|Invasion of Iceland|
|Part of World War II|
British aims were to destroy landing grounds (blue) and secure harbours
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
The invasion of Iceland by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines occurred on 10 May 1940, during World War II. The invasion was performed because the British government feared that Iceland would be used by the Germans, who had recently overrun Denmark, Iceland's possessing country. The Government of Iceland issued a protest, charging that its neutrality had been "flagrantly violated" and "its independence infringed".[ This quote needs a citation ]
The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.
The Corps of Royal Marines (RM) is the amphibious light infantry and also one of the five fighting arms of the Royal Navy. The marines can trace their origins back to the formation of the English Army's "Duke of York and Albany's maritime regiment of Foot" at the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company on 28 October 1664.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
At the start of the war, the UK imposed strict export controls on Icelandic goods, preventing profitable shipments to Germany, as part of its naval blockade. The UK offered assistance to Iceland, seeking co-operation "as a belligerent and an ally",[ This quote needs a citation ] but Reykjavík refused and reaffirmed its neutrality. The German diplomatic presence in Iceland, along with the island's strategic importance, alarmed the UK government.
Reykjavík is the capital and largest city of Iceland. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxaflói bay. Its latitude is 64°08' N, making it the world's northernmost capital of a sovereign state. With a population of around 128,793, it is the center of Iceland's cultural, economic and governmental activity, and is a popular tourist destination.
After failing to persuade the Icelandic government to join the Allies, the UK invaded on the morning of 10 May 1940. The initial force of 746 Royal Marines commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges disembarked at the capital Reykjavík. Meeting no resistance, the troops moved quickly to disable communication networks, secure strategic locations, and arrest German citizens. Requisitioning local transport, the troops moved to Hvalfjörður, Kaldaðarnes, Sandskeið, and Akranes to secure potential landing areas against the possibility of a German counterattack.
The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
Lieutenant General Sir Robert Grice Sturges was a senior Royal Marines officer who fought in both the First World War and Second World War.
Hvalfjörður is situated in the west of Iceland between Mosfellsbær and Akranes. The fjord is approximately 30 km long and 5 km wide.
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|History of Iceland|
During 1918, after a long period of Danish rule, Iceland had become an independent state in personal union with the Danish king and with common foreign affairs.The newly initiated Kingdom of Iceland declared itself a neutral country without a defence force. The treaty of union allowed for a revision to begin during 1941 and for unilateral termination three years after that, if no agreement was made. By 1928, all Icelandic political parties were in agreement that the union treaty would be terminated as soon as possible.
A personal union is the combination of two or more states that have the same monarch while their boundaries, laws, and interests remain distinct. A real union, by contrast, would involve the constituent states being to some extent interlinked, such as by sharing some limited governmental institutions. In a federation and a unitary state, a central (federal) government spanning all member states exists, with the degree of self-governance distinguishing the two. The ruler in a personal union does not need to be a hereditary monarch.
The Kingdom of Iceland was a constitutional monarchy, a sovereign and independent country that was established by the Act of Union with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918. It lasted until 17 June 1944 when a national referendum established the Republic of Iceland in its place.
A neutral country is a state which is neutral towards belligerents in a specific war, or holds itself as permanently neutral in all future conflicts. As a type of non-combatant status, neutral nationals enjoy protection under the law of war from belligerent actions, to a greater extent than other non-combatants such as enemy civilians and prisoners of war.
On 9 April 1940, German forces began Operation Weserübung, invading both Norway and Denmark. Denmark was subdued within a day and occupied. On the same day, the British government sent a message to the Icelandic government, stating that the UK was willing to assist Iceland in maintaining its independence but would require facilities in Iceland to do so. Iceland was invited to join the UK in the war "as a belligerent and an ally." The Icelandic government rejected the offer.On the next day, 10 April, the Icelandic parliament, the Alþingi (or Althing), declared Danish King Christian X unable to perform his constitutional duties and assigned them to the government of Iceland, along with all other responsibilities previously performed by Denmark on behalf of Iceland.
