Iceland


John - "Somewhere in Iceland"


John Crook's service in Iceland.

Background

On 1 December 1918 Iceland, by agreement with Denmark, became a "separate state" under the Danish crown with control over the entirety of its own affairs excepting international relations. The agreement bound both states for twenty-five years. At that time it was to become subject to renegotiation with either party having the right to terminate the agreement.

Iceland had always been a remote and little-known realm. Largely barren and volcanic with minimal development beyond a string of coastal villages and towns, the island by 1940 had a population of just over 120,000, most of whom supported themselves through fishing and sheep ranching, exporting their products mostly to Europe. On the eve of World War II there was little industry and -- other than a small police establishment -- no armed forces whatsoever.

By that time, however, others had come to recognize how Iceland's strategic position along the North Atlantic sea lanes, perfect for air and naval bases, could bring new importance to the island. In the words of one German naval officer, "Whoever has Iceland controls the entrances into and exits from the Atlantic."

German interest in Iceland in the 1930's grew from nothing at all to proportions found by the British government to be alarming. The Reich's favours began with friendly competition between German and Icelandic soccer teams and free instruction in gliding by German experts who arrived in the summer of 1938 with gliders and an airplane -- perfect, in the British view, for compiling maps and discovering suitable landing grounds. A "suspicious" number of German anthropology teams arrived to survey the island and Lufthansa airlines attempted, unsuccessfully, to establish an air service. U-boats visited Reykjavik and the cruiser Emden called. Commercial trade between the countries also increased dramatically.

The United Kingdom, despite occasional unsettling reports, was unable or unwilling to take its own steps to increase influence and friendships in Iceland.

When war began, Denmark and Iceland declared neutrality and ended visits to the island by military vessels and aircraft of the belligerents. London imposed strict export controls on Icelandic goods, preventing profitable shipments to Germany, as part of its naval blockade.

In April 1940 Denmark was invaded and quickly overrun by Germany. From that time, despite the shared monarchy and nominal control over foreign affairs from Copenhagen, Iceland was for all practical purposes completely independent. At the same time, with Germany gaining control of the lengthy Norwegian coast, the original Allied naval blockade line was no longer tenable and Iceland suddenly assumed new importance in British planning.

London offered assistance to Iceland, seeking cooperation "as a belligerent and an ally", but Reykjavik declined and reaffirmed its neutrality.

The British Strike

Britain was now concerned about a coup by Germans already in Iceland (a small diplomatic staff, a few resident nationals, and a few individuals stranded by the war, plus 62 shipwrecked German sailors not yet repatriated) as well as an invasion by sea or air.

On 28 April 1940, Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty at that time, initiated planning to forestall German occupation and establish a British presence on Iceland. The Foreign Office deemed there was no chance of Reykjavik granting any request for such an intrusion but nevertheless opposed occupying Iceland without prior negotiation. The Admiralty preferred to land first and negotiate later. The War Cabinet sided with the Admiralty.

"Force Sturges" sailed from Greenock on 8 May. The force, commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges, was built around the 2nd Royal Marine Battalion of the 101st Royal Marine Brigade (including three batteries of artillery) amounting to 815 officers and men plus a small intelligence detachment. Aboard two cruisers (Berwick and Glasgow) and two destroyers, the expedition entered Reykjavik Bay on the morning of 10 May. Upon landing they were guided by local Britons and quickly secured important localities without incident. German citizens were taken into custody and the consulate seized. On the same day, the German offensive against France, Belgium, and the Netherlands was unleashed.

Although the Icelandic government issued a formal protest and stood by its neutral status, the British occupation was tacitly accepted. The Prime Minister of Iceland spoke of the UK as "a friendly nation" and asked his people "to consider the British soldiers as guests and consequently to show them as all other guests all courtesy." Likewise, the United States accepted the British move. All parties considered it a necessary and prudent step to forestall a German invasion.

German Invasion

Hitler had previously expressed vague interest in Iceland due to its strategic position in the North Atlantic, but there were in fact no plans to seize the island and no invasion for the British to forestall.

