British occupation of the Faroe Islands

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.[1]

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

Location of the Faroe Islands


Map of the Faroe Islands en
Map of the Faroe Islands

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 British 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.[2]

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. His 1956 novel The Dark of Summer was set in the Faroe Islands during the war years.


On 20 June 1940, five Swedish naval vessels arrived in the Faroe Islands. Four (Psilander, Puke, Romulus, and Remus) were destroyers bought from Italy, one with civilian passengers; the fifth (Castor) was a tanker converted to military status. Britain seized all the ships under armed threat, and moved them to the Shetland Islands. Although Sweden was a neutral country and not at war with Britain, the British feared Germany would seize them if they continued to Sweden. After political negotiations Sweden secured their return. The British Navy had stripped equipment and caused damage to the ships, which Britain later gave compensation for. The Swedish commander was criticized by other Swedish officers for conceding the ships without resistance.


Minnisvarðin, in honour of the 210 men who died at sea during World War II. Erected in 1956, made by Kaare Orud (Norwegian artist), Lamhauge and Waagstein, Jacob Simonsen, the stoneplates were made by the Føroya Mekaniski Grótídnaður.

A plaque has been erected by British veterans in Tórshavn Cathedral expressing thanks for the kindness shown to them by the Faroese people during their presence. Approximately 170 marriages took place between British soldiers and Faroese women; the British Consul, Frederick Mason (1913–2008) also married a local woman, Karen Rorholm.

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 single 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.[3]

During the occupation, the Løgting was given full legislative powers, albeit as an expedient given the occupation of Denmark. Although in the Icelandic constitutional referendum, 1944, 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 Faroese independence referendum, 1946 led to local autonomy within the Danish realm in 1948.

The largest tangible sign of the British presence is the runway of Vágar Airport. Other reminders include the naval guns at the fortress of Skansin in Tórshavn, which served as the British military headquarters. A continuing reminder is the Faroese love of fish and chips and British chocolate such as Dairy Milk (which is readily available in shops throughout the islands but not in Denmark). American and German neuroepidemiologists John F. Kurtzke, Klaus Lauer, R. G. Cooke, Stuart Cook and others, have studied a series of multiple sclerosis epidemics that began in 1943 and are felt to be related to an unknown transmitted infectious agent.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

In 1990, the Faroese government organised British Week, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the friendly occupation. The celebration was attended by HMS Brilliant and a Royal Marines band. Sir Frederick Mason, the former wartime British consul to the Faroes, was also present.[10]


More than 200 Faroese seamen lost their lives at sea during World War II, most due to the war. A monument in their memory stands in Tórshavn's municipal park. Several Faroese vessels were either bombed or sunk by German submarines or by drifting sea mines. Faroese fishing vessels harvested the sea near Iceland and around the Faroe Islands and transported their catch to the UK for sale.[11]


The only airfield on the Faroe Islands was built in 1942–43 on the island of Vágar by the Royal Engineers under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel William E. Law. The majority of the British personnel in the Faroes were stationed at Vágar, mostly working on the construction of the airfield. Abandoned after the war, it was reopened as the civilian Vágar Airport in 1963. Left-hand traffic was in force on the roads of the island of Vágar until the British troops left the Faroe Islands.

The Faroese flag

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.[12]



NASA photo of the islands

Faroe stamp 536 world war 2

2005 Faroese stamp commemorating friendly relations between British soldiers and the Faroese

British gun, skansin (Faroe Islands)

British Second World War naval gun, Skansin fortress, Tórshavn

New zealand pilot died in the faroes

Grave of F/O H. J. G. Haeusler[a]

British barracks' remains at Vágar Airport, Faroe Islands

Remains of the British barracks at Vágar Airport

Faroe stamp 195 trawler nyggjaberg

Faroe postage stamp showing the trawler Nýggjaberg, which was lost on 28 March 1942

British Concrete Pillbox from World War II on Eggjarnar Faroe Islands

British pillbox on Eggjarnar near Vágur in Suðuroy

WW2 British Pillboxes in Akrabgerg Suðuroy Faroe Islands

British pillboxes or bunkers in Akraberg, the southernmost place in Suðuroy and the Faroe Islands

