Operation Valentine (i)

This was the British occupation of the Færoe islands group, at the time a county of Denmark, which had been invaded and overrun three days earlier by the Germans in ‘Weserübung’ (12 April 1940).

‘Valentine’ (i) was a pre-emptive but friendly ‘invasion’ and occupation of the Færoe islands group to prevent the possibility of a German invasion. Given its strategic significant location between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, the Færoe islands group could have proved useful to Germany in the Battle of the Atlantic, possibly as a base for U-boats and long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

Instead, the British forces were then able to build an air base on Vágar, and Færoese fishing boats also provided a large amount of fish to the UK, which was essential given food rationing.

On 12 April, the British destroyers Havant and Hesperus arrived in Tórshavn harbour after undertaking an anti-submarine sweep off the islands and, after a meeting with Carl Aage Hilbert, the Danish prefect of the islands, and Kristian Djurhuus, the president of the Løgting (Færoese parliament), an emergency meeting of the Løgting was convened during the afternoon of the same day. Pro-independence members tried to declare the independence of the Færoe islands group, but were outvoted. An official announcement was later made announcing the occupation and ordering a nocturnal black-out 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 the following day the British heavy cruiser Suffolk arrived at Tórshavn, and Colonel T. B. W. Sandall, the British military commander, and Frederick Mason, the new British consul in the Færoe islands group, then met with the prefect, who responded with what Sandall took to be a formal protest, though Hilbert maintained that as a result of the occupation of Denmark he was unable to be a formal representative of the Danish government. Hilbert 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 however made by the Løgting, though expressing the wish for friendly relations. In practice, cordial relations were maintained between the British forces and the Færoese authorities.

Some 250 Royal Marines were disembarked, and in May these were replaced by men of the Lovat Scouts, who were in 1942 in turn replaced by men of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). From 1944 the British garrison was considerably reduced.