If we exclude the meaningless friendlies, as we should, of 1982 (1:1) and 2004 (6:1 to England), we are left with just three relatively recent contests between England and Iceland which those of a certain vintage may recall.
Iceland went with a simple 2 – 4 formation (two large and four small patrol vessels) in the First Cod War of 1958 to 1961, while England (OK, technically the UK) went with a rather more complicated 17 – 19 – 1 – 1 – 10 formation (17 destroyers, 19 frigates, 1 fast minelayer, 1 minesweeper and 10 Royal Fleet Auxiliary supply vessels). The outcome was a victory for Iceland; England were smited as Reykjavík Grapevine ( @rvkgrapevine ) might say.
The Second Cod War (1972-1973) saw Iceland switch to a 3 – 2 – 1 formation. It would appear that they combined two of their small patrol vessels into one large one - which is riveting stuff. A one armed whaler was added to the team, although whether this was a whaler with one arm (Captain Boomer perhaps?) or a whaling ship armed with a solitary gun, is unclear. I suspect the latter, since Boomer lost his right arm to Moby Dick in a novel written over a hundred years previously.
CW2 saw England made drastic changes, setting a record that held until Roy Hodgson’s team selection for the recent Slovakia game. The 17 destroyers from the First Cod War were reduced to just one, while the 19 frigates were increased to 30. The number of RFA supply vessels stayed about the same at 11, but dropped after receiving just the one cap each, were the fast minelayer and the minesweeper. I’m not terribly surprised. Is it just me who finds it a bit odd that one ship would be laying mines while the second one would be following along behind, sweeping them up? There may well be a good reason, but it’s not obvious to me, although I should clarify that my naval commanding experience is somewhat limited. Anyway, fearing this new formation left the Royal Navy a little open at the back, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food chipped in with 5 defence tugs. That was very nice of them, but again the result was an Icelandic victory, and another smiting.
The Third Cod War (1975-1976) again saw Iceland make minor changes, going with a of 4 – 2 – 2 formation (four large patrol vessels, two small patrol vessels and two armed trawlers, while the Royal Navy dropped the destroyers completely, going with a paltry 22 frigates and 7 RFA supply vessels. Once again the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food helped out at the back by providing 6 defence tugs, but the ‘net’ (pun intended) outcome of all this tinkering was yet another Icelandic victory and a third smiting.
So Iceland does have some form, winning all three encounters despite being seriously, and literally, out-gunned. Interesting to note that subs were not used in any of the three previous contests, but I expect that to change on Monday.