See also


  1. ^ The gravestone of the Royal New Zealand Air Force pilot Flying Officer H. J. G. Haeusler, aged 24, near Vágar Airport.[13]


  1. ^ James Miller, The North Atlantic Front: Orkney, Shetland, Faroe and Iceland at War (2004).
  2. ^ Niels Juel Arge, Stríðsárini VI (The Years of War VI) Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, at
  3. ^ Faroe Islands Paper Money - British Protectorate, Faerøerne, 1.10.1940 Emergency Issues Archived 2006-03-29 at the Wayback Machine, article on Faroese currency during the British occupation
  4. ^ Kurtzke, JF; Hyllested, K (Jan 1979). "Multiple sclerosis in the Faroe Islands: I. Clinical and epidemiological features". Ann Neurol. 5 (1): 6–21. doi:10.1002/ana.410050104. PMID 371519.
  5. ^ "multiple sclerosis". Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  6. ^ Lauer, K (Jun 1986). "Some comments on the occurrence of multiple sclerosis in the Faroe Islands". Journal of Neurology. 233 (3): 171–173. doi:10.1007/BF00314427. PMID 3522812.
  7. ^ Brody, Jane E. "MS: A MEDICAL DETECTIVE STORY". Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  8. ^ Cooke, R. G. (2009). "MS in the Faroe Islands and the possible protective effect of early childhood exposure to the "MS agent"". Acta Neurologica Scandinavica. 82 (4): 230–233. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0404.1990.tb01611.x.
  9. ^ Kurtzke, JF; Heltberg, A (2001). "Multiple sclerosis in the Faroe Islands: an epitome". J Clin Epidemiol. 54 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1016/s0895-4356(00)00268-7. PMID 11165464.
  10. ^ Obituary of Sir Frederick Mason in The Times
  11. ^ Jacobsen, Óli (10 November 2010). Sosialurin. Faroes. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ History of the Faroese flag Archived 1999-02-24 at the Wayback Machine, Flags of the World
  13. ^ - WW2 People's War: Sole Survivor (about the surviving crew member of the plane crash), 30 December 2005

Further reading

  • Miller, James. The North Atlantic Front: Orkney, Shetland, Faroe, and Iceland at War (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2003)
2. deild

2. deild, is the third tier of football in the Faroe Islands. It was originally the second tier; however, following a reorganization in 1976, it became a third tier league.

Faroe Islands Premier League

The Faroe Islands Premier League (known as Betri deildin menn for sponsorship reasons) is the top level of football in the Faroe Islands. It was founded in 2005, replacing 1. deild and it is organised by the Faroe Islands Football Association.

It is contested by 10 clubs. At the end of each season, two teams are relegated and two promoted from 1. deild. All teams in the league have semi-professional status.

As of December 2018 the Faroe Islands Premier League is ranked 50th out of 55 in the UEFA coefficient.

Faroese króna

The króna (plural: krónur; sign: kr) is the currency of the Faroe Islands. It is issued by Danmarks Nationalbank (Danish National Bank), the central bank of Denmark. It is not an independent currency but a version of the Danish krone. Consequently, it does not have an ISO 4217 currency code and instead shares that of the Danish krone, DKK. The króna is subdivided into 100 oyru(r).

Flag Day

A flag day is a flag-related holiday, a day designated for flying a certain flag (such as a national flag) or a day set aside to celebrate a historical event such as a nation's adoption of its flag.

Flag days are usually codified in national statutes passed by legislative bodies or parliaments; however, in some countries a decree or proclamation by the head of state or chief executive can also order a flag day. The statute or proclamation / decree may specify locations where flags are flown and how are they flown (for example, at full- or half-staff); alternatively, custom may prevail.


Gásadalur (Danish: Gåsedal) is a village located on the west side of Vágar, Faroe Islands, and enjoys a panoramic view over to the island of Mykines.

Gásadalur is located on the edge of Mykinesfjørður, surrounded by the highest mountains on Vágar. Árnafjall towers to a height of 722 metres to the north, and Eysturtindur to the east is 715 metres high. Here too, the view south to Tindhólmur and Gáshólmur is quite magnificent. Eysturtindur translates directly to "the Peak in the East".The landing site is very poor, because it is located somewhat higher than the seashore. So if the residents wanted to fish they were obliged to keep their boats near Bøur. In 1940, during the British occupation of the Faroe Islands, a stairway was built from the beach up to the village.

