Danish raiders in World War 1

A post-concert (JS Bach’s St John Passion in English at St Mary Abbott, Kensington) chat with viol player Jenny Bullock brought to mind the Danes and their involvement in African wars. Jenny was off to Denmark to perform the same in German over the Easter weekend.

I first came to hear about Danish involvement in the East Africa campaign when Bjarne Bendtsen offered to present a paper on the German blockade runners to East Africa. Bjarne’s papers are still to be published, but Harry Fecitt provides an overview of what the blockade runners did. What piqued my interest was that Denmark was supposed to be neutral during the war, so how did they manage this? Quite simply, the map of Denmark was slightly different to what we know today as Schleswig was part of Germany.

Some of the Danes who ran the blockades recorded their experiences which helped ensure the Danes have a place in the centenary commemorations of the 1914-1918 war years. Nis Kock’s memoirs Sønderjyder vender hjem fra Østafrika written in Danish in 1938 were used by Christen P Christiansen for Blockade and Jungle: From the letters and diaries etc of Nis Kock (1940). This is the only known English version. Knud Knudsen published Farht nach Ostafrika in 1918 and Anker Nissen, Sønderjylland Afrika tur retur: oplevelser som tysk soldat i Afrika under den første verdenskrig in1962.

To get a feel for what the blockade runners faced, The Wolf by Richard Guilliatt and Peter Hohnen, although a novel of a raider, is highly recommended. And for something a little lighter and from the other side is Boys-Own writer Percy C Westerman’s Rounding up the raider (1916).

Many of those who served on the blockade runners remained in East Africa joining the German forces in their struggle against the Allies, although Karl Christiansen of the Kronberg (aka Rubens) returned to Germany through neutral Portuguese East Africa. Although the blockade runners (that is the ships) lost their lives, their contents was rescued by the Germans despite the British Navy’s patrolling of the coast. To find out what remains of the blockade runners, Hans-Martin Sommer has some of the story in his History of Manza Bay, 1915-1945

Previous posts concerning the Danes (in case you were wondering) are linked below.

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