Hitler's anger at the British occupation soon energized plans for regaining the initiative. While the Kriegsmarine grudgingly confirmed it might be possible to capture Iceland from its new defenders, the planners could see no solution to holding and supplying German forces on the island in the middle of British-controlled waters.

Nevertheless, staff studies duly went forward. Shipping needs were calculated; sailing speeds for three separate, converging convoys determined to arrange a rendezvous; lack of escorting warships (due largely to destroyer losses at Narvik) noted; total lack of air cover lamented; inability to resupply the island underlined.

The planning was done under the name "Fall Ikarus". Despite invoking the name of the winged son of Daedalus, airborne landings were deemed impractical.


Iceland HQ. By the end of the Hallamshires' 2 year tour of duty in Iceland as part of 'Force Alabaster' John H. Crook had risen from a 2nd Lieutenant platoon commander to 1st Lieutenant Liaison officer attached to the Headquarters of 146th Infantry Brigade. The picture above dated August 1942 was annotated on the back in his own distinctive neat handwriting. Back Row From L - R. Lieut. John Ward, 2/Lt. C. S.Nuttall, 2/Lt John Labourn, Lieut Arthur Stewart, Front Row From L - R, Capt David Wright, Capt Neil Melrose, Major Cave, Brigadier N. P Procter M.C., Major P W. P Green, Capt C Pickard, Lieut. J. H. Crook.


By the end of September 1940, with the arrival of uncertain weather and the delay of Hitler's other amphibious project, Operation Sea Lion, even the remote possibility of a German expedition against Iceland had evaporated.

British Occupation

On 17 May 1940, the British 147th Brigade (1/6th Duke of Wellington's Regiment, 1/7th Duke of Wellington's Regiment, 1/5th West Yorkshire Regiment) of 49th Division arrived to relieve the Royal Marines in Iceland. On 19 May, having done its job, the Marine battalion sailed back to the UK.

The defenders were stretched exceedingly thin in an effort to hold the entire island and its jagged coastline. Unaware of Hitler's actual limitations in mounting a combined amphibious and airborne operation against such a distant objective, 147th Brigade feared the worst.

In June, at the urgent request of Brigadier George Lammie, British commander in Iceland, the War Office agreed to send a second infantry brigade to garrison its new outpost.

John Crook's Arrival

The 146th Brigade H/Q and a reduced headquarters staff from the 49th Infantry Division under Major General Harry O. Curtis were earmarked for the northern duty. They arrived early on 26th May.

Lieutenant John H Crook and his platoon of Hallamshires embarked on a transport ship HMT Andes from Greenock. The journey from the Clyde estuary was stormy and unpleasant. The ship had to zig zag to avoid U-boats.

They were landed in Iceland's most northern port Akureyri on June 28th at 3 p.m. in the afternoon in 1940. Akureyri was Iceland's second biggest human settlement with a population of about eight thousand.

The 4th Lincolnshire Regiment were dropped off with the Hallamshire battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment.

The sight was awe-inspiring and the conditions arduous:

They were faced with barren mountains, the highest covered in perpetual snow, flat pebbly plains, moors covered in heather, glaciers and vast fields of lava, almost impossible to cross even by a man on foot, geysers spouting boiling water at regular intervals, and streams of running water, bright yellow in colour with sulphur and too hot to touch.

Temperatures dropped to minus 40 degrees at Christmas. The real enemy was frostbite and exposure. It was not uncommon for groups and patrols of soldiers to die in blizzards. Rats were common near the army nissan huts.

The camp was built with do it yourself hut kits. There were only four hours of daylight during their first winter. Skiing patrols and the development of Arctic warfare training made the experience slightly more stimulating.

Lieutenant Crook sometimes patrolled as far north as Greenland, climbed mountains and would describe how urinating in the extreme cold conditions often meant that his urine had turned to ice by the time it reached the snow.

