70th Infantry Brigade War Diary January 1941.

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8th January 1941

The Brigade Commander had a further Conference with the General Officer Commanding regarding the accommodation for 10th DLI and later inspected the Camps of 1st TS at BALDURSHAGI.

10th January 1941

The Brigade Commander held a further Conference with Brigadier Lammie of 147 Infantry Brigade to discuss the future interchange of positions. 70th Brigade was to take over the South West Sector, including the important ports of Reykjavik and Hafnafjordur from 147th Brigade in the early days of March 1941. 147th Brigade would combine the defence of the Western Sector with the role of Force Mobile Reserve. At Battalion level it was arranged that 1st Tyneside Scottish would interchange with 1/6 Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in Reykjavik, and 11th Durham Light Infantry would take over the Hafnafjordur area from 1/7 Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.

10th Durham Light Infantry were expected to remain in their existing positions until relieved by 1/5 West Yorkshire Regiment early in May. This meant that 10th DLI would come under the command of 147th Brigade for operational purposes during March and April but would remain part of 70th Brigade for administration and training purposes. In respect of the Medical Services, 187th Field Ambulance – attached to 70th Brigade - would change locations with 160th Field Ambulance in Reykjavik at a date to be arranged later.

11th January 1941

The Brigadier held an administrative inspection of 11th DLI.

13th January 1941

Brigadier Lammie of 147th Brigade arrived to inspect Brigade HQ and a Conference was held between the staffs of the two Brigades and tours of inspection were organised to take place during the succeeding weeks. Conferences were also held from time to time with the Units of the Brigade to discuss the progress of detailed arrangements for the move.

17th January 1941

A Revision to Brigade Operation Order No. 1 was issued. Extracts from this key document are set out as Appendices to this month’s War Diary.

20th January 1941

The instructions for the forthcoming T.E.W.T. on the landings at Suvla Bay, during the First World War, were issued as Appendix D, ready for the exercise on 27th January. The comprehensive briefing papers for the exercise updated the equipment and facilities available to German Forces to the present day to enhance the realism of the scenario and its application to Iceland.

21st January 1941

Brigade HQ made arrangements for a Gas Course to be held for those Units in Iceland Force other than Infantry. This Course was planned to last for ten days and was directed by Captain A.L. Campbell of 1st Tyneside Scottish.

24th January 1941

Brigade Operation Instruction No. 5 - entitled "Provisional Technical Fire Orders for HRUTAFJORDUR Battery" - was issued and was attached to the War Diary as Appendix C. The document - marked "SECRET" - dealt with the close defence, by day, of the FJORDUR and supporting the Examination Service for vessels aiming to dock. Every vessel was expected to stop and be examined and inspected before clearance to dock could be given. Provision was made in the document for appropriate signals to be exchanged with Shore Batteries and Naval Patrol vessels. Special provision was made for official vessels to show agreed light signals at night, or agreed flag signals by day. There were controlled minefields in place which could be fired if a hostile vessel was detected, together with any appropriate action by the coastal batteries.

Naval vessels detecting hostile craft could signal appropriately to the Coastal Battery Commander.

27th January 1941

A Brigade T.E.W.T. was held on Combined Operations – the delegates being the Commanding Officer, Second in Command and Adjutant, together with one Company Commander from each Battalion, plus Royal Artillery representatives. The General Officer Commanding Iceland Force also attended.

The subject for the exercise was the landing at SUVLA BAY in 1915 – although the dispositions of troops were amended to reflect the latest establishment of the Infantry Battalion. Following this exercise the cloth models were loaned to the Battalions, and to 143rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery, so that other Officers could benefit from discussions at Unit level.

General Summary for the Month:-

The snow which had fallen on New Year’s Eve did not last long on the ground and the succession of clear sunny days throughout the month was rather unexpected, as the Force had understood that January was likely to experience the worst of the Icelandic Winter. Daylight hours increased rapidly through the month so that there was never less than five hours per day, even on the shortest day. This was, again, different from the anticipated 20 hours dark in each 24.

These conditions allowed a good deal of outside training to take place. While alternative programmes were prepared and held in readiness should the conditions worsen, they were rarely used. Field Firing was continued on the ranges and 10th DLI completed their Field Firing Programme with Royal Artillery support.

In carrying out the exercise programme Units concentrated on the Company and Platoon in the Attack and every advantage was taken of the fine weather. Embussing and Debussing of troops was also practised and 10th DLI were able to practice exercising their Mobile Column in Unit and hired transport.

