Air Ministry informed that Battle aircraft of No.98 Squadron were operating from Kaldadarnes but runway improvements necessary. Only one runway completed. Reykjavik construction ‘backward’. Decision made to send No 269 Squadron to Kaldadarnes as soon as possible.
Kaldadarnes. 2/3 of runway 2 now surfaced with concrete.
...set course for Iceland, climbing through the clouds up into the bright sunlight. Three hours later he sighted mountains and finally landed at Kaldadarnes. On the 13th he flew the Fulmar on to Reykjavik where he landed on an unfinished runway. In avoiding a lorry parked at the end of the runway, he went off the concrete and finished up twelve inches from a huge boulder. The Fulmar's wings were folded and it was taken on a lorry down to the docks, where it was collected later by the Ariguani
Before the Bismarck was located orders had already been issued for a Fairey Battle to patrol Denmark Strait in area 6530N 2430W 6630N 2300W, northwestwards as far as ice limit from first light, being relieved by two further Battles in rotation. The aircraft were to operate from Kaldadarnes as Melgerdi landing ground was unavailable owing to low cloud, and had orders carry out patrols to PLE. The first Battle took off at first light and proceeded to position 6530N 2530W, but had to abandon patrol owing to bad weather (continuous rain, ceiling 300 ft and visibility of 1000 yards to 3 miles). The weather at Reykjavík and Kaldadarnes was also very bad throughout the day
GOC British Army, Iceland visited Kaldadarnes to emphasise vital importance of RAF Kaldadarnes in Battle of the Atlantic.
The Hurricane flight of No 98 Squadron became No.1423 Flight based at RAF Reykjavik, which was still under construction. No 98 Squadron at Kaldadarnes ceased to exist.
Detachment Commander No 231 Coy. reported all three runways at Kaldaðarnes complete and operational
Weather very stormy. Worst hurricane since 1925. SE wind speed 135 mph. Five USN flying boats sunk at Skerjafjörður. No aircraft or Nissen huts damaged at Kaldaðarnes.
Nissen Hut extension to Officers Mess at Kaldadarnes was due to be opened by Air Commodore HRH The Duke of Kent, but he was killed in a Sunderland crash en-route. Gen Bonesteel was waiting at the flying boat base until 2130 hrs when the welcoming party dispersed. The fatal crash was announced in a radio broadcast at 2300 hrs. (n.b. The US Iceland Base summary gives the date as 25 Aug).
River Ölfusá surrounding Kaldadarnes airfield overflowed and inundated airfield and lower camp site. Six P-38 Aircobra aircraft of 33rd Squadron Detachment returned to base. Water two feet deep. No 269 Squadron relocated at RAF Reykjavik.
32 RAF officers and 721 airmen were evacuated from Kaldadarnes to Reykjavik airfield and nearby camps
General Cortland H Parker US Army, Commander Western Defence Sector, visited RAF Kaldadarnes to discuss flood situation
General Bonesteel US Army, Commanding General, Iceland Base Command visited RAF Kaldaðarnes to study the flood situation
Flood at Kaldaðarnes worsened and further 57 personnel evacuated. Decision taken to re-deploy over next few days the 18 Hudson aircraft of No 269 Squadron to Reykjavik.
Hudsons R,Q,S and Z of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.
Hudson J of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.
Orders received for all personnel remaining at Kaldaðarnes, except for a small Care & Maintenance party, to be evacuated forthwith.
...and on the 14th -Hudsons C and X of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.
Hudsons A,D,E,F,K,L and W of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.
HQ RAF Kaldadarnes reported all personnel evacuated except for 2 officers and 27 airmen remaining behind. Consideration given to move HQ to Camp Vulkan in Reykjavik.
Hudson B of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.
Hudson P of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.
Hudson U of No 269 squadron flown to Reykjavik. Hudson H remaining unserviceable at Kaldadarnes
Orders given for original HQ RAF Kaldadarnes personnel to return to Kaldadarnes
Keflavik formally opened at 1500 hrs as 'Meeks Field' by Gen. Bonesteel, who spoke briefly to the assembled troops thanking them for their splendid work under severe weather conditions.
Air Officer Commanding, RAF Iceland and Wg Cdr Riley, Officer Commanding No 269 Squadron, inspected runways at Kaldadarnes and declared two OK and the third suitable for emergency landings only.
