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Operation Valentine - Occupation of the Faroe Islands

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: Faroe Islands

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1940

Date/s: 13th April 1940

Occupation of the Faroe Islands for 5 years, returned to Denmark on 13 May 1945.

At the time of the occupation, the Faroe Islands had the status of an administrative Province 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.

British Second World War naval gun at Skansin fortress, Tórshavn which served as the British military headquarters

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, Carl Aage Hilbert, who responded with what Sandall took to be a formal protest, although he 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.

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, aged 76.

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