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

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1st June 1941 Hafnafjordur.

C Company commenced the first of a series of 6 day route marches – the approximate distance being 60 miles, with daily schemes.

3rd June 1941

The CO visited the route march scheme at GRINDAVIK.

4th June 1941

An incendiary bomb demonstration was given to the civil population of Hafnafjordur by Lieut H Rowell and members of the Pioneer Platoon. A huge success. The notes are attached to the War Diary as Appendix A – for details see below.

Amendment No 1 to the 11th DLI Operation Instruction No 8, dated 15th April 1941, was issued. A copy is attached to the War Diary as Appendix B – for details see below.

5th June 1941

21:00 hours. The CO’s Exercise commenced in the area of the ALFTANES Peninsula and finished at approximately 04:00 hours on 6th June. Many lessons were taught, especially the difficulty of advancing through the narrow neck of the Peninsula with Artillery and Medium Machine Guns supporting the defence. The Exercise Instructions are attached to the War Diary as Appendix C – for details see below.

7th June 1941

The 11th DLI met the 1st Tyneside Scottish in the final of the Force Football Competition. A good game resulted in 1st TS winning three goals to two.

10th June 1941

The Battalion received the service of an Army Physical Training Corps Sergeant.

D Company commenced their six-day route march.

11th June 1941

Annexure VIII to the Hafnafjordur SUB-SECTOR Operation Order was issued and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix D – for details see below.

12th June 1941

11:00 hours. The G.o.C’s ceremonial parade was held at the Stadium, Reykjavik. Seventy Other Ranks from the Battalion under the command of Captain Smallwood took part. The parade was a success.

18:00 hours. A Force football match, England versus Scotland, resulted in a 5 goals to 2 win for “England”. Pte Armes of the Battalion was a member of the England XI.

13th June 1941

A C Company scheme directed by the CO took place in the form of an Attack on Battalion HQ at the CLOISTERS Camp. Notes are set out on Appendix E attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

15th June 1941

Amendment No 2 to Operation Instruction No 8 was issued and attached to the War Diary as Appendix F – for details see below.

16th June 1941

An amendment was issued to Annexure V of the Hafnafjordur SUB-SECTOR Operation Order and was attached to the War Diary as Appendix G – for details see below.

18th June 1941

A Company commenced their six-day route march – the weather was extremely cold and wet.

19th June 1941

An Anti-Aircraft Light Machine Gun practice took place on the ALFTANES Peninsula – using a drogue towed by an RAF aircraft. The drogue was shot down and destroyed by the first magazine from 11th DLI.

20th June 1941

The Force Refugee Exercise was successful from an 11th DLI point of view.

21st June 1941

The Brigade Commander held a TEWT for Company Commanders in the area of FOSSVOGUR.

22nd June 1941

A Company returned to Camp after five continuously wet days.

23rd June 1941

The CO – Lt Col R.F. Ware MC – proceeded on leave to the UK. Major Murray-Shireff assumed temporary command of the Battalion.

23rd to 30th June 1941

Training became impossible in the Battalion due to increased demands on personnel and transport on the new REYKJAVIK Aerodrome.

30th June 1941

Visit by Brigadier P Kirkup to the C Company area at GARDAR.

Appendices attached to the June 1941 War Diary.

Appendix A – Methods of dealing with Incendiary Bombs.

The briefing notes, used as the basis for the demonstration to the civilian population in the area, began with a description of the nature and action of incendiaries – generally small electron bombs – capable, when dropped from 5,000 feet, of penetrating roofing and ceiling material. It was recommended that attic floors should be protected with a 2” layer of sand or earth.

The methods of extinguishing the bombs were:-

Water method – a two-person approach using a stirrup pump – causing the activated bomb to burn itself out more quickly – controlling the flame with alternate spray and jet action.

