The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

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The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 03:05

On the 10th of May 1940, the British occupied the island of Norway, which had previously declared itself Neutral for a short time after the German invasion of Denmark on April 9th, 1940, severing communications between Iceland and Denmark. The Althing declared Danish King Christian X unable to perform his constitutional duties and as a result, on April 10th, the Parliament of Iceland had decided to take control of its own foreign affairs, electing a provisional governor, Sveinn Björnsson, who later became the republic's first president. The Chief of the Capital Police Forces, Agnar Kofoed-Hansen, started to train National Defence forces in early 1940. a body of police volunteers for defence duties.

On May 10, 1940, British military forces began an invasion of Iceland when they sailed into Reykjavik harbour in Operation Fork. The government of Iceland issued a protest against what it called a "flagrant violation" of Icelandic Neutrality and "its independence infringed" and 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. On the day of the invasion, Prime Minister Hermann Jónasson read a radio announcement telling Icelanders to treat the British troops with the politeness due to guests. The Allied occupation of Iceland would last throughout the war.

The British government had become 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 invasion force consisted of 746 marines, ill-equipped and only partially trained. Although it succeeded in its mission, it was manifestly insufficient to defend an island of 103,000 square kilometres. On 17th May, 4,000 troops of the British Army arrived to relieve the marines...and on the 7th of July 1940 one battalion of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa and one battalion the Fusiliers Mont Royal arrived at Reykjavik and two days later were deployed to Hveragerdi (Headquarters), Kaldadarnes and other locations in defence of Southland. Kaldarnes and Sandskeid were identified as the only two possible makeshift landing sites in Southland, along with Melgerdi in the north...as the airfield at Reykjavik had a long and troubled history with wet ground and bogs and would need considerable development.

Construction of naval facilities at Hvalfordhur began soon after the occupation and these gradually grew into a large and important complex: amine depot, major pier and several jetties, major accommodations, a fresh water supply system, ammunition storage, a fleet bakery, bulk naval storage warehouse, recreation facilities, a direction-finding station, and a naval camp. Later, the installation included a major fuel farm, minefield, anti-sub nets, gate and boom across the fjord, coastal guns, AA batteries, and anti-sub trawlers. As such, it served as base for Allied escort and anti-submarine forces.

The British air presence on Iceland began with Walrus amphibians of No. 710 Sqn FAA who were stationed at Reykjavik. This was floowed by the Fairey Battles of No.98 Squadron Bomber Command....to operate from the makeshift grass field at Kaldadarnes...
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 03:08

On 26 July the squadron left Gatwick on the first stage of its flight to Kaldadarnes, Iceland, a hastily prepared landing ground on the bank of the river Ölfusá, about 40 km southeast of Reykjavik. At the controls of L5343 was W/Cdr. G.R. Ashton, AFC, the squadron’s Commanding Officer. After a brief layover at RAF Newton where the Battles were serviced and their compasses swung, the squadron proceeded to Wick, Scotland, where L5343 landed on 2 August after spening a night at RAF Montrose due to weather.

On account of the Battles’ limited range the squadron was held up at Wick several weeks awaiting favourable weather for the crossing to Iceland and it was not until 27 August that the first section of 9 Battles led by W/Cdr. Ashton in L5343 took off for Iceland escorted by two Sunderlands. Five hours and twenty minutes later they all landed safely at Kaldadarnes, L5343 thereby allegedly becoming the first RAF aircraft to set its wheels on Icelandic soil. The rest of the squadron’s Battles joined those already in Iceland on 14 September.

There was only one major problem with all this...Kaldadarnes, frequently inundated by the Ölfusá, was a VERY questionable asset for the RAF! 8O In the end it would be home to the Battles of No.98 Sqn, the Hudsons of No.264 Sqn., a flight of Hurricane IAs, and a dozen FFA Swordfish - but Kaldadarnes, one of only two possible landling fields in the whole of Southland apart from the questionable field at Reykjavik, was to have a very troubled histroy.

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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 03:34

The following historical details come from the well-documented history of No. 269 Squadron, as laid out at http://www.oca.269squadron.btinternet.co.uk The yearly histories there are absolutely fascinating, but here I'm more interested in the history of the airfield at Kaldarnes, for it illustrates the problems with operating land aircraft from all fields on Iceland to one extent or another.