Operation Weserübung was the code name for Germany's assault on Denmark and Norway during the Second World War and the opening operation of the Norwegian Campaign. The name comes from the German for "Operation Weser-Exercise", the Weser being a German river.
As of Operation Valentine on 12 April 1940, the British occupied the Faroe Islands. After the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, the British government became increasingly concerned that Germany would soon try to establish a military presence in Iceland. They felt that this would constitute an intolerable threat to British control of the North Atlantic. Just as importantly, the British were eager to obtain bases in Iceland for themselves to strengthen their Northern Patrol.
The Faroe Islands, or the Faeroe Islands, is a North Atlantic archipelago located 320 kilometres (200 mi) north-northwest of Scotland, and about halfway between Norway and Iceland. It is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. The islands have a total area of about 1,400 square kilometres (540 sq mi) with a population of 51,783 as of June 2019.
The Northern Patrol also known as Cruiser Force B and Northern Patrol Force was an operation of the British or Royal Navy during the First World War and again during the Second World War.
As the military situation in Norway deteriorated, the Admiralty came to the conclusion that the UK could no longer do without bases in Iceland. On 6 May, Winston Churchill presented the case to the War Cabinet. Churchill maintained that if further negotiations with the Icelandic government were attempted, the Germans might learn of them and act first. A surer and more effective solution was to land troops unannounced and present the Icelandic government with a fait accompli . The War Cabinet approved the plan.
The expedition was organised hastily and haphazardly.Much of the operational planning was conducted en route. The force was supplied with few maps, most of poor quality, with one of them having been drawn from memory. No one of the expedition was fully fluent with the Icelandic language.
The British planned to land all of their forces at Reykjavík. There, they would overcome any resistance and defeat local Germans. To guard against a German counterattack by sea, they would secure the harbour and send troops by land to nearby Hvalfjörður. The British were also worried that the Germans might airlift troops, as they had done with great success in their Norwegian Campaign. To guard against this, troops would drive east to the landing grounds at Sandskeið and Kaldaðarnes. Lastly, troops would be sent by land to the harbour at Akureyri and the landing ground at Melgerði in the north of the country.
The UK Naval Intelligence Division (NID) expected resistance from three possible sources. Local Germans, who were thought to have some arms, might resist or even attempt some sort of coup. In addition, a German invasion force might already be prepared or begun immediately after the British landings. The NID also expected resistance from the Reykjavík police, consisting of some 60 armed men. If by chance a Danish patrol vessel were present in Reykjavík, the Danish sailors might assist the defenders.This concern was needless, as the only Danish naval vessels abroad were in Greenland.
On 3 May 1940, the 2nd Royal Marine Battalion in Bisley, Surrey received orders from London to be ready to move at two hours' notice for an unknown destination. The battalion had been activated only the month before. Though there was a nucleus of active service officers, the troops were new recruits and only partially trained.There was a shortage of weapons, which consisted only of rifles, pistols, and bayonets, while 50 of the marines had only just received their rifles and had not had a chance to fire them. On 4 May, the battalion received some modest additional equipment in the form of Bren light machine guns, anti-tank guns, and 2-inch mortars. With no time to spare, zeroing of the weapons and initial familiarisation shooting would have to be conducted at sea.
Assisting arms provided to the force consisted of two 3.7 inch mountain howitzers, four QF 2 pounder naval guns, and two 4-inch coastal defence guns.The guns were manned by troops from the artillery divisions of the Navy and the marines, none of whom had ever fired them. They lacked searchlights, communication equipment, and gun directors.
Colonel Robert Sturges was assigned to command the force. Aged 49, he was a highly regarded veteran of World War I, having fought in the battle of Gallipoli and the battle of Jutland.He was accompanied by a small intelligence detachment commanded by Major Humphrey Quill and a diplomatic mission managed by Charles Howard Smith. Excluding those, the invasion force consisted of 746 troops.
