War Diary - G Branch - May 1941

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1 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) “Labour Day” is observed in Iceland as a Public holiday. The town was placed out of bounds from 21:30 hours to all ranks.

(2) An Admiralty message reported considerable air activity in NORWAY which might be directed against ICELAND and convoys in Icelandic waters.

(3) The Commander, Royal Artillery, carried out a recce of ENGEY Island (close to Reykjavik harbour) with a view to establishing a Section of 3.7“ guns there.

2 May 1941

(1) War Office message (64509) advising that Lt Col J W H HAUGH of 1/7 Duke of Wellington’s Regiment had been appointed to command the 146 Infantry Brigade, was received.

(2) A letter was sent to F.O.I.C. on the subject of “Confidential Traffic Regulations” in respect of the port of Reykjavik. Several suggested amendments to the existing regulations were embodied.

(3) The decision was taken to lend 100 steel helmets to the Sheriff of CULLIBRINCU and KJOSAR districts pending the arrival of special helmets from the UK.

3 May 1941

(1) A Hudson aeroplane crashed at 04:30 hrs this morning, shortly after taking off from Kaldadarnes aerodrome. The position of the mishap was some three miles North of EYRABAKKI. Fortunately no-one was injured, although the plane was extensively damaged.

(2) Two further Hudson planes from the UK landed safely at Kaldadarnes aerodrome.

(3) Iceland Force Intelligence Summary No. 54 was issued. Copy filed with War Diary as Appendix No. 1.

4 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) Two messages (64846 and 64904) from War Office referred to enemy troop movements in NORWAY. In early April a large quantity of shipping was rumoured to be in VARANGAD FJORD. This might indicate an impending operation against ICELAND or alternatively it may be part of a general plan to intimidate RUSSIA. Message 64904 outlined a possible German plan for an airborne landing about the end of the first week in May in the LAGARFLJOTT area, North East Sector, ICELAND. In view of these reports advice was sent to 146 Infantry Brigade and 1/ 4 KOYLI instructing that one Ski Platoon was to be moved to EGILSSTADIR immediately.

(2) Iceland Force Training Instruction No. 2 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 2.

5 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) Survivors of the Norwegian ship S.S. “TARANGAR” en route from LIVERPOOL to VANCOUVER and attacked by a U-Boat were landed at Akranes. Their ship was torpedoed, shelled and machine-gunned, the Captain being killed outright. The number of survivors is 17, three of whom are British and the remainder Norwegian.

(2) “A” Battery 536 Coast Regiment Royal Artillery carried out practice firing from the GROTTA peninsula. The results were very satisfactory. The G.O.C. Major-General Curtis attended.

(3) Air Commodore CROKE, Group Captain PRIMROSE and Brigadier BUCHANAN arrived from the UK in a Sunderland flying boat. The last named has, as the object of his visit to Iceland, the examination of the labour situation, materials and equipment in connection with the large amount of construction work now in hand.

6 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) The G.O.C. outlined to Brigadier BUCHANAN the general military situation in the island and discussed the various naval and RAF commitments and projects in the light of his visit.

(2) A meeting was held at Force HQ between the G.O.C., Air Commodore CROKE and Group Captain PRIMROSE.

(3) Advice was received from 30 Wing RAF that a convoy was being attacked by a Focke Wolfe CONDOR at a position 60 degrees 36 minutes North 14 degrees 58 minutes West. The attack was driven off by a WHITLEY bomber operating in the same area. No damage was sustained by the convoy.

7 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) Rear Force HQs completed the move from their former HQs at 19 Thoragata, Reykjavik to Fenton Street Camp (Salmon River).

(2) Brigadier BUCHANAN visited Kaldadarnes aerodrome and inspected road facilities and constructional work now proceeding on the aerodrome. The Chief Engineer, Brigadier BLISS, accompanied him.

(3) Force Tactical School. Preliminary details of the Platoon Commanders’ courses to be run in May and June were issued, together with an Appendix allotting vacancies. Copy filed with the War Diary as Appendix No. 3.

8 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) An “immediate” War Office telegram (65698) notified that many reports were being received of considerable troop and shipping activity along the Norwegian coast from NARVIK. The focussing point of these movements appeared to be KIRKENES where the number of troops and the shipping had recently increased. Additional security measures at KIRKENES suggest possible operations but evidence does not point to imminent action. Several reports mention Iceland as the objective.