In order to reach any of the other villages, they had to take the strenuous route over mountains more than 400 metres high. This explains why the village population has become smaller and smaller. In 2002 there were only sixteen people living in Gásadalur, and several of the houses stand empty today. It had a population of 18 in 2012.In 2004 a tunnel was blasted through the rock, and it is possible to drive through by car. The residents hope this will mean that the village population will increase again. There are good opportunities for farming, and the same number of fields as in Bøur, but here only a few are royal estate. Most of them are freehold land.

HMT Lincoln City

HMT Lincoln City was an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) trawler in the service of the British Royal Navy during World War II. She was bombed during an air raid and sank on 21 February 1941 at the Faroe Islands.

Iceland in World War II

At the beginning of World War II, Iceland was a sovereign kingdom in personal union with Denmark, with King Christian X as head of state. Iceland officially remained neutral throughout World War II. However, the British invaded Iceland on 10 May 1940. On 7 July 1941, the defence of Iceland was transferred from Britain to the United States, which was still a neutral country until five months later. On 17 June 1944, Iceland dissolved its union with Denmark and the Danish monarchy and declared itself a republic, which remains to this day.

Kenneth Williamson

Kenneth Williamson (1914 – 14 June 1977) was a British ornithologist who had a strong association with Scotland and with bird migration.

Williamson was born in Bury Lancashire. From 1941-1945 he served with the British occupation of the Faroe Islands in World War II, in 1944 marrying Esther Louise Rein of Tórshavn with whom he had a daughter Hervor and son Robin. From 1948-1957 he was Director of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory. Subsequently he became a Senior Research Officer with the British Trust for Ornithology and from 1958-1963 he was editor of the journal Bird Migration. From 1959-1963 he served on the British Birds Rarities Committee.

On 2 February 1959 Williamson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Kristian Djurhuus

Kristian Djurhuus (12 February 1895 – 20 November 1984) was a Faroese politician. He was a member of the Union Party.

Operation Birke

Operation Birke (Operation Birch) was a German operation late in World War II in Finnish Lapland to protect access to nickel.

Operation Nordlicht (1944–45)

Operation Nordlicht ("Northern Light") was a German operation during the end of World War II. After Finland had made peace with the USSR, the Germans planned to fall back to defense lines built and equipped in advance across Finnish Lapland (Operation Birke). During the operation, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht gave an order to move from Operation Birke to Operation Nordlicht on 4 October 1944. This meant that instead of evacuating everything and then fortifying on the strong defensive positions German 20th Mountain Army was to retreat according to a set timetable to a new defense line in Lyngen, Norway. The Germans retreated using scorched earth tactics, and destroyed almost all buildings and all boats in Finnmark, thus denying the enemy any facilities in the area. These same tactics had already been used in Finnish Lapland. The retreat ended on January 20, 1945. A detailed account of 'the Nazis' scorched earth campaign in Norway' by Vincent Hunt includes statements by eyewitnesses, photographs taken at the time and a map of locations and prisoner of war camps.

Operation Platinum Fox

Operation Platinum Fox (German: Unternehmen Platinfuchs; Finnish: operaatio Platinakettu) was a German and Finnish military offensive launched during World War II. Platinum Fox took place on the Eastern Front and had the objective of capturing the Barents Sea port of Murmansk. It was part of a larger operation, called Operation Silver Fox (Silberfuchs; Hopeakettu).

Operation Rentier

Operation Rentier (Reindeer) was a German operation during World War II intended to secure the nickel mines around Petsamo in Finland, against a Soviet attack in the event of a renewed war between Finland and the Soviet Union.

The planning for the operation started on 13 August 1940, after the German occupation of Norway was complete, and was finalized in October that year. The plan called for the two divisions of the Alpine Corps Norwegen to occupy Petsamo and prevent Soviet capture of strategically important mines.

The operation was carried out by the Wehrmacht as part of Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on the Soviet Union. The operation commenced on 22 June 1941; the 2nd Mountain Division occupied the area around Liinakhamari and the 3rd Mountain Division occupied Luostari. The operation was followed up by Operation Platinum Fox, which was an attack by the two divisions against Murmansk as a part of the larger Operation Silver Fox.