Sqn. Ldr. NB Sherwell, OC RAF Kaldadarnes reported strength of 12 Swordfish Pool aircraft of Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and one unserviceable Battle aircraft and that airfield had ceased to be operational. Plans were outlined for dismantling the facilities
OC, RAF Kaldadarnes reported plan to keep 2 officers and 110 airmen on the airfield with the remainder re-deployed. Dismantling of facilities was progressing.
The Hangar at Kaldaðarnes had been dismantled and re-erected west of Keflavik airfield.
OC, RAF Kaldaðarnes reported progress by Icelandic workers in dismantling Hangar 2 for re-erection at Camp Geck. 350 RAF personnel on airfield had little work to do. US Army units have left Kaldadarnes area and nearest unit is at Camp Selfoss
Sqn. Ldr. Harvey assumed Command of RAF Kaldaðarnes vice Sqn. Ldr. NB Sherwell. Personnel still dismantling facilities
The last aircraft of the 12 FAA Pool Swordfish left Kaldaarnes.
RAF Kaldadarnes was officially closed, leaving behind the detachment of No 5021 Airfield Construction Squadron
One morning we went into the office and felt that there was 'something on'. Headquarters was swarming with MPs and all personnel were confined to buildings. It turned out that Churchill was due to visit us. He had met Roosevelt at sea and they had signed the Atlantic Treaty on the battleship 'Prince of Wales' which had just docked at Havalfordur.
Churchill was coming to meet the Icelandic Government officials and to inspect the troops. He was due at HQ shortly. The guard of honour was drawn up and soon we saw the PM's car coming over the hill.
Churchill arrived with a large entourage. CIGS Field Marshall Dill, General Ismay, General Curtis (GOC Iceland (C) Force), The Chief of Staff Iceland, the CE and many more officers. He came in to the main office puffing a huge cigar. He spoke to the RE staff officers and then his eye caught the very large board in the office which showed the progress of all airfield construction on Iceland - this board was my responsibility, my baby. He looked at all of the coloured pins with interest and, pointing to the board he said, "Dill what is the position on the Melgerdi airfield?"
"Curtis," Dill said, "what is the position?"
And so it came down the line. Churchill, Dill, Curtis, Chief of Staff, Chief Engineer and finally to Cpl Wampach. I approached Churchill very nervously, "Number 2 runway excavated sir, number 2 ready for concreting, number 3 fully operational."
Churchill smiled and put his hand on my shoulder, "Thank you corporal." He then added in his gruff voice, "Thank God somebody knows the situation in Iceland!"
But Þjoðviljinn not limited only to publish articles. During a strike of workers for wage increases handed out flyers asking the military not to "steal the jobs of workers in Iceland" (January 1941). Smith, always accommodating, this time could not tolerate a kind of appeal to mutiny, and General Curtis was ready to act, but they decided to test the parliament, leaving it the initiative. Stemmed from the process that followed the convictions, albeit slight, even for the editors of the newspaper, one of whom, however, was Einar Òlgeirson, former Communist deputy, which greatly complicated the matter: being subject to immunity for the period in office, would assume three months of custody only at the end of term. One might ask whether Smith, a shrewd diplomat, he decided to "put to the test" because the Althing aware of the legal problems that could arise.
Einar (60), not at all intimidated and free for the duration of the term, he decided to repeat the challenge: April 7 launched a campaign for a strike on the site of the airport in Reykjavik, once again urging British soldiers not to participate. General Curtis, faced with constraints of time, does not tolerate such behavior: April 27, 1941 the newspaper was shut down and its editors, including Einar, moved to England. Smith tried to explain that what had been done was meeting the needs of security not only of British but of the whole nation, but of course the political case had broken out: beyond the fact that the Þjòðviljinn was a newspaper that drew just 1500 copies , a member of parliament had been deported, and a formal protest was inevitable.
Once again the press is divided: the conservative newspaper Morgunblaðid that perhaps never would have thought of having to spend an article in favor of the Communists, wrote that liberty in Iceland no longer existed. Wazir also spoke of the protest of the government as the most serious diplomatic incident between the two countries.
L 'Alþydublaðid was once again more balanced: while the British had acted obnoxious, the other was acknowledged both the responsibility of government, passive and careless as ever, is the same as inciting mutiny and Þjoðviljinn interfere with military projects.
After about three months Einar was left free to return home, but General Curtis never gave the license to reopen the paper, but in the meantime something had changed. A new Communist newspaper was founded, the Nyatt Dagblad, but with the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union now the British were the most intolerable aggressive but were welcomed as allies are blamed in case the delay in opening the "second front ", pace of ideological slogans, some time ago.
