The Danish Brigade
The weak Danish military was given, in the autumn of 1943, permission to establish a secret highly trained army in Sweden, Danforce. Also called: The Danish Brigade. A clear breach of Sweden´s neutrality policy.
|The weak Danish military was given, in the autumn of 1943, permission to establish a secret highly trained army in Sweden, Danforce. Also called: The Danish Brigade. A clear breach of Sweden´s neutrality policy.
The Danish Brigade
Time Lines for the Decision Making Process
The Danish Resistance Army in Sweden 1943-45
After some considerations the Swedes also gave the Danes the opportunity to establish a secret army, “The Danish Brigade”. The Swedes armed the brigade and ended up promising them air force and naval support in case of the landing of the brigade in Denmark.
For a third of the 17-18.000 Danish citizens in Sweden the Brigade became their basis in an otherwise apathetic and empty existence as refugees. With the Danish traditions of the Brigade, the firm organisation and the strong fellowship and not least the feeling of their being able to save Denmark, many found a meaning in life.
The Resistance Army
The Danish Brigade became a small Danish resistance army in the neutral Sweden. The Brigade was established on November 15th 1943 at the request of the Danish intelligence service and Danish and Swedish Social Democratic politicians and was officially dissolved on July 10th 1945.
At its height in the spring of 1945 the force included approximately 5000 Danish refugees with a core of 8-900 officers from the Danish army and navy. The Brigade also included 200 women.
Calling it a police force, which after the war should help to maintain law and order in Denmark, solved the problem of explaining the presence of a Danish army in the neutral Sweden. The real intention with the Danish Brigade´s tasks was during the whole period uncertain. Among the brigadiers themselves as well as among the Danish and Swedish politicians and the Allies.
However, one important aspect was clear among the politicians on both sides of the Sound and the top officers: The resistance army was a nationalist Army, which was to be the resigned politicians´ counterbalance to the Danish Liberation Council and influence of the resistance movement and with them the Communists in occupied Denmark.
In step with the development of the war, it was the progression of these matters, which was the cause of disagreements. The Danish collaboration government’s resignation in August 1943 and the internment of the Danish officers, created space for an alternative, secret “government”: The Danish Liberation Council, established in September 1943. This was cross-party, self-established organisation, which coordinated the efforts of the growing, illegal resistance movement. The influence of the Communists in the Danish Liberation Council was considerable and was due to their prominent role in the military sabotage and the illegal magazine distribution. However, it became the Social Democrat, Frode Jacobsen, who, in opposition to his leading party colleagues, became the leading figure. In contrast to the resigned government the Danish Liberation Council had the support of the population. This development meant:
- that the Social Democratic top politicians was robbed of their domination role in Danish politics, which was lost to their hereditary enemy, the Communists
- that the officers in the Danish army felt outdone by a flock of untrained extremist civilians.
The humiliation was great. Firstly the officers had not been allowed to show their worth on April 9th 1943. Between these two, normally hostile parties, a community of interests were created. By establishing an effective military alternative to the resistance army, under Social Democratic control, the politicians could secure themselves against a presumed Communist coup and the officers could re-establish the lost military honour.
There was agreement on the strategic (long term) goals, but disagreement on the tactics (how the goal was to be achieved).
- Should the Brigade be deployed before the Germans had surrendered? Perhaps supported be the Swedish military?
- Should the Brigade be deployed, when the Germans had surrendered?
The Placing of the Brigade in Sweden
The Brigade wanted to be placed in southern Scania, close to Denmark. But the Swedish government refused, because of the neutrality policy and because they were afraid of how the Germans would react. The Germans would probably not stand for such an obvious provocation so close to the Danish border.
In the spring of 1945, the Brigade had, with the increasing help of the Swedes, developed into a ramified military organisation with seven military camps in southern and middle Sweden. Five of them, Sofienlund, Ronneby Bruden, Ryds Brun, Tingsryd and Karlskrona on the border between southern Småland and Blekinge.
The Placement of the Camps
The First Camp, Sofielund
The Brigade´s Strength and Organisation
The Brigade never became, in spite of an elite training in the manner of the commando units we know today, a fighting unit, which could be deployed against the German occupying power in the Denmark. To the disappointment of the Brigade soldiers, the English officers, headed by general Dewing refused vehemently to let the Brigade try a suicidal mission like that.
In 1945 the Brigade consisted of five battalions, with major general K. Knudtzon as the commander.
- Four battalions with light equipment, light machine guns and small arms.
- Fifth battalion was heavily equipped with a machine gun company, a company equipped with 81 mm and 120 mm mortars.
Together the were a regiment, which could be bcaked up by a smal Danish fleet (Karlskrona) and squadron of planes, however they had not been trained to work with the English planes.
Brigade Commander K. Knutzon
The Mortar Group
Sätre Brün: Exercise
Women´s Army Corps in Hortunaholm
The International Influence
The discussions concerning this changed in step with the developments in the European battlefields in 1944 and 1945. The Danish Liberation Council’s close connection to the Englishmen’s international organisation of European resistance movements (SOE), meant that the English consistently rejected the Danish officers´ anit-Communist agenda.
The English foresaw that they´d might need the Brigade. In close cooperation with the resistance movement the united forces could tie down German troops in Northern Europe.
The End in Sight
As the war progressed in 1944, it gradually became clear for most people that the Germans would lose the war. The tactics of the English and the Americans were to avoid concentrating their troops in Germany. They were not interested in a war in Denmark, where they would to use manpower. They wanted the Germans to surrender without a fight. The Germans wanted the same, so they could concentrate on the defence of Germany.
The result of these strategic and tactical deliberations was that they did not want to deploy the Danish Brigade, as it would complicate things. The Brigade was to arrive after the Germans had surrendered. Then they could make sure that the Danish Liberation council and thus the Communist resistance movement were held in check.
The Soviet Union was not blind to the deliberations of the Allies and in the course of 1945 a radical change occurred. The Soviet Union did not want a Danish nationalist army under the command of right-wing officers to take away the pronounced influence of the Danish Communist resistance movement. In short: They felt, like the English and the Americans, but for other reasons, that the Brigade could stay where it was: Deep in the forests of Småland.
The international development and its effects were not easy to understand for the officers and privates in the Brigade. The boring military training and the wish to get in action was prominent.
The people in the Brigade were told again and again that they should wait. The internal division were many and the leadership had a hard time holding it all together.
As the war progressed many of the Brigade soldiers felt that they let down the resistance movement in Denmark by taking a “holiday” in Sweden. However, apart from some attempts of rebellion form officers as well as privates, they succeeded to hold it all together until May 4th 1945, when the Brigade was sent to Elsinore, Zealand.
In the Field
Swedish Generals Say Goodbye
The Homecoming of the Brigade in Elsinore
The Mayor in Elsinore Receives Them
Elsinore May 5th 1945.