The World at War

ICELAND 1874 - 1949

ICELAND Timeline

1874Iceland is granted a constitution by the Danish Crown. The Althing is given joint legislative power with the Crown in matters of exclusive concern to Iceland. The Icelandic Treasury gains control of taxation and expenditures
1879Death of “President” Jon Sigurdsson the father of modern Icelandic nationalism
1881July 1 The Althing convenes for the first time in the present Parliament House
1897First raising of the Hvitblainn an unofficial Icelandic flag designed by Einar Benediktsson – Hvitblainn is a combination of the Icelandic words for blue and white – Benediktsson’s banner features a white cross on a deep blue field
1904February 1 Home Rule and parliamentary democracy introduced – Crown’s Representative in Reykjavik, the Iceland Minister, made responsible to the Althing
1912Danish officials prohibit Icelandic athletes from parading under the Hvitblainn at the opening ceremonies of the Stockholm Olympics
1913The Hvitblainn gains widespread popularity among Icelanders - after a Danish warship confiscates one being flown by a rowboat in Reykjavik harbor hundreds appear atop the capital’s homes and businesses
1915A red cross is added to the Icelandic flag - Danish authorities permit the display of a new Icelandic flag but only within the island’s territorial waters
1918November 30 An Act of Union passed by the parliaments of Denmark and Iceland – Iceland recognized as a sovereign and independent nation in personal union with the Danish Crown – Denmark continues to conduct diplomatic relations for Iceland – Iceland declares itself perpetually neutral in foreign affairs
December 2 The Proclamation of Independence read at Reykjavik – a Danish cruiser anchored in Reykjavik harbor fires a 21 gun salute to the Icelandic flag
1920May 18 Iceland’s Constitution inaugurated – Executive power vested in the King and his cabinet – Legislative power vested in The Althing, a bicameral body chosen by universal suffrage – candidates run at large and seats are distributed among the political parties on proportional basis
1921Local Bolsheviks create a minor disturbance after confrontations between their leader and the Reykjavik police
1927A Norwegian firm is hired to construct Iceland’s first railway between Reykjavik and Thojorssa. The 50 mile line is to cost $500,000 and be completed no later than July 1, 1933. The line is never built
1928The Government declares itself in favor of abandoning the union with Denmark prior to the 1943 expiration of the Act of Union
1930June 27 King Christian X and Queen Alexandrine attend celebrations at Thingvellar marking the Althing’s millenium. A treaty of friendship pledging the Nordic countries to submit their disputes to arbitration is signed as part of the festivities Construction of a geothermal plant to provide all building heat in the city of Reykjavik begins
1931April 15 King Christian X dismisses the Althing. Premier Thorhallsson requested the dissolution after the Socialists withdrew from his coalition cabinet. Republican agitation increases.
July 17 The First American, a statue of Leif Ericsson by A. Stirling Carter, dedicated in Reykjavik. The memorial is a gift from the American people to Iceland marking the Althing millenium August 20
The Althing authorizes the Government to intervene in the Dano-Norwegian dispute over Greenland pending before the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague to protect Icelandic claims to “Eric the Red’s land”.
1933May 19 A commercial agreement is signed with Great Britain. The British agree to stabilize tariffs. Iceland accepts quotas on exports to Britain.
November 13 A national referendum favors repeal of alcoholic beverage prohibition.
December The Althing passes legislation enacting the repeal of Prohibition.
1934January 1 The sale of alcohol becomes legal.
March 8 A revised system of import licensing is introduced.
1936September The Reykjavik Town Council approves the lease of land to Pan American Airways for construction of an observation and wireless station.
1937June The Althing calls for renunciation of the Act of Union with Denmark when it expires in 1943.
1938Icelandic Airlines establishes its first passenger route between Reykjavik and Akureyri.
1939Lufthansa requests permission to establish service between Iceland and Germany. Premier Jonasson rejects the request and declares that Iceland will not grant an air concession to any foreign company.
