The British invasion of Denmark and the ‘Stab in the Back’.

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The (((British))) invasion of Denmark

The invasion of Iceland by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines occurred on 10 May 1940, during World War II. The invasion was performed because the British government feared that the island would be used by the Germans, who had recently overrun Denmark, Iceland’s possessing country. The Government of Iceland issued a protest, charging that its neutrality had been “flagrantly violated” and “its independence infringed”.

At the start of the war, the UK imposed strict export controls on Icelandic goods, preventing profitable shipments to Germany, as part of its naval blockade. The UK offered assistance to Iceland, seeking co-operation “as a belligerent and an ally”, but Reykjavík refused and reaffirmed its neutrality. The German diplomatic presence in Iceland, along with the island’s strategic importance, alarmed the UK government. 

After failing to persuade the Icelandic government to join the Allies, the UK invaded on the morning of 10 May 1940. The initial force of 746 Royal Marines commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges disembarked at the capital Reykjavík. Meeting no resistance, the troops moved quickly to disable communication networks, secure strategic locations, and arrest German citizens. Requisitioning local transport, the troops moved to Hvalfjörður, Kaldaðarnes, Sandskeið, and Akranes to secure potential landing areas against the possibility of a German counterattack.

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During 1918, after a long period of Danish rule, Iceland had become an independent state in personal union with the Danish king and with common foreign affairs. The newly initiated Kingdom of Iceland declared itself a neutral country without a defence force. The treaty of union allowed for a revision to begin during 1941 and for unilateral termination three years after that, if no agreement was made. By 1928, all Icelandic political parties were in agreement that the union treaty would be terminated as soon as possible. 

On 9 April 1940, German forces began Operation Weserübung, invading both Norway and Denmark. Denmark was subdued within a day and occupied. On the same day, the British government sent a message to the Icelandic government, stating that the UK was willing to assist Iceland in maintaining its independence but would require facilities in Iceland to do so. Iceland was invited to join the UK in the war “as a belligerent and an ally.” The Icelandic government rejected the offer. On the next day, 10 April, the Icelandic parliament, the Alþingi (or Althing), declared Danish King Christian X unable to perform his constitutional duties and assigned them to the government of Iceland, along with all other responsibilities previously performed by Denmark on behalf of Iceland. 

On 12 April, as Operation Valentine, the British occupied the Faroe Islands. After the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, the British government became increasingly concerned that Germany would soon try to establish a military presence in Iceland. They felt that this would constitute an intolerable threat to British control of the North Atlantic. Just as importantly, the British were eager to obtain bases in Iceland for themselves to strengthen their Northern Patrol.

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Ástandið, a term about the influence of British and U.S. soldiers on Icelandic women.

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‘Stab in the Back’ a cowards way out.

On 31 December 1943, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution. Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as its first president.

Iceland prospered during the Second World War. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at US$209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at US$109).

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The British occupation of the Faroe Islands in World War II, also known as Operation Valentine, was implemented immediately following the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. It was a small component of the roles of Nordic countries in World War II.

In April 1940, the United Kingdom occupied the strategically important Faroe Islands to forestall a German invasion. British troops left shortly after the end of the war.

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At the time of the occupation, the Faroe Islands had the status of an amt (county) of Denmark. Following the invasion and occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, British forces launched Operation Valentine to occupy the Faroe Islands. On 11 April, Winston Churchill — then First Lord of the Admiralty — announced to the House of Commons that the Faroe Islands would be occupied:

We are also at this moment occupying the Faroe Islands, which belong to Denmark and which are a strategic point of high importance, and whose people showed every disposition to receive us with warm regard. We shall shield the Faroe Islands from all the severities of war and establish ourselves there conveniently by sea and air until the moment comes when they will be handed back to Denmark liberated from the foul thraldom into which they have been plunged by German aggression.

An announcement was broadcast on BBC radio. An aircraft of the Royal Air Force (RAF) was seen over the Faroese capital Tórshavn on the same day. On 12 April, two destroyers of the Royal Navy arrived in Tórshavn harbour. Following a meeting with Carl Aage Hilbert (the Danish Prefect of the Islands) and Kristian Djurhuus (President of the Løgting, the Faroese Parliament), an emergency meeting of the Løgting was convened the same afternoon. Pro-independence members tried to declare the independence of the Faroe Islands from the Kingdom of Denmark but were outvoted. An official announcement was later made announcing the occupation and ordering a nighttime blackout in Tórshavn and neighbouring Argir, the censorship of post and telegraphy and the prohibition of the use of motor vehicles during the night without a permit.

On 13 April, the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Suffolk arrived at Tórshavn. Colonel T. B. W. Sandall (the British military commander) and Frederick Mason (the new British Consul to the Faroe Islands) then met with the Danish Prefect. The Prefect responded with what Sandall took to be a formal protest, although Hilbert maintained that owing to the occupation of Denmark he was unable formally to represent the Danish government. He duly accepted the British terms on the basis that the UK would not seek to interfere with the internal affairs of the islands. A formal protest was made by the Løgting, albeit expressing the wish for friendly relations. 250 Royal Marines were disembarked, later to be replaced by other British troops. Cordial relations were maintained between the British forces and the Faroese authorities. In May, the Royal Marines were replaced by soldiers of the Lovat Scouts, a Scottish Regiment. In 1942, they were replaced by the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). From 1944, the British garrison was considerably reduced. The author Eric Linklater was part of the British garrison and his 1956 novel The Dark of Summer was set in the Faroe Islands during the war years.

The Faroe Islands suffered occasional attacks by German Luftwaffe aircraft in the course of the war, but an invasion was never attempted. Drifting sea mines proved to be a considerable problem and resulted in the loss of numerous fishing boats and their crews. The trawler Nýggjaberg was sunk on 28 March 1942 near Iceland; 21 Faroese seamen were killed in the worst loss of Faroese lives in the war. During the war, Faroese ships had to hoist the Faroese flag and paint FAROES / FØROYAR on the ships’ sides, thus allowing the Royal Navy to identify them as “friendly”.

To prevent inflation, Danish Krone banknotes in circulation on the islands were overstamped with a mark indicating their validity only in the Faroe Islands. The Faroese króna (technically the Danish Krone in the Faroe Islands) was fixed at 22.4 DKK to £1 Sterling. Emergency banknotes were issued and Faroese banknotes were later printed by Bradbury Wilkinson in England.

During the occupation, the Løgting was given full legislative powers, albeit as an expedient given the occupation of Denmark. Although in the 1944 Icelandic constitutional referendum, Iceland became an independent republic, Churchill refused to countenance a change in the constitutional status of the Faroe Islands whilst Denmark was still occupied. Following the liberation of Denmark and the end of World War II in Europe, the occupation was terminated in May 1945 and the last British soldiers left in September. The experience of wartime self-government left a return to the pre-war status of an amt (county) unrealistic and unpopular. The 1946 Faroese independence referendum led to local autonomy within the Danish realm in 1948.

Following the occupation of Denmark by Germany, Faroese vessels were no longer permitted by the British Admiralty to fly the Danish flag. This was of considerable significance given the importance of the fishing fleet to the Faroese economy. Following some intensive discussions between the British occupation authorities, the Faroese authorities and the Danish Prefect, as well as discussions between the UK Foreign Office and the Danish Embassy in London, on 25 April 1940 the British authorities recognised the Faroese flagMerkið’ — as the civil ensign of the Faroe Islands.

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Faroe Islands are still getting economic aid from Denmark.

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