Work had actually started on an RAF operational base in Iceland on the 1st of August 1940. No. 30 Wing arrived to administer a landplane force at the airfield under construction at Kaldadarnes. The Wing was controlled by No 18 Group at Pitreavie Castle in Scotland. As we've seen the Fairey Battle aircraft of No 98 Squadron, having been transferred from Bomber Command, arrived at Kaldadarnes along with a Tiger Moth communication aircraft and some Hurricane 1As and started operations.

The next entry in the squadron history regarding the actual airfield at Kaldadarnes is very interesting; on the 1st of DECEMBER...three months later..."Airfields were still under construction at Reykjavik and Kaldadarnes"! 8O

Just as an aside - it's worth noting the place that Kaldadarnes has in British social history! :lol: Sgt Frank Muir photographer was posted to RAF Kaldadarnes. He was one of a number of well known Show Business personalities at the base and later organised the English programme of the Icelandic Broadcasting Station! :o
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The next entry regarding the fabric of RAF Kaldadarnes - AND Reykjavik! - comes on 8th April 1941...
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.

8O !!!

At this point, apart from an occasional Fairey Battle at Reykjavik, and very temporary detachments to Melgerdi - the field at Kaldadarnes was the only RAF facility with permanently-stationed aircraft on Iceland.

The first three Hudson aircraft of No 269 Squadron arrived at Kaldadarnes on 12 Aprilth 1941; but only six days later, the fourth Hudson of No 269 Squadron arrived at Kaldaðarnes...AND the first Hudson accident occurred at Kaldadarnes! 8O With the second on the 28th. But at least work was progressing - SLOWLY...it's recorded that by the 10th of April -
Kaldadarnes. 2/3 of runway 2 now surfaced with concrete.


As for Reykjavik...work was apparently even slower! A sub-Lieutenant harvey from the fighter Catapualt Ship HMS
Ariguani was launched against a Fw200 Condor, and afterwards...
...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


By this stage two squadrons of Sunderlands are operating from the RAF's flying boat base at Reykjavik...but it must have been judged that the work at Kaldadarnes and the operations of land planes on Iceland was not moving fast enough. On the 13th of May 1941, a detachment from No 807 Road Construction Coy. RE arrived at Kaldadarnes "to complete laying of concrete on runways". Catalina aircraft of No 240 Squadron also arrived at the RAF Flying Boat Base, Reykjavik on the same day.
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 03:48

The problems created by local circumstances at Kaldadarnes and elsewhere can sometimes be glimpsed in theNo. 264 Sqn history. Vitally, on the 23rd of May 1941, when Battles of No. 98 Sqn SHOULD have flown off to look for the Bismarck... 8O
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


...this in the late Spring!

Work was still not progressing fast enough with local resources at Kaldadarnes; on the 29th of May, No 231 Coy. Pioneer Corps started further construction work on Kaldadarnes airfield. Two days later the move of No. 269's Hudsons and quadron personnel to Kaldadarnes was complete, and HQ, RAF Kaldadarnes was established on the 5th of June; Wg Cdr RH Carter was appointed as first Station Commander, the field having previously simply been under the command of the OC No. 98 Sqn.

But things were not going well at the field - on the 15th of June "A Report by Detachment Commander No 231 Coy was submitted on progress of construction of airfield at RAF Kaldadarnes". Oops! Only a week later, on the 22nd, this seems to have elicited some official recognition of the value of the field....or rather the value it SHOULD have to the RAF!
GOC British Army, Iceland visited Kaldadarnes to emphasise vital importance of RAF Kaldadarnes in Battle of the Atlantic.


At this point it should be noted , as can be seen from the history, that although activity at Kaldadarnes was starting to ramp up slowly - there were STILL issues 40 kms away...later in July, on the 26th, the remaining couple of Hurricanes that had previously acted as escorts for the Battles left Kaladarnes -
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.


....whereas only five days later on the 31st of the month...