(2) By reason of the recent reports of German activity in Northern Norway and the possible threat to Iceland, the G.O.C., Major-General CURTIS, held a conference. The following Officers attended :-

Commander 70th Infantry Brigade

Commander 147th Infantry Brigade

Commander, Royal Artillery

Commander of Fixed Defences

Chief Engineer

Officer Commanding Force Signals

G.S.O. 1

G.S.O. II (O)

A.A. & Q.M.G.

Also present were :-

F.O.I.C., Brigadier BUCHANAN D.D.F.W. War Office, Officer Commanding 1/ 4 KOYLI, Officer Commanding 25 Coast Artillery Group.

The present military situation was explained and a number of decisions on general matters relative to the defence of Iceland were made.

(3) Coast Defence Exercise No. 2 was held at Reykjavik by the 536 Coast Regiment Royal Artillery in conjunction with the Royal Navy.

9 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.


10 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A fire fighting demonstration was given for the benefit of the population of Reykjavik. The various methods of extinguishing incendiary bombs were shown and the treatment of casualties was illustrated. The Chief of Police and the civil A.R.P. Committee witnessed the demonstration and there was a good attendance of local inhabitants. The G.O.C. Major-General CURTIS was present.

(2) Brigadier BUCHANAN despatched a personal message (0 757) to the D.M.O. and P. the War Office stating that at least three pioneer companies are required for constructional work now on hand. Final requirements to be telegraphed later.

(3) Orders for a Coastal Defence firing practice to take place on 12 May were issued.

(4) Representatives of “G” AND “A” Branches together with Royal Engineer and Hirings Officers reconnoitred a site for a prisoners of war camp. A suitable location was found at GEITHALS, and work is to proceed immediately.

11 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A practice air raid alarm was held by the civil authorities in Reykjavik. There was no participation by Naval, Army or RAF personnel as the purpose was merely to test civil organisation.

(2) A Fairey Fulmar aircraft landed at Kaldadarnes aerodrome at 12:20 hours. This plane had been sent off by a British warship to intercept enemy planes reported to be attacking a convoy off the coast of ICELAND.

(3) Unskilled labour. A War Office telegram (66087) referred to the importation of labourers ito Iceland from the FAEROE Islands. This suggestion has been raised by H B M Minister with the Foreign Office and it seems likely that between 500 and 1000 Faeroese would be willing to accept work in Iceland. A message (0 758) was sent to War Office in reply, stating that accommodation in tents could be arranged.

(4) Iceland Force Operation Instruction No. 13 (Revised) dated 18th October 1940, amendment No. 10 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 4.

12 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A Coastal Defence firing practice was held at HVALEYRI near Hafnafjordur by “D” Coast Battery, 536 Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery. The G.O.C. Major-General CURTIS attended.

(2) The G.O.C. Major-General CURTIS held a conference at Force HQ to discuss the construction of aerodromes. Present were :-

Officer Commanding 30 Wing RAF

Squadron Leader Corrie

Mr MacKenzie

Brigadier Buchanan

Major Price

Chief Engineer (Brigadier Bliss)


A.A. & Q.M.G.

It was decided to establish a landing ground at GEITASANDUR, 30 miles East South East of Kaldadarnes. It will be known as ODDI aerodrome and work is to commence immediately with a priority equal to that of Kaldadarnes.

(3) Pursuant to a representation made by Icelandic Airways for permission to purchase a new aeroplane, a letter was sent to H B M Minister asking him to represent to the British Government the desirability of granting this request. The matter is of some interest to the Force as Icelandic Airways have in the past provided a useful service for urgent passages of both passengers and mail.

(4) Iceland Force Intelligence Summary No. 55 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 5 to the War Diary.

13 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) The G.O.C. Major-General CURTIS accompanied by Brigadier BUCHANAN paid a visit by air to AKUREYRI. After inspecting constructional works in the vicinity of AKUREYRI, return was made on the same day. A successful trip was marred by a car accident in which certain of the RAF personnel were involved, fortunately without very serious consequences.

(2) The Motor Vessel Royal Ulsterman arrived in the port of Reykjavik with the first leave party to UK on board.

(3) Iceland Force Operation Instruction No. 46, Immobilisation of Naval Minefields, was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 6 to the War Diary.

(4) Amendment No. 8 to Iceland Force Operation Instruction No. 17 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 7.

14 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) Leave personnel returning from UK disembarked from M V ROYAL ULSTERMAN and S.S. PULASKI. The outgoing leave party embarked on the same ships which left for the UK.