In the evenings, Officers’ discussions and debates were held and, as mentioned above, general use was made of a study of the GALLIPOLI Campaign preparatory to the T.E.W.T being carried out during the succeeding weeks.

Due to the general lack of snow the opportunities for practising the Ski Platoons was limited, though 10th DLI were more fortunate than the other Units in this respect.

Appendix A

On 1st January 1941 an Appendix A to the War Diary was prepared which listed those NCOs and men, and their parent Battalions, who were serving as part of the staff of Brigade HQ.

This not only identifies the structure of Brigade HQ but also shows the ranks and surnames of the men concerned.

The table from Appendix A has been used as the source for the following information:-

Intelligence Section (Establishment 3)

Sgt Campbell (10th DLI)

L/Cpl Lloyd (10th DLI)

L/Cpl Handley (11th DLI)

Clerks (Establishment 4)

S/Sgt Davidson (11th DLI)

Pte Barlow (10th DLI)

Pte Christer (1st TS)

Pte Tones (RASC)

Company Quartermaster Sergeant (Establishment 1)

C/Sgt Little (11th DLI)

Water Duties (Establishment 1)

Post vacant.

Motor Transport (Establishment 19 – Sergeant, plus 9 Drivers and 9 Orderlies – all "Internal Combustion")

Sgt Beveridge (11th DLI)

L/Cpl Grimsley, Pte Akroyd, Pte Davison (10th DLI)

L/Cpl Codd, Pte Archer, Pte Atkinson, Pte Dixon, Pte Logie (11th DLI)

Pte Getty, Pte Greer, Pte Grieve, Pte Jobson, Pte Johnson, Pte Lowery, Pte Neeson, Pte Pirnie (1st TS)

Two vacancies.

Signal Orderlies (Establishment 6)

Pte Chadwick, Pte Minnis (10th DLI)

Pte Brown, Pte Scott (11th DLI)

Pte Crawford, Pte Cottenham (1st TS)

Cook (Establishment 1)

Pte Hunwick (11th DLI)

Sanitary Duties (Establishment 1)

Pte Grant (1st TS)

Batmen (Establishment 5)

Pte Littlewood (10th DLI)

L/Cpl Callaghan, Pte Draper (11th DLI)

Pte Firth, Pte Nicholson (1st TS)

Batmen/Drivers (Establishment 3)

Three vacancies.

Officers’ Mess Cook (Establishment 1)

Pte Grieveson (11th DLI)

Officers’ Mess Servant (Establishment 1)

Pte Vallely (1st TS)

Cypher Duties (Establishment 2)

Cpl Keighley (10th DLI)

L/Cpl Nicol (1st TS)

These men numbered a total of 42 against an Establishment of 48.

In addition there were several “attached personnel” as follows (it is not clear whether these men were from Corps such as RASC rather than being members of the Durham Light Infantry or the Black Watch) :-

Dining Room Orderly Pte O’Hara (10th DLI)

Cookhouse Orderly Pte Garnett (11th DLI)

Clerk (CQMS) Pte Gordon (11th DLI)

Storeman Pte Hood (10th DLI)

Despatch Clerk Pte Hodgson (1st TS)

Mess Corporal Cpl Murden (11th DLI)

Batman Pte Banks (11th DLI)

Sgts’ Mess Cook Pte Buckton (11th DLI)

This level of detail is unusual in a War Diary and suggests that there may have been a requirement for each Unit to account for its personnel on this day at the start of a New Year. Whatever the reason, such information would not normally be available to families of these servicemen, even from their Service Records, unless from the accounts of the individuals themselves. As it is, because initials and Regimental Numbers are not given, it is difficult to be specific about the identities of the men in several cases.

In addition it is more than likely that there were typing errors made in completing this Appendix as it has not been possible to identify some of these men by name at all (one example is “Christer” who may well turn out to be “Christie”). Further information will be needed to finalise this work.

The following photograph - courtesy of The Yorkshire Post - shows the staff of Brigade HQ in January 1941 and appeared in a publication by the newspaper covering the forces in Iceland at the time. The author's father is standing sixth from the left in the row immediately behind the seated Officers.

Brigade HQ Staff January 1941

Appendix B

Brigade Operation Order No. 1 (Revised 17th January 1941) Marked SECRET

This Order is again set out in the standard Army format, beginning with the Information Section, where it clarified that a German attack on Iceland remained a possibility, including the possible use of Gas, and warning of the scale of Pro-Nazi sentiment and the activities of fifth-columnists.

