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Denmark

 

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Paul Pearce-Smith.

 

 

DEN DANSKE KOMMANDO I TYSKLAND

(THE DANISH COMMAND IN GERMANY)

 

Denmark was officially neutral at the start of World War 2 but in May 1940 was invaded by simultaneous seaborne landings in the area of Copenhagen and the strategic important Little Belt bridges together with an Armoured thrust across the Jutland peninsular from a start point on the border near Flensburg. This also coincided with the German invasion of Norway, the whole being known as Operation Weserubung (Weser Crossing). A small mainly agricultural country with no credible military defences the Danish Government had no option but to surrender.

 

Initially the population was indifferent to the situation and the German Occupying Forces adopted a relatively benign attitude to the Danish civilian populace and the Forces of Law and Order. The importance of the readily available and easily accessible local agricultural products which could be exported to Germany was an important factor in this situation. Not withstanding this, individual Danes, particularly merchant seamen, did make their way to the United Kingdom and sought to join the British Armed Forces. One such individual was Anders Lassen who became the only person who was neither a UK nor Commonwealth citizen to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War 2, a posthumous recognition of his gallantry whilst serving with the Royal Marines at Lake Commachio in Northern Italy in January 1945.

 

Attitudes in Denmark changed following the major defeats of the German Armies at the Battles of Stalingrad and El Alamein and the civilian population increasing adopted a more hostile attitude which showed in the forms of transport strikes or refusing to cooperate with the German authorities. As a result in August 1943 the Germans disarmed both the remnants of the Danish Army and civil Police, interned key personnel and took direct control of the Government agencies (Operation Safari). In the following years significant numbers of Danes crossed the narrow water way to neutral Sweden where some 5000 men joined so called Police Battalions, organised along military lines, which it was hoped, post liberation,  would form the basis of any future Danish Defence Force.

 

Following the German Capitulation in May 1945 and the unconditional surrender of all German units in Denmark the new Danish Government rapidly set about creating a new infrastructure including an Army. Subsequent high level discussions between the two Governments resulted in the Danes agreeing to provide a Brigade size reinforcement for the British Occupation Zone of Germany for an initial period of two years with a deployment date of March 1947. The formation was organised and equipped using a British Infantry Brigade as a model with three Infantry Battalions, an Artillery Regiment with other supporting Arms and basic logistic infrastructure. Initially the Danish Brigade deployed to Friesland in the extreme North West of the British Zone replacing the departed Canadian Army of Occupation and disbanded Free Polish Division.

 

The initial outline organisation was Brigade Headquarters and one Infantry Battalion Jever, second Infantry Battalion Aurich, third Infantry Battalion Delmenhorst, Artillery Regiment Varel (Wilhemshaven) and one Armoured Regiment Delmenhorst.

 

Following the political and military crisis caused by the 1948 Russian Blockade of Berlin,  and the creation of the NATO Alliance involving the majority of countries in Western Europe as well as Canada and the USA there was a radical reorganisation of the organisation and deployment of British and other nations military assets within the then British Zone. Inter alia this involved the responsibility for Schleswig Holstein being handed over to the Danish and Norwegian Brigades and the majority of British Army units leaving the area.

 

In Autumn 1949 the Danish Brigade moved from its original garrisons in Friesland to concentrate in the town of Itzehoe (to the north of Hamburg) with a consequent reduction in strength to some 1200 men though this was subsequently increased to 1800. The British 5 Army Group Royal Artillery (5 AGRA) with its Headquarters in Oldenburg replaced the Danish units in Friesland.

 

The Communist Invasion of Korea caused further problems to the NATO Alliance and the embryo military plans for the Defence of Western Europe (the German Peace Treaty had not yet been signed and there was no West German rearmament as yet), the Occupying Countries were therefore responsible for the defence of Federal (West) Germany in the event of any threat from the Russia or its Eastern European allies. In particular the Danes and Norwegians felt particularly isolated in Schleswig Holstein and pressed for additional British reinforcements including the return of a British Brigade to the Federal State. This proved impossible as the existing Brigades in BAOR were already deployed to priority tasks and elsewhere in the world British troops were committed to the Korean War, the counterinsurgency operations in Malaya, and internal security commitments in the Middle East and Africa.

 

As a compromise a new defence plan for the Jutland peninsular was agreed with the mainline of defence based on the Kiel Canal with the Danes taking responsibility for the west, and the Norwegians the central and eastern sectors. The British would continue to provide the Screen based on the Armoured Car Regiment stationed in Neumunster. The whole formation was to be known as the South Jutland Land Covering Force.

 

The rapid changes in the political and military situation leading up to the ratification of the German Peace Treaty in 1954 and the subsequent rearmament linked to the admission of the Federal Republic as a member of the NATO Alliance led to further changes, the Norwegian Brigade was redeployed to the north of their homeland in Autumn 1953, the Danes were to remain in Itzehoe till Autumn 1958 when Germany was to take principle responsibility for the defence of Schleswig Holstein within plans coordinated by Headquarters Allied Forces Northern Europe (AFNORTH) and involving the Jutland Corps (a joint Danish/German Force with its Headquarters in Rendsburg) in the event of any invasion by Warsaw Pact Forces. Contingency plans which also involved reinforcements from other NATO Allies were practised from time to time.

 

Further information can be found below: 

 

1. A Danish review of the reconstruction of the Danish Armed Forces from 1945 onwards.

 

2. Details of the Agreement between the British and Danish Governments for the initial deployment of Danish Troops to the British Zone of Germany.

 

3. A synopsis of the deployment of Den Danske Brigade including the composition of the initial organisation between 1947 and 1958.

 

Map of the deployment of Forces in the northern part of the British Zone (including Den Danske Brigade) in Autumn 1948 (to follow).

 
During their time in Germany, in a similar fashion to other occupation forces, they had a special currency produced. An example is shown below.