15 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A message (0 768) to War Office stated that 800 Faeroese labourers and two pioneer companies would be accepted instead of three pioneer companies. Stress was placed on the point that the Faeroese should be fit men in view of the ten hour working day and the Icelandic weather conditions.

(2) H B M Minister has been requested to Communicate with the British Consul at THORSHAVEN and ask his co-operation in regard to security arrangements in the transfer of Faeroese labourers to Iceland.

(3) Liaison between Force HQ, F.O.I.C. and Officer Commanding RAF. A statement detailing proposals for liaison was sent to F.O.I.C. and Officer Commanding RAF inviting their comments. It was suggested that 17 A.I.L. Section should be transferred from Kaldadarnes to Reykjavik in the near future. The Section would be accommodated partly at CORBETT CAMP and partly in the MENTASKOLLIN. An additional Officer with naval experience is to be attached. One Officer would always be on duty in the MENTASKOLLIN and normal liaison would be maintained with No. 330 (Norwegian) Squadron RAF.

(4) Brigadier BUCHANAN today completed his tours of inspection and conferences. He leaves for UK tomorrow with a full knowledge of the constructional work and problems on hand.

(5) Force Tactical School. A statement concerning an additional Platoon Commanders’ Course (No. 9) was issued. Vacancies were allotted. Copy filed with War Diary as Appendix No. 7a.

16 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) Brigadier BUCHANAN and Major PRICE left for UK on the Empire flying boat “CLEO” at 04:05 hours.

(2) A P.T. demonstration was held at the Gymnasium Reykjavik to show methods of training men in P.T. with the apparatus now installed in recreation huts.

(3) H M S BARRHEAD which ran aground on the MEDALLAND Sands South of KIRKUBAEJARKLAUSTUR in mid-winter was successfully refloated and steamed to VESTMANNAEYJAR.

(4) The Belgian cargo ship “PERSIER” which was also driven ashore some months ago on the MEDALLAND Sands was salvaged and brought to Reykjavik.

17 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A camouflage demonstration was held at LAMBTON CAMP near Alafoss by 147 Infantry Brigade. Various methods of camouflaging Motor Transport and weapon pits were illustrated.

(2) Orders were issued for a Coastal Defence Firing practice to take place at Saurbaer on 19th May.

(3) List of alterations to allotment of vacancies at Force Tactical School Courses was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 7B.

(4) Amendment No. 3 to Operation Instruction No. 30 was issued. Copy filed with the War Diary as Appendix No. 7C.

18 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) S.S. CISNEROS arrived at the port of Reykjavik with the NORTHROP planes of No. 330 (Norwegian) Squadron RAF on board. The planes are in crates and will be moved to BALBOS Hangar for assembly.

(2) At midnight on 17/18 May a German Focke Wolfe Condor aircraft was reported South of Iceland, moving in a North West direction.

(3) Iceland Force Intelligence Summary No. 56 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 8.

19 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A letter was addressed to F.O.I.C. with a statement detailing the estimated future requirements of Naval Signals. F.O.I.C. was requested to confirm that all the requirements mentioned were in addition to the existing facilities.

(2) A message (0 790) was despatched to War Office, asking permission to reorganise the Field Artillery of Iceland (C ) Force on 8 gun Battery basis. This organisation is best suited to Iceland owing to the wide dispersal of units and the consequent difficulties of command and administration of 12 gun Batteries.

20 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) Orders for a Coastal Defence firing practice to be held on 22 May at UTSKALAHAMAR were issued.

(2) An amendment to the list of shooting ranges was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 9.

(3) Iceland (C ) Force Location Statement No. 12 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 10.

(4) Code Names. List No. 16 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 11.

21 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A statement outlining the security measures proposed for the Hvalfjordur naval anchorage was forwarded to F.O.I.C. Provisional upon the agreement of F.O.I.C. , H B M Minister will be asked to approach the Icelandic Government with a view to the restrictions being imposed as soon as possible.

(2) A German subject, AUGUST LEHRMANN, who has eluded capture for almost a year, was taken into custody by a coast watching post at VATNEYRI. According to his statement, he left Reykjavik immediately he heard of the arrival of British troops and travelled to the North West peninsula of Iceland (C ). Posing variously as a Norwegian and a Dane and also in other guises he travelled about this area moving from place to place as danger of capture threatened. Various people gave him shelter, some without knowledge of his true nationality and others who undoubtedly knew him to be a German. Eventually he arrived at the lighthouse at VATHETRI where he remained throughout the winter. With the coming of summer it again became necessary for him to move and for some time he lived in a hut. His whereabouts were finally notified to the personnel of the coast watching post at VATNEYRI by a person who had previously harboured him.