John Crook was based at the mountain and snow warfare school at Akureyri which was used to train 49th Brigade into a Mountain/Arctic division. The idea came from Prime Minister Winston Churchill who visited the troops on his way home from visiting President Roosevelt in 1940.

Rex Flower who was with the 1/4th KOYLI remembered:

'Each company had a ski platoon training under Norwegian instructors. We had proper equipment, trousers, 'parkas' in white and drab, rucksacks, string vests, special boots, and snowshoes with a small ski attached. Everyone had to take part in the training. We had survival training in two man tents. We had to stay in them for 2 days with weapons, rations and a small stove.'

The Icelanders were sharply divided. Some were delighted to see British troops. Others were pro-German and could not stand the sight of them. No lasting friendships were made with Icelanders in this cold and barren terrain. However in the 1970s John Crook did go to Reykjavik for a short holiday. He had kept a 1939 Foreign Office pictorial and cultural guide to Iceland in his collection of books which has been inherited by his sons.

Additional reinforcements over the course of the summer included field artillery, AA guns, Bren carriers, engineer and construction units, and support forces. The controlling headquarters was known successively as Alabaster Force, Iceland Force, and HQ, British Troops in Iceland.

As early as 18 May 1940 the British government had suggested to Ottawa that Iceland should be garrisoned by Canadian troops. In particular, one battalion was urgently required to reinforce the 147th Brigade at that time. By June the British were requesting a full brigade of reinforcements and by July it was suggested that the entire Canadian 2nd Division should be dispatched to Iceland.

While London clamoured for more troops, Canada dispatched "Z Force" under Brigadier L.F. Page with a brigade-sized HQ staff and one infantry battalion, The Royal Regiment of Canada; those forces arrived on 16 June 1940. Two additional Canadian battalions for "Z Force", Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal and The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, arrived on 9 July. This brought the garrison of Iceland to the size of a composite division.

Canada, however, preferred to concentrate its overseas army in one locale under its own command, and consequently "Z Force" was relieved within a short period of time by British forces. The 70th Brigade sailed from the UK on 21 October 1940, arriving in Iceland on 25 October with 10th Durham Light Infantry, 11th Durham Light Infantry, and 1st Tyneside Scottish. In exchange, The Royal Regiment of Canada, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, and "Z Force" headquarters departed Iceland on 31 October, bound for the UK.

The third Canadian battalion, The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, wintered on Iceland and eventually moved to the UK in April of 1941.

The final British ground reinforcement for Iceland arrived in June 1941: a further infantry battalion and a battery of artillery.

By July 1941 there were over 25,000 British troops on the island.

Construction of naval facilities at Hvalfordhur began soon after the occupation and these gradually grew into a large and important complex: "mine 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 antisubmarine forces.


Akureyri in Northern Iceland


The RAF presence likewise grew. Fleet Air Arm's 701 Squadron was originally stationed in Iceland following the British landing; it was replaced by 98 Squadron of the RAF with 18 aircraft. These were only Fairey Battle bombers, and the occasional German reconnaissance plane overflew the island with impunity, strafing military camps at least once. Number 1423 Flight of Hurricane fighters was consequently dispatched in June 1941 but withdrawn in December following arrival of the American 33rd Pursuit Squadron. As basing facilities were built up, most of the air units stationed on the island were Coastal Command aircraft for patrol work, reconnaissance, and antisubmarine duties.

The Hallamshires and 146th Infantry Brigade

Scribbled on the back of the photo sent to his family in Bolton John H Crook revealed: 'Somewhere in Iceland February 1941.' The Hallamshires and 146th Brigade were part of the Alabaster Force sent to defend Iceland from German invasion and protect the Atlantic sea run. The Hallamshires embarked for Iceland on 22nd/23rd June 1940 in HMT (Her Majesty's Transport) Andes escorted by 2 destroyers and the Aircraft Carrier Argos.

On the 24th June 1940 Andes and her passengers enjoyed the bracing experience of the wind rising to 7 on the Beaufort Scale. The ship arrived in Iceland's Capital Reykjavik on 26th June 1940 at 1900 hours.