The Commander of 70th Brigade was identified as the Commander of the Iceland Force Reserve – which consisted of:-

1st Tyneside Scottish

11th Durham Light Infantry

One Platoon of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (a Machine-Gun Battalion)

One Section of 294 Field Company, Royal Engineers

187th Field Ambulance

A Detachment of the Divisional Provost Company – Royal Military Police

A Detachment of the Force Royal Army Service Corps – sufficient transport to lift the Force Reserve, less one Battalion

In support of the Reserve were the 143rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery, less 388 Field Battery, together with the 711th General Construction Company, Royal Engineers (for a static defence role only).

The Intention behind the Order was that the Force Reserve should be prepared to operate offensively against any enemy threat from the direction of


(b) Kaldadarnes or

(c) Pingvellir

and to counter-attack against any enemy penetration in the BrautarholtReykjavik area.

The methods the Reserve was expected to use relied, firstly, on motor transport moves – where the troops were anticipated to move embussed, in the case of an attack on HUNAFLOI, to the vicinities of HVITAVELLIR and STADUR, or in the case of an approach via Kaldadarnes, to SANDSKEID and KOTSTROND.

The next method was expected to be by counter-attack, should Reykjavik or Hafnafjordur be attacked, by a move on foot across country to VATNSENDI – the location of a major radio station.

In the event of an enemy move against the BrautarholtReykjavik area the Reserve Force was expected to immediately attack enemy landing parties, beginning with the establishment of “pivot points” once the Invasion Code Word “JULIUS” was issued. These pivot points were three in number –

(a) the river line north of the junction between the roads from Reykjavik to Pingvellir and Reykjavik to Brautarholt. This was planned to be held by a platoon of 11th DLI, less detachments at FORT CAMERON, FORT ROUILLE and FORT YORK, with a Section of the 711th Construction Company under command. 11th DLI were also to be responsible for maintaining the Anti-Tank blocks and other defences in this area.

(b) the high ground at Lagafell. This was to be held by a platoon of 11th DLI supported by a platoon of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa – though these latter troops were to be at 30 minutes notice to rejoin the Force Reserve.

(c) The high ground astride the road from Reykjavik to Brautarholt including GRAFARHOLT HILL and KELDNAHOLT HILL. This was to be held by a platoon of 1st Tyneside Scottish. The Battalion was also to have the responsibility of constructing and maintaining the Anti-Tank blocks, covering posts and for the laying of Anti-Tank mines when the Code Word was issued.

The 11th DLI were expected to reconnoitre the positions at Lagafell and mark out sites of proposed trenches and presumably MG posts also.

The Operation Order then went on to describe the action to be taken should the War Office notify that the likelihood of an invasion of Iceland was stronger then normal – in which case a message “Prepare for Julius” would be issued. Such a message would imply that intelligence had been received, or definite intentions of enemy action had been observed – leading to an increased state of vigilance and redressing of any relaxation in the state of readiness.

Code Word “JULIUS” would be issued to all components of the Force Reserve on receipt of information that an attack by sea or air was imminent.

On receiving the Code Word the action to be taken would be as follows:-

(i) the positions identified as “pivot points” would be manned.

(ii) all men on pass would return to units.

(iii) essential daily maintenance and tactically important work would continue.

(iv) the Artillery Regiment and the two Infantry Battalions in the Reserve would each send liaison officers and a despatch rider to the Headquarters of the Reserve.

(v) Anti-Tank blocks would be fully manned and barricades held ready to close roads with Dannert wire, knife-rests and boulders piled ready.

(vi) Refugee Control Posts would be established by the two Infantry Battalions, under the detailed instructions set out in the Alabaster Force Operation Instruction No. 7.

(vii) the sealed envelopes included with Alabaster Force Operation Instruction No.4 dated 3rd July 1940 would be opened and action taken accordingly.

(viii) the Motor Transport for the First Echelon of the Force Reserve would move to its designated concentration area.

(ix) Force Reserve would stand by at 30 minutes notice with all its baggage, ammunition, supplies etc ready for immediate loading. 11th DLI were to identify a loading party to deal with the ammunition.

(x) whichever unit was furnishing the Brigade HQ guard would double its strength and send extra men to secure the civil telephone exchange at BRUARLAND.

(xi) the use of the civil telephones would be restricted to matters of urgency.

(xii) Proclamations of Martial Law – in Icelandic – held by Units would be posted in those places where troops were quartered.

The Order then anticipated that the next phase would be when confirmation of a landing had been received. The Code Word “CAESAR” would then be issued, followed by the name(s) of the location(s) of any landing.

