Tag Archives: Danish army

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. 

You never know what is in those Danish cookie tins

When I was a little kid, my Nana, who hailed from Central Europe and never really gave up the accent among other things, used to have a love of Danish cookies. The kind that come in the little tin. Well, whenever I visited I would love to run across one of these said tins and pluck out a tasty morsel.

– Only to find they were, more often than not, filled with knickknacks, sewing supplies, or other odds and ends of grandmadom.

Well, in Denmark, it seems that you never really knew what was in gran’s attic, closet, or basement. Maybe gran’s family was in the Resistance back in the day…and kept some of the goodies just in case.

The South Jutland Police posted images to social media last week of some 25 weapons and 100 grenades turned in as part of a reprieve for those with illegal or unregistered arms, many of which may have a connection to Danish history.

Occupied by Germany during World War II, Denmark was home to a well-organized network of underground resistance units, often equipped by the Allies through the OSS and SOE. Among the weapons brought down from attics and up from under floorboards last month were STEN submachine guns, an anti-tank rocket launcher, a BREN light machine gun, and various bolt-action rifles including German Mausers.

What a cookie assortment!

Check out more in my column at Guns.com.

And don’t get too exited on that next tin of cookies.

Related: Freddie Oversteegen was 14 years old when a gentleman visited her family home in the Netherlands to ask her mother if she’d allow her daughters to join the resistance.

 

 

Sometimes you have to break a few eggs

Bjorn Sibbern was born May 18, 1916 in Soro, Denmark and by 1940 was a Danish police officer. When the Germans invaded he remained at his day job– which he as a cover to investigate those suspected of being Nazi informers– while at night he helped manufacture false papers for the underground.

And he also liked scrapbooking.

Bjorn Sibbern danish cop and underground welrod used to assasinate ID card of a female member of the Danish Nazi party photo via holocuast museum

As noted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about this page from his scrapbook donated to the museum:

The Danish police played a major role in support of the Danish resistance movement, and some documents relate directly to Mr. Sibbern’s work in the underground. He was in charge of the printing and issuance of false identification cards. There are several examples in the scrapbooks. The albums contain both real and forged cards as well as his forgery stamps. The scrapbooks also contain leaflets dropped over Denmark of Nazi propaganda, anti-Nazi cartoons and photographs of German officials, Danish collaborators, sabotage and demonstrations. Every page is fully annotated in English.

Pictured is a British Welrod, which Sibbern explains was used by Resistance “Liquidation” groups for rubbing out informers and high value targets. Chambered for .32ACP (7.65x17mm), the same caliber as many popular Italian, German, and Japanese pistols, the gun was stated to be able to fire a 72-grain Kynoch leadhead at 920fps.

The firearm developed by the SOE was not a traditional pistol fitted to a silencer—it was a pistol built around a silencer. To keep gas from escaping from a cylinder like on a revolver or a cycling action like on a semi-automatic, the Welrod was bolt action. The simple and effective bolt action could be worked rapidly for a follow-up shot if needed, and doubled as a safety device. The integral suppressor built around the barrel was made up of 12 thin metal washer baffles separated in groups by three leather wipes.

The baffles would start to deteriorate with use and typically was no longer suppressed after about 15-20 rounds, though could still be used as a rather funky pistol. The nose cap of the suppressor was hollowed out to allow it to be pressed into an intended target without undue back blast. The magazine itself, encased in a rubber sleeve like a bicycle handle, formed the pistol grip. With few moving parts, it could be broken down and stored in pieces that did not resemble a firearm. In fact when disassembled it rather looks like a bicycle pump, of which thousands were in common use in occupied Europe.

It was made in two varieties, the MkI and MkII.

“This pistol, only 11.5-inches long, gave off less noise than a pop-gun and was well-suited for ‘attic executions'” notes Sibbern.

Not your typical scrapbook.

Civilize em with the Krag (and Madsen)

Battle scene from a Danish movie, April 9th, about the German invasion of Denmark 9April 1940. Pretty correct and interesting use of Danish uniforms including “Vader” helmets and shoulder boards, Krag-Jørgensen rifles and the very Bren-like, but Martini action (!) Madsen machine gun. The first light machine in the world. Patented in 1901 and mass produced from 1903-1955. Also, it looks like it would have sucked to be a German scout car machine gunner.

For those who don’t know, the plucky Danes in their brief morning of fighting against Hitler’s battle-tried forces inflicted some 200 casualties on the invaders while suffering relatively few (36) of their own.

The dragoon’s last stand

Danish dragoon fighting prussian hussars. By Frants Henningsen

Danish dragoon Niels Kjeldsen fighting 14 Prussian hussars, 1864..only he didn’t see the sneaky bugger in the treeline coming up on him with a pistol. By Frants Henningsen, 1901 (Click to big up)

Sunday morning, 28 FEB 1864. While the American Civil War was raging on the other side of the Atlantic, Prussia and Austria was invading the Kingdom of Denmark over the territory of Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg in the Second Schleswig War.

It was that morning that 23 year old Niels Kjeldsen, a cavalryman of the  4th Eskadron, 6th Dragoon Regiment, of the Royal Danish Army gave his last full measure. Drafted into the army 18 months before, he was a natural horseman who learned to ride on his family farm.

While scouting ahead in the Blakjaer forest, Kjeldsen’s detachment of 6 dragoons ran into a 14-man troop of Prussian Leib-Garde-Husaren Regiment under Count Gustav von Lüttichau. As with any scouts then or today, the Danes turned and rapidly tried to break contact to report wheat they had found. One by one the detachment was mown down or surrendered, the light hussars being mounted on faster horses than the Danish heavy cavalry . Soon it was only Kjeldsen and a corporal left on their horses.

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In order to buy time for the corporal to bring the intelligence back to the lines, Kjeldsen wheeled and fought the German horsemen 14:1.

The legend has it that in the struggle the young Dane fought like a lion before being shot from behind by a rival hussar– depicted just to the right of the dragoon in the painting. Kjeldsen’s helmet lay on the road while his single-shot Remington 1852 pattern carbine hangs at his side.

Forced to rely on the cold steel of his M1839 pattern Dansk dragonsabel, he is outnumbered and outgunned but refuses to surrender. According to reports, after the hussars engaged him without result with their own sabers, von Lüttichau shot the Dane through the forehead at close range with a revolver.

In 1901 the Board of the Museum of National History commissioned Frantz Henningsen to portray the incident and the painting now hangs at Frederiksborg Castle. Kjeldsen’s sword and helmet are on display in a military museum and he was buried at home on his family’s farm, his body picked up from the road by a passing peasant. He is remembered as a Danish military hero.

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As for Denmark, after suffering some 1500 casualties, a peace was signed on 1 August 1864 and the King of Denmark renounced to all his rights in the duchies in favor of the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia. However they gave better than they got and the Austro-German forces lost well past that number.