Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Free Danish Fishing Fleet in WW2

Top: Memorial Plaque for the free Danish fishing fleet
Unveiled at Whitehaven, Cumbria (March 2010)

Bottom: The former Danish consulate building, Whitehaven

For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Denmark was one of the neutral Scandinavian countries invaded by Germany in 1940. At the time of the invasion much of the Danish fishing fleet was at sea. Rather than return to an Occupied Denmark, many of the seamen chose to sail to British ports and offer their manpower to the British war effort. This, they believed was something they could do for Denmark to ensure it would one day regain its freedom.

The first such Danish fishing boat arrived at the West Cumbrian port of Whitehaven on 12 June 1940. Others initially made their way to the main east coast ports, notably Grimsby, Lincolnshire. However, many of the Danish fishing boats in the North Sea found that they came under attack from German planes or U-Boats.

As the Irish Sea was a safer area for fishing, many of the free Danish fishing fleet, and other home vessels from Grimsby moved to Whitehaven or other Irish Sea fishing ports. Some of the fishing ports they used were on the Isle of Man, an island in the middle of the Irish Sea that was also being used to intern many ‘aliens’ (i.e. those who had been born in the Axis countries).

At the end of the war, many of the Danish vessels were eventually able to sail back home to a newly-liberated Denmark. They had played their own important part in the war effort that had led to the liberation of their homeland. Some of the sailors took back British-born wives who were originally from Grimsby or Whitehaven. Others among the Danes who had married British girls during their exile decided to remain in Britain and raise their families in the land that had allowed them to remain free throughout the war.

In 2009 / 2010 the Mayor of Copeland – the council area for Whitehaven – was Councillor Henry Wormstrup. Councillor Wormstrup’s father had been one of the free Danish fishermen and his mother had originally moved to Whitehaven from Grimsby. Councillor Wormstrup had been born on the Isle of Man before the family had returned to Whitehaven.

In March 2010, at the invitation of Councillor Wormstrup, the Danish Ambassador to Britain, Mr Birger Riis Jørgensen, to unveil a commemorative plaque outside the former Danish consulate building next to Whitehaven Harbour. For the Danish fishermen who chose to remain free rather than return home and serve an Occupier it was one of the most significant and far-reaching moments of their lives.

A small metal plaque with the words of the first two verses of the Hymn ‘Eternal Father Strong To Save’ may not be the largest WWII memorial in the UK. But, it does represent an almost-forgotten episode of the war. By choosing freedom over Occupation and oppression, these Danish fishermen helped feed Britain and her allies which ultimately helped to win the war.

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010  
Anonymous AK said...

was the return of the fishing boats to Copenhagen in 1945 marked officially. A family friend, as an 11 year old boy, remembers being on board his step-father's boat at such an event. Any corroborating facts welcome. AK

Tuesday, 09 November, 2010  
Anonymous ERIK Dahl said...

My father Otto Dahl came over from Esberg with the Danish Fishing Fleet (1940) in the North Sea ,when the Germans invaded Denmark , his ship 'Vestland '? 'arrived in Grimsby and they were kept prisoner on board their ship for about 6 weeks while checks were made to establish that they were in fact Danish .
The ship was re--located to the Port of Fleetwood in Lancashire , for safety reasons and throughout the rest of the War he sailed to the Icelandic fishing grounds . In Fleetwood he met my mother Gladys and they married and when the War was over they returned to Copenhagen , but after a few months they decided to return to Fleetwood ,England , my father then became a British citizen and continued his fishing career for many years . He became a total Lancastrian and completely lost his Danish accent ,(which was quite unusual) ,got his 'Skipper' certificate and carried on his fishing career out of Fleetwood ,on a 'Seine Netter type ' fishing boat called ' Neil's John '

Tuesday, 07 February, 2017  

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