March 2016

What a superb afternoon we enjoyed from husband and wife team, Chris and Birthe King. Chris, the immediate past president of the Royal was first up with his PowerPoint presentation of ‘Denmark and the Napoleonic Wars.’During the wars the conglomerate kingdom of Denmark and Norway were whirled into the global conflict of France and England. After Napoleon’s victory over Russia in summer 1807, France got free hands to force Denmark into the continental system. The plan was to use the Danish fleet to invade England. An English ultimatum regarding the big Danish fleet was presented to Denmark: either to enter into an alliance with England and make the Danish fleet to England’s disposal or surrender the navy for the rest of the war to England as a pledge of Danish neutrality. On the other side Napoleonic troops were waiting at the South borders of Denmark, prepared to invade Schleswig-Holstein and Swedish troops were waiting to invade Norway. A history lesson combined with some wonderful material. Chris displayed letters written by eye witness accounts of the various events covering the period from 1801 to 1818. They included the battle of Copenhagen in 1807. Letters from the Spanish army in 1808. The British Navy from HMS St George and HMS Defence. Censored letters with various handstamps. Napoleonic mail from 1806-1812 and English POW letters and many other treats.
The second half was just as intriguing with the much forgotten, ‘Refugee camps in Denmark 1945-1949.’ From the beginning of 1945 until the end of World War II in Europe, refugees of many nationalities fled to Denmark, mainly Germans, Poles, and Russians, including nationals from the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. At the end of the war, the Allied powers in Germany (Great Britain, France, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R) did not want immediately to accept the return of approximately 250,000 refugees from Denmark. These refugees were spread all over Denmark, and the Danish Government set up a special organization, the Refugee Administration to oversee all aspects of the administration of the refugee camps. Camps for German refugees were administered by the National Civil Defense, while camps for allied refugees or displaced persons were administered by the Danish Red Cross. We saw many letters, postcards, vaccination cards and returned letters written by refugees with different censored handstamps from the various camps throughout Denmark.