The Background of the Defence Line
Denmarks everlasting evil spirit -
our strategic place as the cork
in the Baltic Sea.
A place we have used to
our benefit, but also a place that have brought us
between the big countries in Europe again and again. Sweden, Germany,
England and latest the Warsaw
Pact had the need for access to the North Sea.
In this actual period Denmark was interesting for England, because the
narrow straits with mines could prevent the German Baltic
Fleet from leaving the Baltic Sea. Germany was
interested in preventing England form invading the Baltic Sea or attack through
from the north. Therefore Germany was interested that Denmark remained neutral, with an army big
enough to defend the
neutrality. Denmark knew that, and mobilised the biggest Danish army ever
at the outbreak of WW1.
57.000 men were enlisted, of which the 40.000 were placed around
Copenhagen in case of a German attack.
Situation in the Baltic Sea.
Admiral von Tirpitz tried at the beginning of the 20th. Century to build a
navy so big and powerful, that Germany for the first time
ever, would become an important naval power.
Alfred von Tirpitz
The German High Sea Fleet on parade
in the autumn of 1904, this balance was twisted. The Russian
Vladivostok-fleet from the north was destroyed during the
Russian- Japanese war, and the Russian
Baltic Fleet was sent to take over. This fleet had to go south of India, but no states were
interested to help them - except one. German HAPAG coal carriers delivered more than willingly coal to the Fleet
in open waters.
And thereby Germany helped the unpleasant Fleet to move further and further
from home waters - and the German Baltic Fleet.
The Russian Baltic Fleet was totally destroyed by the Fleet of Admiral Togo
in the battle at the the Tshushima-strait in 1905.
The naval balance in the Baltic Sea was now twisted totally, and Germany
now was the most important naval power in the region.
So powerful, that England increased the power of the Home Fleet, and
seriously discussed a preventive naval attack on the
Imperial German Navy.
Along with the English-French Entente, Germany felt they have been left
alone in the colonial race, and the new status as a naval
power should be used. France was making some progresses in the Marocco, and during this the
German Kaiser Vilhelm made
a rather clumsy visit to Tanger in Marocco on a battleship.
Kaiser Wilhelm II
before the war
By France considered as a open challenge.
During this crisis, the French Foreign Minister Delcassé got a promise,
possibly by the English king personally,
the landing of 100.000 English soldiers in Aalbæk Bugt and Esbjerg in
Jutland in case
of a war between France and Germany.
This promise was revealed by the angry, now former foreign minister, Delcassé
in the French newspaper
Matin in 1906.
At the time, Kaiser Vilhelm talked about Delcassé as “the most dangerous
man for Germany in France”.
promise the English King had made Delcassé chocked both the German Army and
the politicians as well, and English lan-
ding in Esbjerg was included in the German plans
the next twenty years. This
is confirmed in the so called Lütken talks.
L.C.F. Lütken, at the time a Captain in the army and close to the
Minister, was of the opinion that
only be obtained if Denmark cooperated with
Germany in closing the open
German flank in the north.
his own initiative, he visited the German Chief of Staff, General Molkte in
1906, and from Lütkens memories we know, that
Molkte again and again returned to an English
landing in Esbjerg.
don’t know if Lütken was sent secretly by the Prime Minister, but it is
interesting that General Molkte
would waste time and
concern on a Danish Army Captain,
but it seams there have been some family realtions.
is also interesting, that at the political defence deal in 1909, more
resources were used in Jutland than
in Eastern Denmark
(where the capitol was situated).
Southern Jutland, that became German after the second Danish-Prussian War in
1864, a lot of major drills were held. A lot of
the soldiers lived during these
drills in private homes, at they told everywhere to their Danish hosts about 100.000 English troops
coming from Esbjerg.
Drills were in general held, where the Defence Line Sicherungstellung Nord
later was placed.
In 1909 some articles occurred in the major German Newspapers as the
Vossische Zeitung and the Berliner Tageblatt about the
vitality of a defence of the west coast of
Southern Jutland and Esbjerg. During
the years 1905-09 there were several English naval
visits in Esbjerg, which
without any doubt confirmed the German fear of an English landing.
ready in the initial strategic planning prior to WW1, the campaign plan from
the German General Staff
"To secure Slesvig-Holstein
and the Kaiser Vilhelm Channel the following units will, on the 8-11 day of
mobilisation, start moving.
Army composed of IX.
Reserve corps and 4. "gemischten" Landwehr
brigade under the command of Höherer Landwehrkommandeur 1..."
all available forces were needed on the Western Front, and IX Reserve Corps
here. The responsibility of
the Defence Line in Jutland was left over to
the Landwehr and the Landsturm.
German military situation is bad in 1916, when Hindenburg takes over the
position of chief of the German General staff, with
Ludendorff as his nearest assistant. (Erster
Paul von Hindenburg
the unrestricted submarine warfare was declared, the generals Hindenburg
had some conditions to be
fulfilled. They feared the Submarine War could
bring The Netherlands and
Denmark into the war against Germany, because of
their great naval and
commercial interests. Therefore
they demanded that the Northern Flank was effectively secured before
Submarine War was declared.
in his memories:
was only with the deepest regrets, we could not recommend the unconditional
Submarine Warfare. In the opinion
could eventually mean war with The Netherlands and Denmark. To protect
ourselves against these two
nations, we didn’t have a one man
available. They would be able to invade
Germany with their armies, even not used to war, at give us the final stroke.
Danish mobilisation force from 1914 was decreased from 57.000 men in 1914 to
33.000 men in 1916
and the plans were
overall defensive, expecting a German attack. The preferred plan was a fighting withdrawal towards a defence line at the
in Northern Jutland.
This plan could hardly treathen neither Berlin nor Germany.
the two German made a treat of the Danish defence, and demanded the Defence
they never really forgot the
English promise from 1905 ?
The first time the Defence Line is actually mentioned, is an letter from
the OKK, Oberkommando der Küstenverteidigung, (The
High Command of the Coastal Defence) to the Hochseekommando (the
Command of the High See Fleet) 2. sep. 1916, where a
position situated as
the later Defence Line is prepared. According
to this, the Defence Line had already been prepared, when the
sep.16th 1916 receives a telegram from Ludendorff ordering them to establish a "Stellung
in Gerippe" (a prepared
partly finished) positions following the line Hoptrup - Toftlund – Skærbæk.
18th 1916 reports General Malachowski from OKK, that the construction of a
position between Genner Fjord and the island
was started. There
were only 5 landsturmbattailone at the Danish boarder (Kongeåen), but two
being formed, ready to march to the German-Danish boarder.
1916, the General Command of the 9.
Army Corps is ordered to establish
the defence Line Sicherungstellung Nord
according to the plans that has been ready for a
10th and 17th the first Pioneer units arrive to the Southern Jutland.
day we know that in case of an attack form the Netherlands, two German Army
Group Commands and 9½ infantry division
were held in reserve. In
case of a Danish attack, the German army would remain in the defensive. For
this purpose one
German General Command, 2
Division Staffs and 6 mixed (gemischte) brigades were in reserve.
forces that should have been sent to the Defence Line are still not known?
IX. Reserve Corps is a possibility according to the first plan, unless they
were occupied on the western Front.
It is only a guess, but it unthinkable that
the Landsturm and
the Landwehr should
defend the Northern Front