Operation Rädda Danmark

save Denmark

'Rädda Danmark' was the Swedish unrealised plan to liberate Denmark before it was occupied by the westward advance of the Soviet forces toward Berlin, but cancelled at the time of the German surrender (1945).

On 4 May 1945 the head of the Swedish defence staff, Generalmajor Carl August Ehrensvärd, approved the final decisions concerning the Swedish invasion of eastern Denmark, planning for which had begun at a time late in 1943. The invasion was to be be launched at the time the Allied advance reached western Denmark, and was spurred, at least in part, by the fact that at a time late in April a USAAF officer, Major General Frederick L. Anderson, had visited Sweden and persuaded Per Albin Hansson, the Swedish prime minster, to bring his country into the war on the Allied side.

'Rädda Danmark' comprised a pair of sub-comonents in the form of 'Rädda Själland' and 'Rädda Bornholm', Själland being the large island of eastern Denmark where Copenhagen is situated, and Bornholm an island in the Baltic Sea to the south of Skåne. The two operations needed 1,158 troop transport vessels, most of them quite small, and about 100 naval vessels. The invasion was to be spearheaded by the III Corps comprising the 1st and 9th Divisions, the 8th Armoured Brigade and the 7th Motorised Brigade, together with numerous but smaller independent units and about 4,000 Danish soldiers trained in Sweden. The total strength was thus to be about 60,000 men with some 6,000 vehicles, excluding the naval and air force elements.

The opposing occupation force on Själland comprised about 28,000 soldiers, and the Germans had prepared the demolition of the island’s harbours. In Helsingør a ship had been prepared for scuttling as as a blockship in the harbour’s entrance, and the harbour in Copenhagen had also prepared in a similar manner.

The German naval strength in Copenhagen included the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, the light cruiser Nürnberg, four destroyers and a number of smaller vessels such as minesweepers, patrol ships and the like.

Swedish and Danish troop concentrations in Skåne had already begun, and the date for the invasion was set at 18 May at the earliest. The first wave of the Swedish assault, which was to descend on Helsingør, would comprise about 6,000 men, and on the Skåne coast artillery of 8.27- and 5.91-in (21- and 15-cm) calibres would provide supporting fire, which would be increased in weight by the fire of the elderly Swedish coastal battleships Oscar II and Tapperheten with their main and secondary batteries of 8.23- and 6-in (209- and 152-mm) guns. Most of the Swedish air force would be based in the Skåne area to give air cover and attack ground targets.

In the event Bornholm was heavily bombarded by Soviet forces in May 1945, but the island’s German commander, Kapitän Gerhard von Kamptz, refused to surrender as his orders were to surrender to the Western Allies rather than the Soviets. When von Kamptz failed to provide a written capitulation as demanded by the Soviets, Soviet warplanes bombed and destroyed more than 800 civilian houses in Rønne and Nexø, and seriously damaged about 3,000 more, in the course of 7/8 May. On 9 May Soviet troops landed on the island, and after a short fight, the German garrison of about 12,000 men surrendered. The Soviets ended their occupation of the island on 5 April 1946.