile Column Exercise, with a description of the provision for the security of the Sub-Sector while the exercise was in progress. The aim was to practise the Battalion in the Mobile Column role.

The lessons were to be:-

Movement by bounds of main bodies and forward protective detachments.

Main bodies not moving further forward until the bound ahead was reported clear of enemy.

Clearing of bounds which offer facilities for debussing.

Adequate communications within columns, by signal, Wireless Telegraphy and Despatch Rider.

The whole of 11th DLI was to take part in the exercise other than a Platoon each from B, C and D Companies, Cooks and administrative personnel and a skeleton Platoon from the Signals Platoon.

The Battalion was to be fully motorised – except for the B Echelon which would not take part – and all sub-units were to be brought up to G1098 scale of transport, including troop transport, for this purpose. Details were given of the numbers and sizes of vehicles to be allocated to each Camp.

No live ammunition or fixed bayonets were to be used – this was a “blank-firing” exercise.

The exercise scenario envisaged the Battalion in mobile reserve in the context of an expected imminent invasion of Iceland. Transport sufficient to move the whole Battalion had been provided and the unit was ready to move at 30 minutes’ notice.

At 09:00 hours on 30th July a report had been received of more fishing trawlers than usual putting into KEFLAVIK and landing strangers who began commandeering transport. Communication with the Post had been lost and the Battalion was then put at 10 minutes’ notice to move.

At 09:30 hours the Section defending the KEFLAVIK landing ground reported being dive-bombed and machine-gunned, following which communication with them was also lost.

At 09:55 the CO was contacted by the Brigade Commander with a series of verbal orders as follows:-


The information set out above.

G.o.C. expects further attacks elsewhere at any moment.


The Battalion is to dislodge the enemy from the KEFLAVIK Peninsula and drive him into the sea.


No supporting arms are available except one flight of close support aircraft.


A No 11 set has already reported to you to provide a link to Brigade HQ.

There is an RAF “tentacle set” at Brigade HQ.

Move at once – best of luck.

For the purposes of the exercise Companies were to “stand-to” at 10 minutes’ notice from 09:30 hours. The Carriers were to report to Companies as follows:-

One Section to the Officer Commanding B Company, who would be acting as forward Company in the Order of March.

The Carrier Platoon, less two Sections, to CLOISTERS Camp to move with the Command Group.

The remaining Carrier Section to join A Company who would be acting as No 2 Company.

D Company would form No 3 Company.

C Company would form No 4 Company.

The defence of the Sub-Sector would be in accordance with the arrangements set out in the Hafnafjordur Operation Order. The Infantry left to man the defences would be:-

One Platoon of B Company – HVALEYRI Area.

One Platoon of C Company – GARDAR Area.

One Platoon of D Company – TOWN Area.

The Officers commanding B and D Companies were to ensure that the defending Platoons contained men who were experienced in using Medium Machine Guns.

SLINGSBY, AMOTHERBY and CLOISTERS Camps were to be defended by the administrative personnel. Lieut P.A. Johnson was to take command of the defence details with his base at MILNSBRIDGE Camp – with a remit to ascertain from the Company Commanders which Platoons were to form his command, and the identity of his subordinates.

The emergency Code Words would be as normal.

The Commander of R Company was to detail men to man the telephones. Medical cover would be provided by 187th Field Ambulance, who would leave one orderly behind to deal with minor conditions and injuries.

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