Tag Archives: denmark wwii

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. 

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.

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.”