Detachment Commander No 231 Coy. reported all three runways at Kaldaðarnes complete and operational


Everthing was coming up roses... :lol:
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 03:59

....or not :P As you can see from the 1941 chronolgy, Kaldadarnes had a very busy year through the rest of 1941 http://www.oca.269squadron.btinternet.co.uk/history/squadron_history/chronology/1941.htm...

....but with the turn of the year, Mother Nature struck back - as she was wont to do in Iceland! :D Here's an example of what the RAF DID sit out at Kaldadarnes...on the 15th of January 1942 -
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.


As readers can see, the rest of 1942 was a history of very regular operations from RAF Kaldadarnes - with one major low point in August...another event that has gone down in British social history; on the 26th of August...
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).
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 04:18

Then Mother Nature made a REALLY determined attempt to get rid of the RAF! :P

On the 6th of March 1943.
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.


kaldadarnes had ALWAYS had major problems with the boggy conditions of the area off the concrete runway. We've already seen an illustration of the problems the lighter Fairey Battles had endured...but the heavier Hudsons readily bogged down off the flightline in the mud and spate of an Icelandic Spring thaw!!
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Even when operating conditions were "good" they weren't exactly great! 8O
Image
....and this rough, rutted surface was SUMMER!

But in March of 1943 - things went downhill by the hour... A day later -
32 RAF officers and 721 airmen were evacuated from Kaldadarnes to Reykjavik airfield and nearby camps


Things were getting bad; they certainly grabbed the attention of the Americans by now responsible for the last two years for the defence of Iceland...on the 8th -
General Cortland H Parker US Army, Commander Western Defence Sector, visited RAF Kaldadarnes to discuss flood situation


...and on the 9th HIS superior arrived!
General Bonesteel US Army, Commanding General, Iceland Base Command visited RAF Kaldaðarnes to study the flood situation


But Mother Nature didn't take much notice of all the brass :lol: On the 10th...
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.


....and the evacuation began in earnest; over the next TWO days
Hudsons R,Q,S and Z of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.

Hudson J of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.


....then the word came through on the 12th -
Orders received for all personnel remaining at Kaldaðarnes, except for a small Care & Maintenance party, to be evacuated forthwith.

:(

The pace of withdrawal picked up after that - on the 13th...
Hudsons C and X of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.
...and on the 14th -
Hudsons A,D,E,F,K,L and W of No 269 Squadron flown to Reykjavik.


Finally - it was time to consider moving the flag; later that day -
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.


Over the next few days -
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


It was another four full days before the floodwaters receeded enough for a move BACK to kaldadarnes could be considered on the 23rd -
Orders given for original HQ RAF Kaldadarnes personnel to return to Kaldadarnes


...but as far as the Americans were concerned - RAF Kaldadarnes wasn't necessarily as vital to the defence of the North Atlantic as it ONCE was! On the 24th -
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.


The bad weather thre another minor spanner in the works; it was another two days before the RAF could get back intop kaldadarnes - on the 25th an advance party of 61 HQ personnel returned to RAF Kaldadarnes, with the remainder returning on the 26th...
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 04:30

No. 269's Hudsons began limited operations again, punctuated by the seasonal weather which seems to have remained bad; but in early May - a REALLY major issue reared it's head 8O The floodwaters in March had undercut one of Kaldadarnes' three runways! On the 6th of May...

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.


HOWEVER - it's not totally clear from the chronology - but it does appear that while Kaldarnes HAD been reopened - the Hudsons were NOW operating from Reykjavik permanently!

Obviously - with major repairs necessary for full operations to recommence from there, and 269's GHudsons based elsewhere...On the 31st of May -
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


Time had run out at last for the RAF in the rotten, wet, muddy conditions at Kaldadarnes! On the 31st of July, 1943 -
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.


A full month later -
The Hangar at Kaldaðarnes had been dismantled and re-erected west of Keflavik airfield.

The Americans had snapped up the surplus! :lol:

Also on the 31st of August -
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


A week later, on the 8th - RAF Kaldadarnes became a brevet command again :(
Sqn. Ldr. Harvey assumed Command of RAF Kaldaðarnes vice Sqn. Ldr. NB Sherwell. Personnel still dismantling facilities


Finally - at the end of October -
The last aircraft of the 12 FAA Pool Swordfish left Kaldaarnes.


