led Iceland to threaten to close the NATO base at Keflavik, which would have threatened NATO’s ability to defend the Atlantic from Soviet attack.
The conflict lasted for seven months. Iceland employed six Coast Guard ships and two Polish-built stern trawlers, converted for Coast Guard work, to enforce her control over fishing rights. In response, the Royal Navy deployed over 20 frigates, although only between six and nine were deployed at any one time. Britain also employed seven auxiliaries, nine support tugs and three fishery support ships to protect the trawlers.
Few shots were fired, and those that were served mainly as “warning shots” to persuade trawlers to heave to for inspection and probable arrest, or to deter the British escort tugs from interfering with the business of the Coastguard.. Several ships were rammed during the conflict and damage was inflicted, some of it quite serious (HMS Diomede was rammed several times by the ICGV Baldur, whilst at least the Icelandic gunboat Arvakur was cornered and “beaten up” by trawlers and ocean going tugs operating in support of the British trawler fleets). However, very few injuries were sustained and there was only one accidental death, on the Coast Guard vessel Aegir, when an Icelandic engineer, holding a welding torch which he had just been using for repairs, was electrocuted when a wave came inboard.– despite medical assistance he died of his injuries. Despite the accidental nature of the incident the Icelandic government blamed the British for causing the wave that killed the engineer (despite no British ships being close to the Aegir at the time).
After a particularly violent period in 1976, the conflict came to the attention of the UN Security Council, but no action was taken. The Nordic Council issued a statement of support for Iceland. NATO, and the USA, became involved, due to the threatened closure of the NATO base at Keflavik. The US offered to mediate, but it was NATO intercession coupled with Britain’s eventual acceptance of the 200 mile limit (which incidentally served to set the scene fro Britain’s oil boom of the 1980s) that helped to end the conflict.
With mediation by the Secretary-General of NATO, Dr. Joseph Luns, Iceland and Great Britain came to an agreement on June 2 1976. This agreement limited the British to 24 trawlers allowed inside the 200-mile limit at any one time. The amount of cod that Great Britain could legally catch was limited to 50,000 tons per year. There were four conservation areas that were completely closed to all British fishing. In addition, Icelandic patrol vessels were allowed to halt and inspect trawlers suspected of violating the agreement. The duration of the agreement was 6 months, after which Britain’s rights to fish inside the 200-mile limit ceased completely. The agreement with Iceland caused about 1,500 British fishermen to become unemployed, along with an estimated 7,500 people on shore in supporting industries.
Wargaming the Cod War
At first sight the Cod Wars seem to be a rather uninteresting subject for an avid wargamer to pursue. After all, no ships were sunk and no-one was killed in action. However, the wars of the 1970s were something of a defining moment and for a while held the appeal of the world – after all, the plucky Icelandic trawlers were up against the might of the Royal Navy and to the casual viewer it was amazing that the ICGVs were “defeating” the RN in the perpetual battle of “dodgems” that took place on the fishing grounds!
Despite the fallacious nature of this view the idea of wargaming a period where the aim is NOT to get anyone hurt whilst achieving one’s objectives was one that appealed to me. The project languished until 2000 when Mark Barker ran a naval wargaming day at the Royal Navy Museum. I helped out by encouraging NWS members to put on games from different periods, but drew the “short straw” in that I opted to contribute a modern game. This seemed like the ideal opportunity and, after a series of playtests with the MOD club at Abbey Wood I had developed a set of fast play rules suitable for a participation game. The rest of the article covers the rules and data for the ships concerned. Its not a completely finished work – the intention is to develop the rules further and to stage the game again around the shows in the no-too-distant future, and also to develop the campaign rules for use at the NWS. However, in the meantime I hope you enjoy them and that they will encourage you to look at your modern naval miniatures in a new light.
The Cod Wars Article.doc
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