John H. Crook was in 'D' Company under the command of Captain K W West and L M Lonsdale-Cooper 2nd in Command. A battalion in the British Army was about 800 to 900 men strong. A company would have anything between 100 and 120 men divided into platoons normally 30 to 35 strong. It was in Iceland that through additional training his administrative and liaison skills came to the notice of Brigadier Procter.

Iceland (C) Force. Tactical School, Winter Warfare Course No. 14 March 1942 John Crook is the officer with the small moustache standing in the middle of the middle row.

Brigadier N. P Procter M.C. was the officer in command of 146th Infantry Brigade in Iceland and a veteran of the First World War.

On 27th June 1940 at 1700 hrs HMT Andes sailed from Reykjavik escorted by the destroyers HMS Punjabi and Firedrake. Both these destroyers would not survive the war. On 28th June 1940 at 1500 hrs she arrived in the Iceland northern port of Akureyri. 'D' Company disembarked during the evening. On the 1st of July 1940 at 9 a.m. in the morning 'D' Company were deployed at Krossanes and at 1 p.m. moved to the hills covering the North and West exits to Akureyri.

During August 1940 the Hallamshire War Diary reports that 'D' Company less one platoon was based a Djuparbakki and the remaining platoon was encamped at Siglufjordur.

The Iceland experience was a struggle to remain alert and battle ready in the face of an unforgiving climate and boredom. In addition to that the War Cabinet wanted the Alabaster force to train in Arctic and Winter warfare so that the British Army had this resource as an option for invasion of Norway or campaigns against the Germans in cold climates.

Entries in the Battalion War diary provide a flavour of the atmosphere during this period: 'Towards the middle of the month there begins to be darkness at night. Pickets are established during the hours of darkness on all quays and a proportion of each forward detachment stands to at dawn each day. The weather is mainly fine with slight frosts at night and snow falling on the hill tops when it rains in the valleys. A beginning is made of erecting huts for winter accommodation. ' (August 1940)

'The battalion is engaged in completing defensive works, wiring and riveting and covering trenches as material becomes available and in erecting huts for winter accommodation. 7th September 1940- First snow falls at the the camp area.' (September 1940)

'General The Viscount Gort V.C. Inspector General of Training visits area. ' (October 1940)

'Courses set up in French and shorthand.' (November 1940)

'Major C.C Strong assumed command. Lt. Colonel C. G. Robins assumes command of 146 Infantry Brigade. Each man is provided with a Christmas dinner of pork, Christmas pudding and mince pieces with beer, also a gift of cigarettes and sweets. (December 1940)

'Boots F. P (Arctic Pattern) were made available to the Other Ranks. 'D' Company camp at Djuparbakki. Snow ploughs allocated to Battalion. Fire in the 'A' Company camp at Bragholt. Started in cookhouse and spread to Diner. Both gutted. Court of inquiry convened to inquire into circumstances in which fire broke out. Detention barracks were constructed at Akureyri. ' (January 1941)

'Weather worsened. Serious drifting of snow. Snow ploughs ditched. Severe blizzards in gale force winds.' (February 1941)

During this period service in Iceland 2 Hallamshire soldiers died in accidents and were buried in Akureyri. Their graves were photographed for the Battalion War Diary and identified as Privates Frederick Heald and Thomas D Hateley. 32 year old Heald died from burns in a fire and 22 year old Hateley from head injuries as the result of a road traffic accident in treacherous and unmetalled roads. Hateley's 15 CWT truck overturned near Horga at a suspension bridge.

Both died on 26th January 1942 while receiving treatment in No. 81 General Hospital. Another fatal casualty for the Hallamshires during the Iceland tour was 23 year old Sergeant Eric Seymour who was accidentally shot while working in a firing range near Bragholt on 7th July 1942.