Sand method – surrounding the bomb with shovelfuls of sand (but not throwing the sand on to the bomb itself) until a layer is built up around the flaming device – eventually smothering it. The bomb is then shovelled up and placed in the sand bucket, the sand preventing it from burning through the metal. The shovel handle is then slid through the bucket handle and the bomb taken to a safe area.

Combined method – used when the bomb is too large for sand alone to deal with it. As the bomb begins to break up from the spray and jet action it is then smothered with sand and removed to a safe place.

The demonstration was given in the evening in the School Grounds at SKOLARBRAUT, Hafnafjordur and the audience were the ARP organisation in the area.

Appendix B – Amendment No 1, dated 3rd June 1941, to Operation Instruction No 8 issued 15th April 1941.

This note changed the arrangements for dealing with a landing British aircraft at the Emergency Landing Ground at KEFLAVIK.

On approach, the pilot would fire a white recognition light. On being alerted by the sentry, the Section would turn out and double to the Landing Ground. After lifting and removing the obstacles a detailed man would lay out a cloth wind indicator in the form of a T on the side of the runway. The top bar of the T would point towards the direction from which the wind was blowing, enabling the aircraft to land into the wind.

The process was to be carried out at the double and practised at least three times per week.

Appendix C – Administrative Instructions – Battalion Exercise 5th June 1941.

The notes were dated 30th May and described the detail of the preparations for this night exercise. It is not possible to describe exactly how the exercise was meant to be conducted, as each element were given “special ideas” for their role, which were destroyed after the exercise was finished.

However, it seems from the earlier comment that the Exercise was based around an opposed landing in the ALFTANES area.

Clearly part of the Battalion was acting as enemy and clothing and equipment instructions reflected this. The manning of several posts in the normal Battalion activity was delegated to members of R Company and the Mortar and Carrier Platoons, leaving the line Infantry free to engage in the exercise.

Appendix D – Annexure VIII to Sub-Sector Operation Order.

This Order related to the distribution of Anti-Personnel mines in the Sub-Sector – suitable for use with wire obstacles and as booby traps. They were intended to cover the likely lines of advance from the beaches, and to be included in barbed wire fences where those are not under continuous observation.

The mines were to be armed and laid on the issue of Code Word “JULIUS” – using trip wires and pickets sourced locally. It was pointed out that Royal Engineer assistance in laying the mines could not necessarily be relied on and therefore Company Commanders were to have men trained in this task. Instruction on laying were included in the boxes of mines.

Mine positions and danger limits were to be carefully registered and notified to Battalion HQ who would inform Force HQ. Precautions would be taken to prevent troops or civilians from entering the mined area. This would include warning signs in Icelandic if “JULIUS” lasted for a prolonged period.

Appendix E – Exercise Instructions for 13th June 1941.

The object of the exercise was to practice the Company, supported by artillery and mortars, in attacking an enemy flank.

The lessons to be covered were:-

Battle procedure.

Enveloping attack by an Infantry Company.

Minor tactics – use of the Section in two parts.

Passing of information.

On this particular date the exercise was for C Company supported by a detachment of Mortars, and Artillery, represented by a Forward Observation Officer. The enemy was represented by personnel from HQ Company, with the co-operation of men from Manchester Regiment (machine gunners). Battalion HQ was represented in skeleton form under the Regimental Sergeant Major.

The Chief Umpire was Major Murray-Shireff, supported by Captain Morris, Lts J. Brewis and H. Waggott and 2/Lt J.A. Cantley, with three NCO’s each from B Company and HQ Company.

The enemy were led by Captain Waistell (also acting as enemy Umpire) supported by Captain Johnstone and Lt J.B. Nicholson.

Appendix F – Amendment No 2 to Operation Instruction No 8.

This brief document notified some technical changes to references in paragraph 3 of the Order and added a new sub-paragraph on message distribution.

Appendix G – Amendment to Annexure V of Sub-Sector Operation Order.

This brief document corrected what appeared to have been a typing error when KEFLAVIK had been wrongly included for Reykjavik in paragraph 29(b).

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