....and a full month later, on the 30th of November 1943 -
RAF Kaldadarnes was officially closed, leaving behind the detachment of No 5021 Airfield Construction Squadron


...the fat lady had left the stage.
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 04:38

In conclusion - the story of RAF Kaldadarnes is a perfect illustration of the problems of operating land-based aircraft in the period at the limits of the enviroment. ALWAYS at the mercy of unpredictable Icelandic weather, which could be horrific even in Mid-Summer, the terrain afforded the RAF and USAAF only a very limited number of possible sites on the whole island. Of these, several at least were plagued by bad drainage, regular flooding and terrible ground conditions off any improved runways.

In the end - Kaldadarnes' career came to an end when it required a second major investment to prolong its service life...and the Battle of the Atlantic was well towards being won; the US airbase at Keflavik had come into operation and could replace Kaldadarnes totally :(

NOW I just have to find out what on earth conditions were like on the NORTH side of the island, at MELGERDI!!!
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 16:02

One anecdote I CAN'T go by without posting...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/A2663679

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!"
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 16:18

Interestingly - the development of Reykjavik airport seems to have been quite controversial. When searching round today I came acros this on an Italian history site. Apologies for the excreble automatic translation...

http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=http://islanda.altervista.org/node/14&ei=lNioS8ehHoGUjAeSzOneAQ&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CB0Q7gEwCTge&prev=/search%3Fq%3DMelgerdi%26start%3D30%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN

Regarding Communist agitation in Iceland in 1940-41...

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.
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby Jon G. » 23 Mar 2010 17:04

Interesting stuff, thanks for taking the effort. Weather in Iceland can be atrocious - even in current times, with infinitely better technology available, autumn storms occasionally cancel all flying to and from Iceland. Conditions which also obtain at the Faroes, by the way.

Do you know if the RAF/RCAF ever operated (or tried operating) B-24 Liberators from Iceland?

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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 17:25

The arrival of the Americans also provides an indicator of the weather that could be experienced in iceland....in the summer! 8O

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.


From Chapter XIX of my old favourite -GUARDING THE UNITED STATES AND ITS OUTPOSTS by Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engelman and Byron Fairchild

But LATER in that chapter we find some more details about how the British had earlier planned to defend the Island... :wink:

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.


And a map of the road network of Iceland during WWII..... :lol: :lol: :lol:

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The East coast of Iceland was a strategic dead-end for any prospective invader 8O The British did keep an observation post at the town of Djupivogur in the east the furthest-east town marked on that map, but the very small airfield there today was a post-war creation. Instead the RAF established themselves at Melgerdi in the north, across the fjord there from Akureyi harbour which was a naval port for the duration of the occupation, And Kaldadarnes in the south - where the Fairey Battles of N0.98 Sqn were to provide tactical support for the Army's defence of the important parts of the island.

The British as a whole didn't actually give Reykjavik any great value in the defence of these...especially when the Royal Navy bypassed Reykjavik entirely in 1940 and established themselves at the new naval base they created at Hvalfjordhur!
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.


They ALSO discussed the air defence situation...

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.


....and they discussed the OTHER problems with respect to air operations!

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.


8O !!!

So, the problems of a lack of space, the physical conditions etc. were to be sidestepped entirely! -
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.
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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 20:09

As a P.S. - the Olfusa STILL has a mind of its own... :P

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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 20:16

DEFINITELY a BINGO moment...just found this - http://image.healthhaven.com/find.aspx?keyword=kaldadarnes

....the floods of March 1943 at Kaldadarnes - from the air! 8O

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Anyone notice anything else APART from the floodwater that has inundated the RAF camp???

Like - March in Iceland still sees a rather copious snow covering!
Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs....
Lord, please keep Kevin Bacon alive...

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Re: The Troubled History of RAF Kaldadarnes

Postby phylo_roadking » 23 Mar 2010 20:31

Also just found this -

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).
http://www.flickr.com/photos/92223267@N00/357446112/

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It's worth noting that if I invert the map...
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...these are the huts that we can see under several feet of floodwater in the aerial pic above! :P From the map, we can see that the Sergeants' Mess is indeed a mess...
Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs....
Lord, please keep Kevin Bacon alive...


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