''D' Company recce patrols west of the Horga River and the high ground South East of Hladir. (April 1941)

'The remains of an RAF Fairey Battle plane tracked down by mountain patrol. Lieutenant Sim found the missing plane at the head of Vaskardulur approx 1,300 yards. The plane appeared to have run into the mountain and blown up. All occupants were dead. A letter started by a Sergeant Talbot was found. No tracks in the snow leading to or from the remains of the plane.' The background to this tragic accident reemerged with media coverage in the year 2000 of an expedition to recover the remains of the plane and investigate the site.

'The Battleships HMS Devonshire and King George V visited Akureyri.' (May 1941) This was the month when the German warships Bismark and Prinze Eugen met Devonshire and King George V and H.M.S. Hood in naval battle in the Straights of Denmark between Greenland and Iceland. Hood was destroyed by the Bismark's first salvoes with only 3 survivors. The Hospital ship Leinster normally moored in Akureyri harbour pulled out on 24th May to care for any wounded survivors. There weren't any.

'Largest mail of the year.' (10th October 1941) 'BBC War correspondent Robin Duff had lunch at Battalion H/Q. Grey, overcast, snow in the hills- cold' (14th October 1941)

'4745559 Lance Corporal T. A Campbell and 4748988 Private G. Coates tried by FGCM for desertion having failed to report back from privilege leave to U.K.' (17th October 1941)

'During the month the Commanding Officer received from the wife of one of the men of the Hallamshires who lost his life in HMS Afridi a letter which included details of difficulties which were being experienced at the present time by those in similar circumstances a fund "Afridi Christmas Fund" to bring a little happiness at Christmas to the widows and children of the men killed. The appeal raised 44 & 10 shillings. Christmas gifts equivalent to 3 to each widow and 1 for each child sent to relatives.' (November 1941) HMS Afridi was a destroyer sunk by German dive bombers during the Hallamshires' evacuation from Namsos in the unsuccessful Norwegian campaign. 13 Hallamshire Other Ranks were killed as the Destroyer sink in around twenty minutes.

'Captain M.C. D Truman RTR in charge of film unit preparing training film on mountain warfare.' (26th January 1942)

'52 Other Ranks were struck off the strength of the battalion after being classified A1 but unfit for future role in this unit.' (14th February 1942) The Hallamshires were becoming among the fittest battalions in the British Army. The mountain warfare training was unprecedented. Continual runs and mountain climbing along with ski patrols and survival in Arctic conditions required a higher dimension of military performance.

'10 ranks returned to the battalion from leave for contravening regulations governing the taking of NAAFI property to the UK.' (22nd February 1942)

'Lowest temperature ever taken at Krossastadir at -5.8 degrees Fahrenheit. (28th February 1942.)

'Lieutenant J.H Crook attending No. 14 Platoon Commanders course at Force Tactical School Reykjavik on HMT 'Leinster'. (12th March 1942)

'A party of 2 Kensingtons (M.G.) consisting of 1 officer and 25 Other Ranks were caught in a blizzard on the Vindheimajokull. Their tents were blown away. 3 died. Medical orderlies from Hallams at Krossastadir Camp gave them attention when they arrived . Party of men went off to look for 4 men still missing. (1st and 2nd April 1942)

'A young Icelander who made fun of a guard at North Quay (Reykjavik) and drew a Swastika on the wall was arrested and handed over to the civil police. Owing to his youth he was not punished by the civil police, but they were warned that future occurrences of this nature would be met by severe measures from us' (War Diary for 146th Infantry Brigade 4th April 1942) This observation by Brigadier Procter illustrates the tension between many Icelanders and the British troops who were perceived as 'invaders'. Prior to the Second World War Germany had been preparing 'a special relationship' with Iceland because of its strategic importance.

They had a substantial 'diplomatic mission' which included large numbers of military experts and 'a hearts and mind' policy of investing in Iceland's infrastructure. From the point of view of ideology the Icelanders represented a pure strand of Nazi 'Aryan Race'. John H. Crook returned to Iceland in 1972 for a two week holiday and in his library he had kept a detailed and illustrated book of the country that had been originally published in 1939.