Unloading operations at Reykjavik were better planned and more closely supervised than those of the First Echelon. So that the problem could be studied during the voyage, General Bonesteel's headquarters had been provided with cargo manifests as soon as the convoy sailed; while, in Iceland, a preliminary plan of discharge was sketched out by Major Whitcomb, who had been the quartermaster representative in Iceland since early July. Major Whitcomb, a Reserve officer, whose attitude toward superior rank was at first a source of astonishment to a polished, well-schooled professional like General Bonesteel, was a man of considerable ability in his own particular field of port operations and of abundant energy in many directions. His plan was the basis for the arrangements made by Colonels Green and Jones. In summary, it provided for the following: the two vessels loaded with the most vehicles were to be berthed alongside the piers first; after them the vessels with the most nonperishable stores were to be docked; and last of all the vessels with perishable supplies. Cargo vessels that were waiting their turn to dock and the troopships, which were too large to enter the harbor, were to lighter their cargo to the piers by covered tenders and land their vehicles on nearby beaches by tank lighters. Personnel were to disembark by boats and tenders, preferably to one of the beaches, and if not there, to the Reykjavik piers. Whitcomb was insistent that the open tank lighters not be used to land general cargo, for this was before the days of waterproofed cartons.
As soon as the Second Echelon arrived, General Bonesteel called a conference at his headquarters on board the transport Republic to decide upon the details; but, when it came to carrying out the actual operations, much of the planning gave way to improvisation. Two of the cargo vessels, carrying about 60 percent of the vehicles, the lighter vehicles, were docked pretty much according to plan and discharged their cargo directly to the pier. But with the Navy insisting importunately upon a speedy turnaround, every type of craft that could be found was pressed into service to discharge the four troop transports and the other two cargo vessels that lay outside the harbor. Tank lighters and landing craft, and motor launches belonging to the naval escorts, and one of the Icelandic fishing vessels, were all employed to transfer cargo of every sort to the docks. Even the Norwalk, a former American coastwise vessel, small and rather shallow draft, that had arrived in Iceland with supplies about a week before the convoy, was put to use transferring cargo from the Republic. Motor vehicles were lightered ashore to the beaches, but all the other cargo and all personnel were landed at the docks. The port company that had arrived as part of the First Echelon was too small to do the job and the troops of the Second Echelon were inexperienced. High winds, heavy seas, and pouring rain almost constantly hindered operations and at times forced a complete halt. As Whitcomb had feared, cartons that through lack of tarpaulins had been soaked by rain and spray spilled their contents on the docks, and the result was considerable loss and some pilfering. By 25 September the troop transports and the two vessels at the docks had been completely unloaded and half the vehicles on board the other two cargo vessels had been landed. During the nine days, 9,746 tons, by weight, of general cargo and 511 vehicles, weighing about 1953 tons, were discharged. All troops disembarked on 24-25 September, and work was commenced on the two remaining cargo vessels with a much reduced labor force. On 3 October the last box came ashore. Some 5,000 men, with 15,390 dead-weight tons of general cargo and 641 vehicles weighing 2,717 tons, had landed on the island.
The British had provided for the defense of Iceland by sectors. Under the plan then current, the island was divided into five sectors, four of which contained areas of strategic importance requiring ground, antiaircraft, and coastal defenses. The Southwestern Sector, comprising the Reykjavik-Keflavik Peninsula area, was the smallest but most important. To its defense, the British had assigned some 10,500 troops. In the Western Sector, immediately adjoining, about 7,300 troops covered the land and air approaches to Reykjavik and manned the defenses of the naval anchorage in Hvalfjordhur and the airfield at Kaldadharnes. Thus, about 70 percent of the entire British garrison was stationed within a thirty-mile radius of the Reykjavik docks. The North western Sector was so organized as to protect the only road connection with the north coast, on a line running from Borgarnes in the south to Bl�ndu�s in the north, and for this purpose some 1,350 troops were assigned to the sector. Eastward from Bl�ndu�s a road led to the port of Akureyri. Beyond Akureyri a road of sorts extended about 60 miles to Lake M�vatn, but after that land communications became virtually nonexistent. Except for short stretches in the extreme eastern end of the island near Seydhisfjordhur and Bodhareyri and equally short stretches on the southern coast, roads became mere bridle paths and even these disappeared in places. The Northeastern Sector therefore comprised two widely separated centers of defense relatively inaccessible to each other and epitomized this aspect of the defense problem of the whole island. Some 3,500 men were stationed in the neighborhood of Akureyri for the protection of the port and seaplane anchorage and for the defense of the landing field at nearby Melgerdhi. Another 1,800 troops were assigned to the Northeastern Sector and stationed in the Seydhisfj�rdhur B�dhareyri area, which included a potential landing place for seaplanes on Lagarfljot (Lake Logurinn). These four sectors accounted for the whole of the British garrison, approximately 24,400 men; for no troops were assigned to the Central Sector, where a descent by hostile forces upon the mountainous wastelands or on the barren coast would have been difficult and led no where.