(3) A conference was held to discuss the dispositions of the Infantry Battalion and 8-gun Battery due to arrive early in June. The various administrative problems involved were discussed. Those present were :-

Officer Commanding 70th Infantry Brigade

Brigade Major 147th Infantry Brigade

Commander, Royal Artillery

Chief Engineer

A.A. & Q.M.G.

Officer Commanding Force Signals

Q (M)


22 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A Coastal Defence firing practice was held at UTSKALAHAMAR and a Coastal Defence practice which was abandoned on account of weather on 19th May was completed at Saurbaer.

(2) War Office message (67950) was received requesting that the Air Ministry be kept informed weekly of the progress made on aerodrome construction. The information is required for the Prime Minister.

(3) Iceland Force Code Names. List No. 17 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 12.

23 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) The G.O.C. held a conference to discuss certain points in connection with landing grounds for aircraft. The facilities required by the RAF at HOFN, EGILSSTADIR, MELGERDI and Reykjavik were the main points considered. Those present were :-


Group Captain PRIMROSE

Chief Engineer


A.A. & Q.M.G.

(2) A Passive Air Defence practice was held at Force and Rear Force HQs.

(3) War Office telegram (68157) was received stating that the recruiting of Faeroese labour was proving somewhat disappointing and that probably not more than 250 men would be despatched to ICELAND. On this account two more Pioneer Companies would have to be sent from the UK.

(4) The Commander, Royal Artillery and Brigade Major, Royal Artillery left for a tour of Royal Artillery units of the Force.

24 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) Instructions were received from War Office (telegram 68548) that VATNSENDI wireless station should be taken over by the Army who would maintain a 24 hour watch to the Admiralty. The Foreign Office will make the necessary arrangements with the Icelandic Government.

(2) The Motor Vessel ROYAL ULSTERMAN and the S.S. POLASKI arrived at the port of Reykjavik with the leave party from UK and also three construction companies on board. The latter were 659 General Construction Company, 668 General Construction Company and 804 Road Construction Company.

(3) Iceland Force Intelligence Summary No. 57 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 13 to the War Diary.

25 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A meeting of the Sports Committee for the Reykjavik area was held in the Gymnasium at HRINGBRAUT, Reykjavik.

(2) Iceland Force Operation Instruction No. 34, amendment No. 4 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 14 to the War Diary.

(3) Iceland Force Operation Instruction No. 17, amendment No. 9 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 15 to the War Diary.

(4) Iceland Force Operation Instruction No. 13, (Revised) amendment No. 11 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 16 to the War Diary.

26 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) Personnel on the M.V. ROYAL ULSTERMAN and S.S. PULASKI disembarked and the outgoing leave party for UK embarked.

(2) Colonel McCALLUM from the Director of Welfare’s Branch at the War Office, was interviewed by the G.O.C. His visit to Iceland is for the purpose of furthering welfare for the troops following upon the visit made by Major General WILLANS a short time ago.

(3) The Admiral Commanding the Orkneys and Shetlands, Vice Admiral Sir T. Hugh BINNIE K.C.B., D.S.O. paid an official visit to the G.O.C. at Force HQ.

(4) A Fairey Battle aircraft which left MELGERDI aerodrome for Kaldadarnes was reported as missing. Four persons were on board and strenuous efforts are being made to locate the plane. The following land patrols were carried out :- ASOLFSSTADIR – Up THJORSA valley to SANDAFELL – KONGSAS – BOLSTADUR – HOFSJOKULL. GULLFOSS – Up HVITA valley to BLAFELL – HVITARVATN. GEYSIR – Up HVITA valley to BLAFELL. BORGARNES – East to REYKHOLT – HUSAFELL – HAFURSFELL. Blonduos – Up BLANDA valley to AESUSTADUR – THROM – FRIDMUNDARVOTN. SAUDARKROKUR – South to VIDIMYRI – MAELIFELL – GODDALIR. YTRI-BAEGISA – BAKKI – Area BAKKI, BAKKASEL, KAMBFELLSFJALL, KAMBKARD. AKUREYRI – HALS – KROSS – North to YZTAFELL – GVENDARSTADIR. HALS – North to GARDUR – East to GVENDARSTADIR. HUSAVIK – EINARSSTADIR – GODAFOSS – LUNDARBREKKA. Air patrols were also made over all likely areas.