Plan R 4

Plan R 4 was the World War II British plan for an invasion of the neutral states of Norway and Sweden in April 1940, in the event of Germany violating the territorial integrity of Norway. Earlier, the British had planned a similar intervention with France during the Winter War.


Skansin (literally: the jump) is a historic fortress in Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands.

Skansin is located on a hill beside the port of Tórshavn. The fort was built in 1580 by Magnus Heinason to protect against pirate raids of the town, after he himself was nearly caught up in one such raid. The fort was expanded considerably in 1780 and went through a series of rebuilds for many years afterwards. During the Second World War the fort served Britain as a military base. Two 5.5 inch guns date from the British occupation, standing along with many older Danish cannons.

One of the Faroese lighthouses, the Skansin Lighthouse (Skansin international lighthouse), towers over the fortress, pointing the way to the capital. The strategic location of the fort offers tourists picturesque views of Tórshavn port, surrounding landscape and views out towards Nólsoy island.

Timeline of Faroese history

This is a timeline of Faroese history comprising important legal and territorial changes and political events in Iceland and its predecessor states. To read about the background to these events, see history of the Faroe Islands.


Tórshavn (Faroese: [ˈtʰɔuʂhaʊn]; lit. 'Thor's harbour'; Danish: Thorshavn, pronounced [ˈtoɐ̯ˀshɑwˀn]) is the capital and largest town of the Faroe Islands. Tórshavn is in the southern part on the east coast of Streymoy. To the northwest of the city lies the 347-meter-high (1,138 ft) mountain Húsareyn, and to the southwest, the 350-meter-high (1,150 ft) Kirkjubøreyn. They are separated by the Sandá River. The town proper has a population of 13,089 (2017), and the greater urban area a population of 21,000.

The Norse established their parliament on the Tinganes peninsula in AD 850. Tórshavn thus became the capital of the Faroe Islands and has remained so ever since. All through the Middle Ages the narrow peninsula jutting out into the sea made up the main part of Tórshavn. Early on, Tórshavn became the centre of the islands' trade monopoly, thereby being the only legal place for the islanders to sell and buy goods. In 1856, the trade monopoly was abolished and the islands were left open to free trade.

Vágar Airport

Vágar Airport (Faroese: Vága Floghavn) (IATA: FAE, ICAO: EKVG) is the only airport in the Faroe Islands, and is located 1 NM (1.9 km; 1.2 mi) east of Sørvágur. Due to the Faroe Islands' status as a self-governing territory, the airport is not subject to the rules of the European Union. It is the main operating base for Faroese national airline Atlantic Airways and, for a brief period during 2006, was also the base for the low-cost airline FaroeJet.


Ástandið (Icelandic: "the condition" or "the situation") is a term used about the influence British and American soldiers had on Icelandic women during World War II. At its peak the population of foreign soldiers was equal to that of Icelandic men. Many of the foreign soldiers would court Icelandic women and estimates of the number of local women who married foreign soldiers goes into the hundreds. Such interaction between Icelandic women and foreign troops was not always well received and the women involved were often accused of prostitution and betraying their home country. Children born from such unions are known in Icelandic as ástandsbörn ("children of the condition/situation").

When the British Army invaded Iceland in 1940 people gathered on the streets to see the troops and the fact that many young Icelandic girls were captivated by them did not go unnoticed. Immediately discussions began over what effect this would have and minimal interaction with the troops was encouraged, but this proved to be difficult as many Icelanders had jobs in some way connected to the troops. A committee was formed which produced a damning report on the soldiers, which shed light on widespread prostitution amongst the troops. Some sources suggested that girls as young as twelve years old were involved in prostitution. The Icelandic authorities tried unsuccessfully to reduce the soldiers' encounters with Icelandic girls but with time the issue lapsed and was no longer part of the current affairs. The soldiers went home with the conclusion of the war in 1945.

US troops returned to Iceland in 1951 as part of the Iceland Defense Force during the Cold War. In order to reassure Icelandic authorities, the troops were quarantined in the Keflavík Air Base, which remained in operation until 2006.

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