Shortly after General Bonesteel's arrival, General Curtis, commander of the British garrison, outlined his strategic and tactical views to General Bonesteel. The key to the defense of Reykjavik, as General Curtis saw it, was the Vatnsendi Ridge, five or six miles back of the city, which commanded the roads north to Alafoss and Hvalfjordhur, south to the small port of Hafnarfjordhur and the Keflavik Peninsula, and eastward along the road to Kaldadharnes and Selfoss. Control of the ridge, according to the British commander, would permit rapid counterattack in any of the three directions. From its position around Alafoss, the American mobile reserve was most suitably located for action in the direction of Hvalfjordhur; but should the British reserve behind Vatnsendi Ridge be forced to move out to counter a threat from the eastward, the American troops, General Curtis continued, should then be prepared to take the place of the British in support of the ridge. The major responsibility of the American force would clearly lie, however, in the area to the north and northwest, toward Hvalfjordhur.
Much the same situation prevailed with respect to the air garrison. The British had, based on Reykjav�k, one squadron of 15 Wellington bombers, a flight of 8 or 9 Hurricane fighters, a Norwegian squadron of 6 Northrop reconnaissance float planes, and 30 utility planes. These had been augmented by the 33d Pursuit Squadron (U.S.) with an original combat strength of 30 planes. At Kaldadharnes, about thirty-five miles southeast of Reykjavik, there was a British squadron of 26 Hudson bombers and 2 utility planes. A detachment of the Norwegian reconnaissance squadron, consisting of 4 planes, was at Akureyri, and another of 3 planes at Bodhareyri. In addition there was a United States naval air unit operating patrol planes out of Reykjavik. The total air strength, like the ground forces, was greater than that called for in the GHQ Operations Plan, but it too seemed inadequate.
The existing airfields at Reykjavik and Kaldadharnes, jointly used by the RAF and Americans, were overcrowded and unsuitable for heavy bomber (B-24) operations. Dispersal areas for the planes and housing for the men were limited. Runways, hastily built in the first place, had rapidly deteriorated under constant use and heavy frosts; and on one occasion a B-24 of the Ferry Command that had parked overnight on the runway at Reykjavik was found, next morning, to have broken through the paving. Overcrowding was the chief problem. It was possible to develop Reykjavik airfield only to the extent of taking care of an additional light bomber squadron; by building more parking and disposal areas at Kaldadharnes, and by providing housing, another squadron could be accommodated there.
The solution recommended by both General Bonesteel and General Tinker, and eventually adopted, was to construct an entirely new airfield, suitable for heavy bombers, in the neighborhood of Keflavik. Tests and surveys conducted under the direction of Colonel Morris, commander of the First Echelon and of the Iceland Base Command's air force, had already established the feasibility of constructing an additional fighter field there. The two projects would obviously complement each other. As soon as GHQ approved the idea of a bomber field early in November, the Iceland Base Command engineers began surveying the proposed site; but not until 29 December, three weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack, was the Iceland Base Command authorized to go ahead with the preliminary clearing and grading. Even then the arrangements for acquiring the land had not yet been completed.21 The two fields ultimately built at Keflavik, the bomber field (Meeks Field) and its satellite (Patterson Field) became the principal American air base in the North Atlantic and an important link in the ferry route to England; but this was in the future. Meanwhile, the problem of air defense in the fall of 1941 remained.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/92223267@N00/357446112/A sketch map of the medium and light machine gun defensive positions of the 1st Battalion, The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (M.G.), C.A.S.F., at the Kaldadarnes airfield near Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1940 and 1941 (museum holds a scanned image of the original map which is held by Mr. Stephen Walsh, a resident of Ireland).
Users browsing this forum: CommonCrawl [Bot]