September 26 A Royal Air Force flying boat is forced down by fog at Raufarhofen. The nine crewmen on board the experimental plane built by Consolidated Aircraft in the United States are interned but released on parole.
September 28 The RAF flying boat leaves for Britain. Iceland demands the return of the paroled internees. Britain agrees to return the pilot but the other crew members are allowed to escape under a deal brokered by the Danish Minister to London. 1940
March 2 The trawler Skutull survives the first attack on an Icelandic vessel by German aircraft with only minor damage and no loss of life.
April 16 Iceland informs the United States that it is ready to establish direct diplomatic relations.
April 24 The United States appoints a consul to serve in Reykjavik. Iceland appoints a consul to serve in New York.
April Iceland establishes direct diplomatic relations with Britain. The Iceland Secretary at the Danish Legation in London is recognized as Icelandic Charge D’Affairs.
May 10 The Althing votes to entrust the King’s executive powers to the Government. Iceland assumes direct control of its foreign relations. Charles Howard Smith, the British Minister to Iceland, arrives in Reykjavik accompanied by an occupation force sent to forestall any possible German invasion.
June 29 HMS Argus runs aground on Orfirisey Island near Reykjavik. The aircraft carrier is towed away a few days later.
November The Government issues a formal protest indicating that 60,000 British, Canadian and Norwegian troops are occupying the island and constructing fortifications.
1941February 9 German aircraft operating from Norway strafe a British airfield near Reykjavik.
March 25 The Germans extend their blockade zone to include all Icelandic waters and an area extending westward to within 3 miles of Greenland.
April Iceland obtains licenses to purchase $1,568,287 worth of aircraft and munitions from the United States.
May British intelligence reports German troops assembling in northern Norway for a probable invasion of Iceland. American military observers visit Iceland.
May 16 The Althing approves a series of constitutional amendments proclaiming Iceland’s right to declare full independence given the Danish Government’s inability to exercise its functions under the 1918 Act of Union, providing for the election of a Governor General to act as Regent for the King, reconfirming Iceland’s decision not to renew the Act of Union when it expires in 1943 and establishing a republic as soon as the union with Denmark can be terminated.
June 17 Sveinn Bjornsson, former Ambassador to Denmark, is elected Governor General. Bjornsson declares that Iceland will endeavor to continue its neutrality despite being, “practically dragged into the war against our will”.
June The Government protests a ban on the Communist Party’s newspaper imposed by the British occupation authorities and the deportation of a Communist member of the Althing.
June 24 Britain informs Premier Jonasson that its troops are needed elsewhere and that President Roosevelt is prepared to send American troops to protect the island but only on the invitation of the Government of Iceland.
July 1 Roosevelt and Jonasson reach agreement on terms for the stationing of American troops in Iceland.
July 7 Roosevelt informs the Congress that United States naval forces, “have today arrived in Iceland in order to supplement, and eventually replace, the British forces which have until now been stationed in Iceland in order to insure the adequate defense of that country.” Jonasson announces the terms of American occupation in a radio broadcast to the nation.
July 9 Churchill tells the House of Commons that Britain proposed to keep forces in Iceland to cooperate with the Americans “in resistance to any attempt by Hitler to gain a footing” there.
July 10 Jonasson tells the Althing that Britain has promised to withdraw as soon as the Americans land enough troops to adequately protect the country. The Althing approves the terms for American military protection by a vote of 39 to 3 July 16
British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden informs the House of Commons that all British forces will eventually be withdrawn from Iceland leaving the Americans to guard the island
July 22 The Icelandic Consul General in New York declares that “the American forces are in Iceland to replace the British forces which will be withdrawn entirely from Iceland as soon as circumstances allow.”
August 14 An agreement to improve Icelandic harbors using American materials and Icelandic labor announced.
August 16 Churchill visits Iceland during return from the Atlantic Conference. The Prime Minister meets with Governor General Bjornsson and tells a crowd gathered in front of the Althing that Britain and America would jointly defend Iceland assure it of independence after the war.