'Enemy surface vessels reported 200 miles east of Iceland.' (6th May 1942)

Order of the day from Major-General H. O Curtis: 'Your arduous tasks connected with the defence of Iceland and the vital Battle of the Atlantic are not quite finished. Continue to show some of the same patience and determination, so that you can return home both to enjoy hard-earned leave and to get ready for the next task in the cause of victory. With a feeling of rightful pride on completion of a fine piece of war work. Keep the "Polar Bear" spirit burning brightly. In spite of climate and isolation, it has turned you into seasoned and hard trained troops.' (1st May 1942)

This tone of optimism might have been influenced by that fact that on 9th May it was reported that the 'weather was perfect with 17 hours of sunshine.'

American Occupation

Iceland opened a legation in New York City following the invasion of Denmark. Uncertain about the odds of British survival and victory during the days following the German triumph in western Europe, the legation in July 1940 first approached the US State Department about the possibility of protection under the Monroe Doctrine but no action was taken.

Even so, Iceland began to figure in American planning. According to the "ABC-1" Anglo-American staff agreements, in the event of American entry into the war US troops would take responsibility for Iceland. In April 1941 discussions with Icelandic representatives were reopened by Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles and presidential advisor Harry Hopkins. As world events and -- in particular -- the deepening American involvement in the U-boat campaign brought the United States closer to war, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on 28 May in a meeting with British Ambassador Lord Halifax offered to assume responsibility for the garrisoning of Iceland. Churchill, anxious to draw the Americans into the war against the Axis by any means, accepted the offer without hesitation.

Due to the predominant mood of isolationism in the US and the delicate nature of occupying a foreign neutral, the Roosevelt Administration required a specific invitation from the Icelandic government. Although the US was itself still neutral, Iceland's own neutrality and sovereignty meant such an invitation must be couched in fastidious and circumspect terms with an attachment of fifteen conditions including full recognition of Iceland's independence and a promise to withdraw "immediately on conclusion of the present war."

On 24 May 1941, the 6th Marine Regiment in California became the nucleus of a force "for overseas duty." It sailed from San Diego on 31 May and arrived in Charleston, South Carolina on 15 June. The following day the 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional) was officially formed under command of Brigadier General John Marston USMC with the following components:

Brigade Headquarters Platoon

Brigade Band

6th Marines

5th Marine Defense Battalion (less 5-inch Artillery Group)

2nd Battalion, 10th Marines

Company A, 2nd Tank Battalion (less 3rd Platoon) assorted support and service elements

On 22 June, while the German invasion of the Soviet Union commenced, the brigade sailed for Argentia, Newfoundland in four transports and two cargo vessels. The convoy arrived at Argentia on 27 June and there awaited conclusion of negotiations. The American, British, and Icelandic governments resolved the diplomatic niceties and a suitable invitation was issued from Reykjavik on 1 July. The Marines departed Argentia the next morning with a heavy escort (including battleships New York and Arkansas, cruisers Brooklyn and Nashville, and more than a dozen destroyers) and arrived at Reykjavik on 7 July 1941.

Although the agreement called for the prompt relief of British forces and US Marines by US Army units, the dispatch of American infantry was delayed by shortages of equipment and trained personnel and by Federal legislative restrictions on conscripted personnel serving outside the United States.

Eventually the US 5th Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Charles H. Bonesteel, was selected for duty in Iceland and on 27 July 1941 the first echelon of Army troops sailed in two elements from New York and Norfolk with the 1st Battalion (less two companies) of 5th Division, an aviation engineer unit, and miscellaneous support troops. The 33rd Pursuit Squadron with some 30 aircraft was embarked aboard the carrier USS Wasp and, although not carrier-trained, flew off the deck when the convoy arrived at Reykjavik on 6 August.

The second echelon of the 5th Division sailed from New York on 5 September 1941 with the 10th Infantry Regiment, 5th Engineers, 46th Field Artillery, and service units aboard troopships Heywood, William P. Brook, Harry L. Lee, and Republic. This convoy arrived on the night of 15-16 September.

