Tag Archives: 1940 denmark

The Danes Making Ready

Denmark had a very brief baptism of fire during WWII. On 9 April 1940, the German Army swept across the unfortified border while simultaneously landing paratroops (the first use of such in combat) and conducting seaborne landings as well.

The Danish government, which had been controlled by socialists in the 1920s and 30s, had gutted the military and, while the rest of Europe was girding for the next war, the Danes were laying off career officers, disbanding regiments and basically burning the bridge before they even crossed it.

This made the German invasion, launched at 0400 that morning, a walkover of sorts and by 0800 the word had come down from Copenhagen to the units in the field to stand down and just let it happen.

That doesn’t mean isolated Danish units didn’t bloody the Germans up a bit. In fact, they inflicted some 200 casualties on the invaders while suffering relatively few (36) of their own. (More on that in detail here)

Five Danish soldiers with a 37mm anti-tank gun outside Hertug Hansgades Hospital in Haderslev on the morning of 9 April 1940

The head of the Royal Bodyguard, Colonel Mads Rahbek, in his function of Commandant in Copenhagen, installed a wreath in remembrance at the Vestre Kirkegård to the April 9 invasion on Friday. The large traditional ceremony was canceled due to COVID concerns.

To further commemorate the event, the Danish Ministry of Defense just released the two circa 1939 training films “Angrebet” (Attack) and “Forsvaret” (Defense) by Danish filmmakers Theodor Christensen and Ingolf Boisen. A total of 80 minutes in length, they detail field camouflage as well as basic small unit infantry tactics, and the like all while showing lots of really neat Danish military gear including Krag rifles and Madsen machine guns.

The films were reportedly also used extensively during the 1941-45 occupation era to train direct action cells in the Danish Resistance, a group that emerged strong and ready in April 1945.

Danish resistance fighters note the mix of arms to include an SOE-supplied BREN, several Danish Army Nagant revolvers, and a couple of very Darth Vaderish Royal Danish army helmets, the latter no doubt squirreled away in 1940 no doubt. 

April 9

Denmark had a very brief baptism of fire during WWII. On April 9, 1940 the German Army swept across the unfortified border while simultaneously landing paratroops (the first use of such in combat) and conducting seaborne landings as well. The Danish government, which had been controlled by socialists in the 1920s and 30s, had gutted the military and, while the rest of Europe was girding for the next war, the Danes were laying off career officers, disbanding regiments and basically burning the bridge before they even crossed it.

This made the German invasion, launched at 0400 that morning, a walkover of sorts and by 0800 the word had come down from Copenhagen to the units in the field to stand down and just let it happen. That doesn’t mean isolated Danish units didn’t bloody the Germans up a bit. In fact, they inflicted some 200 casualties on the invaders while suffering relatively few (36) of their own. (More on that in detail here)

There is an upcoming movie from Nordisk Film on that desperate fight scheduled for release next month on the 75th anniversary of that scrap and it doesn’t look half bad.

“In the early morning of April 9th 1940 the Danish army is alerted. The Germans have crossed the border; Denmark is at war against Europe’s strongest army. In Southern Jutland Danish bicycle- and motorcycle companies are ordered out, to against all odds, hold back the forces until the Danish reinforcements can be mobilized. In the fatal hours, we follow second lieutenant Sand (Pilou Asbæk) and his bicycle company – they will as the first Danish soldiers meet the enemy in combat on April 9th 1940.”