On 6 May, Force Sturges boarded trains for Greenock on the Firth of Clyde. To avoid drawing attention to itself, the force was divided into two different trains for the journey, [ who? ] knew that the destination was Iceland.but due to delays in rail travel, the troops arrived at the railway station in Greenock about the same time, losing the small degree of anonymity desired. Additionally, security had been compromised by a dispatch uncoded and by the time the troops arrived in Greenock, many people
On the morning of 7 May, the force headed to the harbour in Greenock, where they found the cruisers Berwick and Glasgow, intended to take them to Iceland. Boarding commenced, but was fraught with problems and delays. Departure was delayed until 8 May, and even then a large amount of equipment and supplies had to be left on the piers.
At 04:00 on 8 May, the cruisers departed for Iceland. They were accompanied by an anti-submarine escort consisting of the destroyers Fearless and Fortune. The cruisers were not designed to transport a force of the size assigned to them, and conditions were cramped.Despite reasonably good weather, many of the marines developed severe seasickness. The voyage was used as planned for calibration and familiarisation with the newly acquired weapons. One of the newly recruited marines committed suicide en route. The voyage was uneventful otherwise.
In May 1940 we transported Royal Marines to Iceland and the island was occupied on the 10th May to prevent the occupation by a German force. A number of German civilians and technicians were made prisoners and transported back to the United Kingdom. Very rough seas were encountered on passage to Iceland and the majority of the marines cluttered gangways and mess-decks throughout the ship, prostrate with seasickness. One unfortunate marine committed suicide.
At 01:47, Icelandic time, on 10 May, HMS Berwick used its aircraft catapult to launch a Supermarine Walrus reconnaissance aircraft.The principal aim of the flight was to scout the vicinity of Reykjavík for enemy submarines, which the Naval Intelligence Division had convinced itself were operating out of Icelandic harbours.
The Walrus was given orders not to fly over Reykjavík but – either accidentally or as the result of a miscommunication – it flew several circles over the town, making considerable noise. At this time, Iceland possessed no aeroplanes of its own, so this unusual event awoke and alerted a number of people. Prime Minister of Iceland Hermann Jónasson was alerted about the aircraft, as were the Icelandic Police. The acting chief of police, Einar Arnalds, surmised that it most likely originated from a British warship bringing the expected new ambassador. This was correct, though it was not the whole story.
Werner Gerlach, the German consul, was also alerted to the aircraft. Suspecting what was about to happen, he drove down to the harbour with a German associate.With the use of binoculars, he confirmed his fears and then hurried back. At home, he arranged for the burning of his documents and tried unsuccessfully to reach the Icelandic foreign minister by telephone.
At 03:40, an Icelandic policeman saw a small fleet of warships approaching the harbour, but could not discern their nationality. He notified his superior, who notified Einar Arnalds, the acting chief of police.The laws of neutrality to which Iceland had committed forbade more than three warships from a belligerent nation from making use of a neutral harbour at the same time. Any aeroplanes from such ships were forbidden from flying over neutral territorial waters. Seeing that the approaching fleet was about to violate Icelandic neutrality in two ways, Arnalds began to investigate. Down at the harbour, he viewed the ships for himself and decided they were probably British. He contacted the foreign ministry, which confirmed that he should go out to the fleet and announce to its commander that he was in violation of Icelandic neutrality. Customs officers were ordered to prepare a boat.
Meanwhile, marines on Berwick were being ordered aboard Fearless, which would take them to the harbour. The seasickness and inexperience of the troops were causing delays and the officers were becoming frustrated.Just before five o'clock in the morning, Fearless, loaded with about 400 marines, began moving toward the harbour. A small crowd had assembled, including several policemen still waiting for the customs boat. The British consul had received advance notice of the invasion and was waiting with his associates to assist the troops when they arrived. Uncomfortable with the crowd, Consul Shepherd turned to the Icelandic police. "Would you mind ... getting the crowd to stand back a bit, so that the soldiers can get off the destroyer?" he asked. "Certainly," came the reply.
