Friday, December 30, 2011

A typically Icelandic conversation.

By May of 1940, Germany had easily invaded Denmark and Norway, and the Allies thought that Germany was looking to steamroll its way across the North Atlantic. (They probably were.)

Iceland was formally neutral in World War II. It still had ties to Denmark — their king was still formally the head of the Icelandic government — so the fact that Germany invaded Denmark was sort of a big deal.

The UK thought it'd be a good idea to act first on securing Iceland; might as well grab it before the Krauts do, they surmised. So, they put together a sloppy invasion strategy — because Iceland had no military, it didn't have to be great — and set about the task.

In the middle of the night before British ships were to land, a reconnaissance plane was sent forward to scout out the harbour. The pilot mistakenly flew over downtown Reykjavík, and because Iceland didn't have any airplanes at the time, this woke a lot of people up, including the Prime Minister. So much for surprise.

At any rate, in the morning, the British ships came into the harbour, and a crowd of curious Icelanders was gathered around. The British consul in Iceland knew about the so-called invasion beforehand, so he went down to make sure everything was going smoothly. The crowd — which included some police officers — was getting in the way a bit:

British consul, to Icelandic police:
Would you mind getting the crowd to stand back a bit, so that the soldiers can get off the destroyer?

Police reply, essentially to the army that was there to invade them:
Certainly.

A little later, a pissed-off local did this:
One Icelander snatched a rifle from a [British] marine and stuffed a cigarette in it. He then threw it back to the marine and told him to be careful with it.

Ah, Iceland. My kind of place: endlessly polite, even to invading armies. Full story here.

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