Home Forums WWII The Danish army in the 30s. Low level organizations.

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • Author
  • #184448
    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    I thought I would share this with you guys.
    The Danish army is not usually a popular one with wargames, given its general lack of 20th century fighting but that has never stopped anyone. Whether you want to game a potential involvement in a world war that kicks off a year or three earlier, want to have a few skirmish scenarios for a more prolonged fight against the Germans (if we had been able to mobilize in advance) or want to finally settle scores with Svenskerne, you can get some use out of this info.

    It stems from volume 1 of “Danmarks Hær” which was written and edited by a number of officers in the Danish armed forces and which offers both a history of the Danish military and breakdowns of the then-modern army (1934). There are lots of other goodies in here relevant to the 19th century but I will share those separately.

    The “current” version of that army was laid down by new laws in 1932. I believe this is fairly accurate for WW2 but don’t hold me to that. It looks quite close in any event.

    The army would consist of 8 regiments of Fodfolk (infantry) of which one was the lifeguard.

    Each regiment has a signals detachment of 60 men, 3 battalions and a mortar company with 6 81mm French mortars which can be deployed in pairs. The mortar is noted as being quite accurate and with a 50 meter effective radius.

    The battalion has its own signals detachment and 5 companies of infantry.
    Each company is broken into 4 Delinger (platoons) each of 4 Grupper (squads). So 16 Grupper per company.

    4 are “Rekylgevær” companies (Recoil rifle, not to be confused with the anti tank weapon) where each gruppe mans a Madsen automatic rifle. These load from a 20 shot magazine and are fitted on a bipod.
    The 5th is a Maskingevær (machine gun) company. These are not what you would expect but are also organized with one Madsen gun per gruppe, however these use 30 shot magazines and use a tripod. The book notes that this (rather optimistically) intended to also be used for anti air use but that it is likely to be of limited effectiveness.

    The book does not mention a belt-fed machine gun in service.

    Hand grenades and rifle grenades are mentioned but no indication of number or quantity. There’s no reason to assume they were not available universally.
    Each Deling has a Finskytte (“Fine shooter”) with a scoped rifle.
    The book notes that the army is acquiring a Fodfolkekanon (infantry gun) for anti tank use estimated to be a 37mm cannon in the near future. This would actually end up being a rapid fire 20mm cannon instead, which of the mid 30’s should be quite capable. A few German tanks would be knocked out by cannon fire in 1940.
    The book notes that an anti-tank gun should be able to defeat 30mm armor at 1000 meters.

    Infantry tactics are noted to be built around the Madsen guns and were to be heavily based around suppressing fire. Several studies on the Great War were published and the Danes examined the French army with interest in particular, which may explain the lack of interest in a belt-fed gun.
    The rifle men are to either defend the Madsen gun or reinforce its fire, while the tripod guns were to fire at targets up to 3000 meters distant. The “maskingevær” version was issued with 4 spare barrels while the “rekylgevær” was issued with 2. During long range fire, the riflemen are mostly expected to keep their heads down.

    Armor piercing ammunition is mentioned as being available, though I am not sure of issue or effectiveness.

    The book notes that in the great war even dispersed skirmish lines (Skyttekæde in Danish) were vulnerable and envisions infantry squads operating around 50 meters between squads.

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Interesting stuff, thanks for posting.

    The organisation seems pretty typical of armies who paid attention to the lessons of WW1 — three or four rifle companies and an MG company to the battalion, and platoons consisting of uniform LMG-equipped squads capable of fire and assault. Poorer armies might not have enough LMGs for one per squad, so maybe two LMG and two rifle squads. The Danes, originators of what can fairly claim to be the first real LMG, issued it plentifully. Also like other sensible armies, they recognised the value of the Stokes-Brandt pattern 81mm mortar.

    I have seen elsewhere a suggestion that the platoons were organised as three squads with bipod-mounted Madsen guns, and one with a tripod-mounted one. This seems odd to me, and might be a misinterpretation based just on the overall number of guns of each type.

    The best detailed account of the fighting of 9th April I have found, at


    Suggests that tripod guns were found in rifle companies, and, as always, the organisation in action is rather more free-form that by the book. The Madsen LMG was a remarkable weapon, a pioneering design, unique in its method of operation and astonishingly long-lived. Based on the frequency of its use from a tripod, I wonder if it might fairly claim to be not only the first LMG, but the first GPMG (other armies put mag-fed LMGs on tripods, but mainly for AA use, and not as far as I know in whole MG companies).

    The above account confirms the use of both 20mm Madsen cannon and 37mm Bofors anti-tank guns in action against German armour.

    Madsen certainly came up with some interesting weapons, and it is perhaps a shame that the Madsen 51mm mortar was not ready in time for WW2, an overcomplicated and rather crackpot weapon that enjoyed very little success when attempts were made to sell it post-war.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Appreciate the added details and info on the Bofors.
    It is worth noting that the info I have is based on the 1932 army laws. It is possible changes were made between then and 1940, or that there was some discretion as to actual deployment. Of course as April 9 was a rather desperate affair its also possible some units ended up fighting with what happened to be available rather than as their textbook formations.

    The Madsen is an interesting gun. I guess its an open question how effective it was as a long range sustained fire weapon but it can’t have been that far behind the Hotchkiss and certainly a very mobile option. Even with the tripod mount its not especially heavy.

    The book also shows some cavalry units toting around their Madsen guns and the film 9th of April shows bicyclists using them. They definitely emphasized the ability to get them anywhere they needed to go.

    Avatar photoMartinR

    I do wonder how these huge pre war infantry organisations translated into combat effectiveness in the field, as later WW2 armies generally seemed to be able to manage with rifle companies of nine sections rather than sixteen(!).

    The book organisation of the Rumanian army would make them one of the most heavily equipped in WW2, but I suspect these infantry heavy orgs either weren’t up to strength or just provided lots of targets.


    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke


    Thank you!

    Avatar photoEtranger

    … The book organisation of the Rumanian army would make them one of the most heavily equipped in WW2, but I suspect these infantry heavy orgs either weren’t up to strength or just provided lots of targets.

    Given their casualty lists, the latter is quite possible!

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    later WW2 armies generally seemed to be able to manage with rifle companies of nine sections rather than sixteen(!)

    The 4 secs/4 pls/4 rile coys pattern was the one the British Army used when it defeated the German Army in open warfare in 1918, so I don’t think it was a bad one to imitate. Everyone got to using some pretty threadbare organisations by the end of WW2, but I think it makes sense to go into a war with plenty of bods in an organisation.

    Looking at the information I have on ordinary infantry battalion organisations at the start of WW2, I get the following:

    4 secs/pl
    Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia

    4 pls/coy
    Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Portugal

    4 rfl coys/bn
    Denmark, Britain, Japan, Norway

    That makes 12-section companies rather more popular than 9-section companies. I also note that the Germans went from 3 to 4 sections in a platoon as a result of their experiences in Poland.

    I have come to suspect that “rule of four” platoons are a better bet than “rule of three”, and see the old square platoon scheme resurrected in Jim Storr’s experimental SEA WALL organisation, and in the modern fashion for “multiples”, where the sections have shrunk to fireteams.

    My respect for the tactical acumen of the 1918 British Army was recently increased by getting hold of a scan from the National Archive of a 1919 pamphlet on infantry platoon tactics. It is a model of clarity and practicality, and I must bore you all with it some day.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    The “triangular” formations must be rather more vulnerable to attrition so after a bit in the field, you end up with a very thin unit.
    The 4 unit formation means you have some give. If a mortar shell lands on your platoon and 2nd section is toast, you have 3 left which is still a decent fighting force.

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.