Additional Army units deployed to Iceland in 1942. The 2nd Infantry Regiment of 5th Division sailed from New York on 26 February and arrived on 3 March. The 11th Infantry Regiment of 5th Division sailed 7 April and arrived 21 April. The 188th Infantry Regiment was detached from the 30th Infantry Division, left New York on 5 August, and landed in Iceland on 24 August. A week later the 759th Light Tank Battalion arrived. Engineers, artillery, antiaircraft, and other supporting units were provided on the usual lavish American scale.

Withdrawal

As US Army forces arrived, British and US Marine units departed.

British 70th Brigade with its three battalions returned to the UK in December 1941.

The 3rd Battalion of the 6th Marines embarked on 28 January 1942, steamed away on the last day of the month, and arrived in New York on 11 February. The remainder of the US Marines began embarking on 4 March 1942, left on 8 March, and arrived in New York on the 25th. Upon arrival, 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional) was immediately disbanded.

In April 1942 the 147th Brigade and HQ elements of 49th Division were withdrawn, leaving only the 146th Brigade and assorted support and administrative forces to represent the UK on the island.

In the summer, most of these sailed for home -- 146th Brigade on 20 August 1942 -- and "HQ, British Troops in Iceland" disbanded. It remains to be asked what John Crook's presence on Iceland achieved? It can be argued that the presence of the British Army was a key factor in establishing Iceland's post war independence from Denmark. It was the beginning of establishing professional Arctic warfare training in the British Army which became crucial after the formation of NATO and the need to maintain a Nato defence capability in Norway and Alpine regions of Europe.

The York and Lancaster Regiment's historian Major O.F Sheffield wrote:

'The winter of 1941-42 was entirely taken up by winter warfare training in the mountains. A team of experts was attached to the Battalion to teach all ranks how to ski, build igloos and climb up and down vertical rock faces on ropes. It became common practice for men to ski all day, carrying a 70 pound rucksack, to live on 24 ounces of food, and to sleep in a snow hole or igloo with the thermometer below zero. This training, though hard, was enjoyed, so it was with regret that units of the 49th Division handed over this role of mountain winter warfare to the 52nd Lowland Division in the summer of 1942.' (page 124, Volume III The York & Lancaster Regiment, 1956)

John H Crook did tell his sons that he would patrol on skis as far as Greenland and that temperatures would be so low that when spending a penny, a soldier's urine would freeze by the time it reached the ground.

Although British soldiers saw no action while based in Iceland, given the hazards and pressures of living and patrolling the Arctic and the importance of their presence in the Battle of the Atlantic, there is an argument that they should have been awarded a campaign medal.

By summer 1943, the last British Army troops were gone; Royal Navy and Royal Air Force strength and activity, however, remained unweakened.

In 1943 the tide of war turned, the perceived threat of German assault vanished, and a single winter on Iceland proved sufficient for most of the US Army forces. The 5th Infantry Division, including the 2nd, 10th, and 11th Infantry Regiments as well as numerous supporting units, and the 759th Light Tank Battalion bid farewell on 5 August 1943 and reached the UK on 9 August. The separate 118th Infantry Regiment took its leave on 29 October and arrived in the United Kingdom on 6 November 1943.

Despite the departure of all major ground combat units, considerable numbers of antiaircraft, coastal artillery, engineer, and support troops remained behind, as well as a significant air and naval presence.

Prevented by the world war from renegotiating with Copenhagen the twenty-five-year agreement of 1918, Iceland in 1943 terminated that treaty, broke all legal ties with Denmark, repudiated the monarchy, and formed an independent republic. The new state was officially founded on 17 June 1944 with Svein Bjornsson as its first president.

In 1945 the last Royal Navy assets were withdrawn; the last airmen of the Royal Air Force left in March 1947. Similarly, some American forces, despite the provisions of their invitation and its fifteen conditions, remained after the end of the war. In 1946 an agreement was signed granting American use of military facilities on the island.

In 1949, master of its own affairs, Iceland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.