The Fearless started disembarking immediately once it docked.Arnalds asked to speak with the captain of the destroyer, but was refused. He then hastened to report to the Prime Minister, who ordered him not to interfere with the British troops and to try to prevent conflicts between them and Icelanders. Down at the harbour, some of the locals protested against the arrival of the British. One Icelander snatched a rifle from a marine and stuffed a cigarette in it. He then threw it back to the marine and told him to be careful with it. An officer arrived to scold the marine.
The British forces began their operations in Reykjavík by posting a guard at the post office and attaching a flyer to the door.The flyer explained in broken Icelandic that British forces were occupying the city and asked for co-operation in dealing with local Germans. The offices of Síminn (telecommunication service), RÚV (broadcasting service), and the Meteorological Office were quickly occupied by the British to prevent news of the invasion from reaching Berlin.
Meanwhile, high priority was assigned to the capture of the German consulate. Arriving at the consulate, the British troops were relieved to find no sign of resistance and simply knocked on the door. Consul Gerlach opened, protested against the invasion, and reminded the British that Iceland was a neutral country. He was reminded, in turn, that Denmark had also been a neutral country.The British discovered a fire upstairs in the building and found a pile of documents burning in the consul's bathtub. They extinguished the fire and salvaged a substantial number of records.
The British had also expected resistance from the crew of Bahia Blanca, a German freighter which had hit an iceberg in the Denmark Strait and whose 62-man crew had been rescued by an Icelandic trawler. The Naval Intelligence Division believed the Germans were actually reserve crews for the German submarines they thought were operating out of Iceland.The unarmed Germans were captured without incident.
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On the evening of 10 May, the government of Iceland issued a protest, charging that its neutrality had been "flagrantly violated" and "its independence infringed", noting that compensation would be expected for all damage done. The British promised compensation, favourable business agreements, non-interference in Icelandic affairs, and the withdrawal of all forces at the end of the war. In the following days air defence equipment was deployed in Reykjavík and a detachment of troops sent to Akureyri. However, the initial invasion force was ill-equipped, only partially trained and insufficient to the task of occupation and defence of the island.
On 17 May, 4,000 additional troops of the Canadian Army arrived to relieve the marines. In July, elements of the 2nd Canadian Division and 3rd Canadian Division were landed. Commonwealth occupation forces eventually totalled 25,000 infantry with elements from the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy.One year after the invasion, forces from the still officially neutral United States were stationed on the island by agreement with the Icelandic government, relieving the bulk of British ground forces. U.S. forces grew considerably after the US joined the war on 7 December 1941, reaching as many as 30,000 army, navy and air force personnel at any one time. The RAF and RCAF continued to operate from two Royal Air Force stations through to the end of the war.
The UK invaded to forestall a German occupation, to provide a base for naval and air patrols, and to protect merchant shipping lanes from North America to Europe. In this the invasion was successful. However, the presence of British, Canadian, and US troops had a lasting impact on the country. Foreign troop numbers in some years equalled 25 percent of the population or almost 50 percent of the native male population. Icelanders were and remain divided about the war and occupation – what is sometimes referred to as "blessað stríðið" or "the Blessed War". Some point to the subsequent economic revival, others to loss of sovereignty and social upheaval.
The occupation required the building of a network of roads, hospitals, harbours, airfields and bridges across the country, and this did have enormous positive economic impact. However, the Icelanders severely censured the sexual relationships between troops and local women, which were causing considerable controversy and political turmoil. Women were often accused of prostitution and of being traitors. Two-hundred and fifty-five children were born from these liaisons, the ástandsbörn, 'children of the situation'.