The actions which were then expected to follow this notification were as follows:-

(i) Units of the Force Reserve would load baggage, stores and ammunition and be prepared to move at ten minutes notice.

(ii) The Rules under Martial Law would be posted next to the Proclamation if the Western or South-Western Sectors were involved.

(iii) The 711th Construction Company, less one Section, would remain in reserve at their present position.

Under the Local Defence Scheme, as there was the possibility of considerable fifth-column activity all local Headquarters were expected to have their own local alarm schemes for the protection of their HQ buildings, which would be put into effect when “JULIUS” was issued.

After the departure of the Force Reserve from Alafoss the second-in-command of 11th DLI would be responsible for co-ordinating the local defence of the various camps in that area including Brigade HQ, the HQ of 143rd Field Regiment and that of the 711th Construction Company.

With reference to supplies, each Unit within the Force Reserve would maintain two days’ rations ready to move with them, additional to the reserves already held – now 13 days’ worth. The Order went on to specify that, of the two days’ rations referred to, one would be carried in the “B” Echelon transport and the other on the individual man – biscuits and chocolate in his Mess Tin and a tin each of preserved meat (probably "bully-beef") and meat and vegetable stew (M & V) in his haversack – with the balance held on the platoon truck.

Each man would also carry an emergency ration in the hip pocket of his battle dress trousers.

A further days’ rations for the whole of the Force Reserve would also be held and carried in bulk – managed and broken as necessary under the responsibility of the Assistant Director – Supplies and Transport.

Units were expected to draw their rations in unit transport for as long as conditions permitted.

It is likely to have been the case that the experience of many of the officers and men on the withdrawal to Dunkirk, when ration deliveries were seriously disrupted and men went hungry for several days at a stretch, lead to the inclusion of these more elaborate arrangements over what a layman might see as a relatively simple task.

As regards petrol, Units other than the Artillery were expected to carry enough fuel and lubricants within their first-line transport sufficient for 250 miles, including that held in the tanks of the vehicles themselves. 143rd Field Regiment was expected to rely on pool RASC transport to carry its spare fuel and lubricants.

As far as Baggage was concerned this related principally to clothing and blankets. In the Summer, men were expected to have their greatcoat and one blanket in their large pack – carried usually on the platoon truck – while in Winter one blanket would be carried in the large pack – again normally carried in the trucks – while the man’s greatcoat would be worn under webbing equipment, with a leather jerkin rolled and strapped to the belt. A second blanket per man would be carried in RASC transport. Tropal Coats were to be worn while travelling in platoon transport and then left in the trucks.

Units were expected to prepare and maintain areas for concentrating motor transport – details of which are set out later in the document.

11th DLI were detailed to hold the store of ammunition for the Force Reserve and arrange for it to be deployed in accordance with Alabaster Force instructions. Units were also expected to take with them the stocks of triple apron and Dannert wire.

On receipt of the Code Word “JULIUS” the 187th Field Ambulance, which was normally in support of 70th Infantry Brigade, would come under command of the Force Reserve and comply with the detailed orders set out above.

As regards communications, the Officer Commanding the Brigade Signal Section was to make preparations to man the civil telephone exchange at BRUARLAND, inducing the civilian operators to remain in post for as long as possible.

Coast Watching Posts were instructed to use an S.O.S. signal of Red-Green-Red Verey lights in the event of an attempted enemy landing.

Similarly the Flag Officer in Command of Naval Forces had arranged that patrol ships sighting an enemy or suspicious vessel would fire a series of green flares or rockets – the sighting of which would be reported to HQ 70th Brigade.

A general alarm in Reykjavik would be given by a rocket, or rockets, fired from the HQ of 147 Infantry Brigade.

The Appendix A to this Operation Order sets out the Order of March of the Force Reserve, and its composition and command structure, dependent on the direction to be followed – to the North, to Pingvellir or to Kaldadarnes. The aim would be to balance the Force and ensure a correct mix of fighting and support troops and equipment for the location concerned.

Appendix B to the Order sets out the calculation of the transport loads required to move the Reserve Force North with its personnel, rations, petrol, baggage, wire and ammunition. The rendezvous points for the transport are set out together with the details of the baggage, fuel and rations to be carried.

This shows, for example, that while 143rd Field Regiment only needed one baggage truck – for their blankets and Tropal Coats – it required eleven ammunition trucks, but carried all its personnel within the gun tractors, whereas 11th DLI needed 44 trucks to carry personnel, two for baggage, five for wire, and six for ammunition – which included that for the Force Reserve as a whole.

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