October 22 The Jonasson cabinet resigns in the face of a 67% inflation rate. The Governor General refuses to accept the resignation.
November 7 The Jonasson cabinet resigns a second time following rejection of price control legislation by the Althing. The Governor General accepts the resignation but asks the Government to remain in office until a new cabinet can be formed.
November 8 Navy Secretary Frank Knox announces the establishment of an American naval operations base in Iceland reporting to the Commander in Chief – U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
November 17 Secretary of State Cordell Hull announce American intention to negotiate a reciprocal trade agreement with Iceland.
November 21 The United States agrees to pay Iceland for fish exports to Britain in dollars. The American advance to Iceland will be charged against Britain’s lend lease debt. Iceland agrees to purchase coal and machinery previously supplied by Britain from the United States. The 1933 Icelandic British Trade Agreement is annulled. President Roosevelt accepts the credentials of the first Icelandic Minister to the United States.
1942May 12 A new government is formed by Olafur Thors leader of the Independence Party.
June 17 The Althing re-elects Svein Bjornsson to second one year term as Governor General.
September 20 The State Department suggests that Iceland can best serve the war effort by maintaining the status quo in its relations with Denmark/
October 7 Premier Thors announces that the Government will defer any immediate action to terminate the Act of Union with Denmark.
October 18 Premier Thors’ Independence Party gains 3 seats in voting for a new Althing but fails to gain a majority.
November 13 The Thors cabinet resigns. Governor General Bjornsson calls on all party leaders to form a coalition government. All party talks fail due to disagreements on electoral reform. The Governor General appoints a nonpolitical cabinet headed by Bjorn Thorvardson charged with tackling the country’s inflation problem.
November 15 The Governor General announces that British troops have left the country and given way to the “American Army which is here at our request and according to our free agreement” in an address to the opening session of the new Althing.
1943June 20 The Foreign Office protests a German attack on an Iceland trawler which killed 2 and wounded 5 Icelanders.
August 5 A four engine German bomber is shot down by American fighters off the north coast.
December 12 The Soviet Union appoints its first ambassador to Iceland.
1944February 26 The Act of Union with Denmark is terminated by unanimous vote of the Althing.
May 23 A national referendum on separation from the Danish Crown is approved by a vote of 70,536 to 365. Establishment of a republic approved by a vote of 68,862 to 1,064.
June 17 The Republic of Iceland proclaimed in a formal ceremony held at Thingvellir, the ancient meeting place of the Althing. Representatives of the United States, Great Britain, France, Sweden and Norway attend. King Christian X telegrams his best wishes for the nation’s future. Sveinn Bjornsson elected President of the Republic by the Althing for a one year term.
August 26 President Bjornsson and Foreign Minister Vilhjmur Thor express thanks for the protection provided by American forces but state that Iceland did not wish to grant permanent bases to the United States.
October 23 Premier Thorvardson’s cabinet resigns in a dispute over economic policy. Olafur Thors, leader of the Independence Party, forms a coalition government.
October 24 HMCS Skeena, a Canadian destroyer, runs aground on Videy Island near Reykjavik. 15 men drown when their liferaft overturns. a rescue effort led by Einar Sigurdsson, an Icelandic fishing captain saves the ship’s remaining 198 officers and men.
November 10 SS Godafoss, largest ship in the Icelandic fleet, torpedoed in coastal water by a German submarine U-300. 24 sailors are killed.
1945February SS Dettifoss, last passenger steamer operating between Iceland and the United States torpedoed and sunk 25 miles west of Belfast, Northern Ireland. 15 sailors are killed.
March 28 Popular election for President scheduled for May canceled when no opposition to President Bjornsson is forthcoming. Bjornsson is re-elected to a four year term by acclamation of the Althing.
June 3 Commander of U.S. Forces in Iceland declares that all troops excepting those manning Keflavik Airport will be withdrawn in four or five months.
October 29 Representative Bertand Gearhart of California introduces a congressional resolution inviting Iceland to join the Union as the 49th state.
1949April 1 Iceland becomes a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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