In 1941, the Icelandic Minister of the Judiciary investigated "The Situation", and the police tracked 500+ women who had been having sex with the soldiers. Many were upset that the foreign troops were "taking away" women, friends, and family. During 1942 two facilities opened to house such women who had relations with the soldiers. Both closed within a year, after investigations determined that most liaisons were consensual. About 332 Icelandic women married foreign soldiers.
During the occupation, on 17 June 1944, Iceland declared itself a republic. The Keflavík Agreement signed during 1946 between the US and the Republic of Iceland stipulated that the American army would leave the country within six months, and Iceland would take possession of the Keflavík Airport. This did not happen for decades, and a substantial US military presence remained in Iceland until 30 September 2006.At the end of hostilities most British facilities were given to the Icelandic government.
Although the British action was to forestall any risk of a German invasion, there is no evidence that the Germans had an invasion planned. There was, however, German interest in seizing Iceland. In a postwar interview, Walter Warlimont claimed that "Hitler definitely was interested in occupying Iceland prior to [British] occupation. In the first place, he wanted to prevent "anyone else" from coming there; and, in the second place, he also wanted to use Iceland as an air base for the protection of our submarines operating in that area".
After the British invasion, the Germans composed a report to examine the feasibility of seizing Iceland, proposed as Operation Ikarus. The report found that while an invasion could be successful, maintaining supply lines would be too costly and the benefits of holding Iceland would not outweigh the costs (there was, for instance, insufficient infrastructure for aircraft in Iceland).
Iceland's defences consist of the Icelandic Coast Guard, which patrols Icelandic waters and airspace, and other services such as the National Commissioner's National Security and Special Forces Units. Iceland is however the only NATO member which maintains no standing army.
The Battles of Narvik were fought from 9 April to 8 June 1940 as a naval battle in the Ofotfjord and as a land battle in the mountains surrounding the north Norwegian city of Narvik as part of the Norwegian Campaign of the Second World War.
Sweden maintained its policy of neutrality during World War II. When the war began on September 1, 1939, the fate of Sweden was unclear. But by a combination of its geopolitical location in the Scandinavian Peninsula, successful realpolitik maneuvering during an unpredictable course of events, and a dedicated military build-up after 1942, Sweden succeeded in keeping its official neutrality status throughout the war.
The Norwegian campaign was the attempted Allied liberation of Norway from Nazi Germany during the early stages of World War II and directly following the German invasion and occupation of the Norwegian mainland and government. It took place from April 9, 1940, until June 10, 1940. The Allied campaign did not succeed, and it resulted in the fleeing of King Haakon VII along with the remainder of the royal family to Great Britain.
Nearly every country and territory in the world participated in World War II. Most were neutral at the beginning, but only a few nations remained neutral to the end. The Second World War pitted two alliances against each other, the Axis powers and the Allied powers. The leading Axis powers were Nazi Germany, the Kingdom of Italy and the Empire of Japan; while the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union and China to an extent were the "Big Four" Allied powers.
The German occupation of Norway during World War II began on 9 April 1940 after German forces invaded the neutral Scandinavian country of Norway. Conventional armed resistance to the German invasion ended on 10 June 1940 and Nazi Germany controlled Norway until the capitulation of German forces in Europe on 8/9 May 1945. Throughout this period, Norway was continuously occupied by the Wehrmacht. Civil rule was effectively assumed by the Reichskommissariat Norwegen, which acted in collaboration with a pro-German puppet government, the Quisling regime, while the Norwegian king Haakon VII and the prewar government escaped to London, where they acted as a government in exile. This period of military occupation is in Norway referred to as the "war years" or "occupation period".