(5) Major W W BRATBY Lancashire Fusiliers assumed the appointment of G.S.O. 2 (I) Iceland Force.

(6) A conference was held in the office of the Director General of Posts and Telegraphs to discuss the taking over of VATNSENDI W/T Station. The Director General stated that the Icelandic Government had no objection to the proposal. The station will be manned by military personnel under the supervision of the trained Icelander now responsible for the maintenance of the equipment. Those present were :-

Director General of Posts and Telegraphs

Assistant Director General of Posts and Telegraphs

G BRIEM Chief Engineer


Major C Bray (Officer Commanding Force Signals)

Captain Walters (Staff Officer, Royal Signals) and

Captain E A SAMS.

(7) Iceland Force Intelligence Review No. 1 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 17.

27 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) War Office message (68771) was received giving authority for 69 and 143 Field Regiments to be reorganised on the new War Establishment. Additional personnel and equipment will be sent from UK at an early date.

(2) Two hundred and forty-nine Faeroese labourers embarked from THORSHAVEN, Faeroe Islands for Iceland.

(3) The search for the missing Battle plane was actively pursued on land and by air. Patrols covered extensive areas but no trace of the aircraft was found. The search continues.

28 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) The guarding of RAF installations was dealt with in a message (0 802) to War Office. In the event of this responsibility being assumed by the Army, the War Office were requested to despatch 14th Royal Fusiliers less two Companies – two Companies of this unit being in Iceland already.

(2) The Chief Engineer, Brigadier BLISS left Reykjavik for the North East Sector.

(3) Number 1 runway of REYKJAVIK aerodrome, now Reykjavik Airport was completed to final dimensions. A message (0 803) to War Office conveyed the information that the runway was ready for landing aircraft.

(4) The widespread search for the missing Fairey Battle terminated with the locating of the wrecked machine at BAKKASEL, approximately 25 miles South West of AKUREYRI. It appears that in low visibility the place crashed into a hillside and exploded. Fragments of wreckage were strewn over a wide area. The four RAF personnel in the plane were killed. (More information on this crash and the eventual recovery and burial of the crew's remains some sixty years later can be found in the other War Diaries).

(5) Amendment No. 4 to Iceland Force Operation Instruction No. 27 dated 4 November 1940 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 18.

(6) Amendment No. 4 to Iceland Force Operation Instruction No. 30 dated 9 November 1940 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 19.

(7) Iceland Force Operation Instruction No. 47 dated 28 May 1941 was issued. Copy filed as Appendix No. 20.

29 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) The G.O.C. and G.S.O.I visited the new landing ground at ODDI.

(2) A firing practice of the Medium Machine Guns used for coast defence in the Reykjavik and Hafnafjordur areas was held. The main purpose was to test the performance of the guns firing from pill-boxes, particularly in regard to fumes and noise.

30 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) A conference was held by the G.O.C. to discuss the combined area HQs for F.O.I.C. and Officer Commanding RAF. It was decided that the building now occupied by 50 General Hospital in Reykjavik would be used for this purpose on completion of the new hospital at Helgafell. In the meantime a temporary move is to be made to the MENTASKOLLINN, Reykjavik. The meeting was attended by :-


G.S.O. I

Officer Commanding RAF and

A.A. & Q.M.G.

(2) The ship BEN-MY-CHREE arrived at the port of Reykjavik with 249 Faeroese labourers on board.

(3) An amendment was issued covering Iceland Force Code Name Lists Nos. 16 and 17. Copy filed with War Diary as Appendix No. 21.

31 May 1941 – Artun, Iceland.

(1) An interesting report on the methods adopted by the Germans in CRETE was received from the WAR OFFICE (message 69500). This is being carefully studied in view of the possibility of similar tactics being employed against Iceland.

(2) Major WISE G.S.O. 2 (Security) left for UK. He is travelling via the Faeroe Islands.

(3) A message (0 815) was sent to War Office in reply to War Office message 68548 stating that VATNSENDI W/T Station would commence working to UK on 2nd June.

(4) A letter was sent to H B M Minister requesting him to approach the Icelandic Government concerning the imposing of security restrictions for the naval base at Hvalfjordur.

(5) Iceland Force Training Instruction No. 3 dated 31 May 1941 was issued. Copy filed with the War Diary as Appendix No. 22.

Appendices attached to the G Branch War Diary for May 1941.

None of the Appendices listed above have been photographed from the file at Kew, or were missing from the file.

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