Naval Air Station Keflavik (NASKEF) is a U.S. Navy base at Keflavík International Airport, Iceland. It is located on the Reykjanes peninsula on the south-west portion of the island. Built during World War II by the United States Army as part of its mission to maintain the defense of Iceland and secure northern Atlantic air routes, it served to ferry personnel, equipment, and supplies to Europe. Intended as a temporary wartime base under an agreement with Iceland and the British, US forces withdrew by 1947, but returned in 1951 as the Iceland Defense Force, now operating a NATO base. NASKEF was closed on 8 September 2006 and its facilities taken over by the Icelandic Defence Agency as their primary base until 1 January 2011 when the Agency was abolished and the base handed over to the Icelandic Coast Guard which has since then operated the base. The base is regularly visited by the American military and other NATO allies, for military exercises, NATO Air Policing and other tasks. In 2017 the United States announced its intention to modify the largest hangar on the airbase in order to house the new Boeing P-8 Poseidon ASW aircraft being introduced.
The British occupation of the Faroe Islands in World War II, also known as Operation Valentine, was implemented immediately following the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. It was a small component of the roles of Nordic countries in World War II.
The Occupation of Iceland during World War II began with a British invasion intent on occupying and denying Iceland to Germany. The military operation codenamed Operation Fork was conducted by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. In time, the British forces were replaced by Canadian and later American forces, despite that the United States was not yet in the war.
At the beginning of World War II, Iceland was a sovereign kingdom in personal union with Denmark, with King Christian X as head of state. Iceland officially remained neutral throughout World War II. However, the British invaded Iceland on 10 May 1940. On 7 July 1941, the defence of Iceland was transferred from Britain to the United States, which was still a neutral country until five months later. On 17 June 1944, Iceland dissolved its union with Denmark and the Danish monarchy and declared itself a republic, which remains to this day.
Plan R 4 was the World War II British plan for an invasion of the neutral states of Norway and Sweden in April 1940, in the event of Germany violating the territorial integrity of Norway. Earlier, the British had planned a similar intervention with France during the Winter War.
This is a brief overview of historical warfare and recent developments in Iceland.
Denmark–Iceland relations are the foreign relations between Denmark and Iceland. Iceland was a Norwegian dependency since the Middle Ages and thus became part of the Kalmar Union and Denmark–Norway, both entities dominated by Denmark. After the dissolution of Denmark–Norway Iceland was a part of the Kingdom of Denmark from 1814 to 1918 and a separate kingdom in a personal union with Denmark until 1944, when Iceland declared independence. Denmark has an embassy in Reykjavík. Iceland has an embassy in Copenhagen and consulates-general in Nuuk and Tórshavn.
The English Wars were a series of conflicts between England and Sweden with Denmark-Norway as part of the Napoleonic Wars. It is named after England, the common name in Scandinavia of the United Kingdom, which declared war on Denmark-Norway due to disagreements over the neutrality of Danish trade and to prevent the Danish fleet falling into the hands of the First French Empire. It began with the first battle of Copenhagen in 1801 and its latter stage from 1807 onwards was followed by the Gunboat War, the Dano-Swedish War of 1808–09 and the Swedish invasion of Holstein in 1814.
This page is about the effects on Sweden, during and following Operation Weserübung.
For articles about the operation itself:
During the early stages of World War II, the British and French Allies made a series of proposals to send troops to assist Finland against the Soviet Union in the Winter War, which started on 30 November 1939. The war was a consequence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which put Finland into the Soviet sphere of influence. The plans involved the transit of British and French troops and equipment through neutral Norway and Sweden. The initial plans were abandoned due to Norway and Sweden declining transit through their land, fearing their countries would be drawn into the war. The Moscow Peace Treaty ended the war in March 1940, precluding the possibility of intervention.
The Icelandic Base Command (IBC) is an inactive United States Army organization. It was established for the United States defense of the Kingdom of Iceland during World War II. It was inactivated on 4 March 1947.
The Capture of Arendal occurred on 9 April 1940 and saw the German torpedo boat Greif land a force of bicycle troops and seize an invasion beachhead at the Norwegian port town of Arendal. The main aim of the landing, part of the German invasion of Norway, was to sever the undersea telegraph cable between Arendal and the United Kingdom.