Wednesday 25 February 2015

Danes in Pickelhauben - Early WW1 Infantry

The 84th Inf Reg "von Mannstein" from Schleswig advancing.
Miniatures from Great War Miniatures.
These are the two first squads of a four-base company.

This week I refocused my imagination from the brisk waves on the North Sea and the Battle of Jutland 1916, to the dusty roads of Belgium and the summer heat of august 1914. It was finally time to get started with my Early World War One project. 

Danes in German service.
The signs reads (in Danish): "The North-Schleswigs send a greeting"

As few of my regular readers have escaped, I grew up in Jutland. Again this coincides with my WW1 projects. This time, I wanted to focus on the 30.000 Danes from Southern Jutland, who served as part of the Kaiser’s army from 1866-1919. 
“What – Danes in the Kaiser’s army ?” you say… Well, yes – here is the story:

The Danish border before 1864, and after 1864. Schleswig and Holstein was duchies under the Danish Crown. On the right side map, the orange line illustrates the border 
that was drawn in 1920, after the fall of Imperial Germany.

In 1864 Bismarck launched a German coalition army, under the leadership of Prussian Field Marshal Von Moltke, into a war against Denmark over the hotly disputed duchies of Holstein and Schleswig. Both provinces had a mix of Danish and German speaking citizens, but especially in the region of Schleswig this was very visible with the southern part predominantly German and the northern part to a large extend Danish in both language and culture.

Another shot at the two squads advancing.
I've based them on 50*50mm bases. 4 such bases will constitute a company.

The result of the War of 1864, was a crushing defeat for the small Danish army, as their dreams of national greatness spurred by the successes from the war of 1848, was shot to pieces and buried at Dybbøl by superior German rifles and hundreds of heavy guns from Krupp. This was the first careful step toward German unification, the legacy and life’s work of Bismarck.

Imperial Germany - forged by Bismarck and rules by the Kaiser.

The peace settlement was a bitter pill for the Danish government. With the army in ruins and practically no real political allies to add counterweight to the diplomatic game, the Danes had to cede both duchies to Prussia and the North German Coalition. This meant, that northern Schleswig (or Southern Jutland if you will), with a predominantly Danish population, came under the rule of Berlin. 

Danish speaking "North-Schleswig" troops before departure to the front.

The Danes quickly got equipped with Needle-guns, “pickelhauben” and enrolled into the dark blue uniform. Many new regiments was formed from the newly conquered territories, amongst them the 84th Infantry Regiment “Von Mannstein”, located at Haderslev (Today a garrison city in southern Denmark) The regiment was heavily involved in the Franco-Prussian War, and took part in big battles like Gravelotte-St-Privat and Le Mans. Like Denmark, France would also suffer defeat by the German arms, and in 1871 the German states were united under the leadership of the Prussian King, proclaimed Kaiser in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. Bismarck’s work was complete.

View from behind, as the line advances.
When they came close to the enemy receiving fire, they would disperse into smaller squad sized units.

But for the Danes of Northern Schleswig, the hardship had just begun. Now part of the German Empire, ruled by a Kaiser, they were dressed in grey and drafted into the professional and effective mobilization machinery of the German state. As the First World War erupted, the 84th was attached to 18th Division, part of Von Kluck’s 1. Army, scheduled to go wide and be the hard hitting right flank of Von Schlieffen’s plan. 

German infantry advancing on the Western Front - August 1914.

The Danes of the 84th fought with distinction at the Battle of Liége, Charleroi, Mons, The Marne and later at the Aisne. By the end of September, these young men had been turned into battle hardened veterans. They would fight on for the next four years, enduring the horrors of the trenches, the gas, the heavy shelling and the endless mud. Of the 30.000 Danes enlisted under the Kaiser, 6.000 was killed in action. Danes served at both the Western and Eastern Front and in the Kaiserliche Kriegsmarine.

Close-Up: The helmet cloths carried the regimental no. in red or green.

As a further anecdote to the above, I can mention that during my time as drafted into the special chemical war branch of the Danish Army, I was stationed at the same garrison city as the Danes in the 84th – in the now Danish city of Haderslev.

The defeat of Imperial Germany again raised the question of Schleswig.
This map shows how Schleswig was divided between Germany and Denmark, after a plebiscite in 1920.

South Jutland was returned to Denmark in 1920. As part of the post WW1 peace settlement, the North Schleswig region had a plebiscite, which finally settled the matter and drew the border we live by today. The region holds a duo-cultural profile, harmonized and fully integrated in modern day Europe.

Thank you very much for reading


  1. So, would it interest you to know that there is a WW1 variant of Chain of Command available?

    1. Absolutely Thomas - I'd love to set up a game! We have some trench boards at our club which is absolutely amazing, and I had "Through The Mud & Blood" in mind for such a game, but using later Great War (ca. 1916 Verdun) as the reference. I have some Forgotten and Glorious French which would be perfect for such a game!

  2. An excellent paint job, a great mix of historical pictures and maps, a very interesting write up and an unusal subject...I think you guessed that I enjoyed ...a lot!

    1. Thank you very much Phil! When doing the research for this Early War unit, and the blog post, I was actually quite surprised at the amount of Danish speaking troops serving in the Great War. As a Dane from Jutland, I connect quite close to this period now, knowing that people with my exact name, and speaking my language fought and died on the Western Front.

  3. Replies
    1. Hehe, indeed! Jesper has got some great multi-based Russians, and I'm going to continue a steady pace with the Early War Germans now - hopefully we'll be able to do a decent sized Tannenberg or Warsaw scenario in a month or two!

  4. Very interesting history lesson and wonderfully painted figures.
    Seems I learn something new with each of your posts.
    Well done!

    1. I'm very glad you feel that way Jonathan, it's exactly what I'm trying to achieve with this blog format. Thanks again for your continued readership, really appreciate it :0)

  5. Very nice looking Danes. I prefer the early-war look - but make one exception - I had to have an A7V :)

    1. Hehe, me too Dean! I just love both periods and their different flavor. The early war stuff connects with my interest in late 19th century warfare like the Franco-Prussian War, and the later trench warfare is a drama of its own, perfect for skirmish games I think. I also love WW1 aerial combat with the amazing planes and charming duels, not to mention naval stuff and dreadnoughts. I just have to face it, I'm totally and incurably Pot Committed to this period!

  6. Great looking figures and an excellent explanation of the history.
    Best wishes,

    1. Thank you for the kind words Jason, I'm glad you enjoyed the read :0)

  7. As with everything that comes from your desk these are real little master pieces! What did you use for the uniforms?

    1. Thanks M! It was a real pleasure to finally get these babies on the painting table. The early war German uniform is among my all time favorites. I love the mix between grey, green and tan complimented by leathery browns and the red piping. It's a very well balanced uniform color scheme!
      After som mixing and experiments, I went with the following setup:
      Base color is Foundry 81B
      Then that is washed down with some Nuln Oil
      Mid-color is Foundry 81B with a tint of Vallejo 920 "German Uniform"
      High Light is Foundry 81B lightened with some light grey.

      All the best

  8. Replies
    1. Cheers Mike, thanks for stopping by for a read and a comment!

  9. Beautiful painting love the figures

  10. Wonderful work and a very interesting bit of history - thank you.

    1. Cheers Curt - it would seem a drop in the ocean next some of the bigger nations, but 60.000 Danes in WW1 is quite a lot (Our army was about that size in 1864 when we fought a loosing battle against Bismarck) Anyways, it was a great angle to get some early war Germans painted. Just found out that the 84th also serve at the eastern front in 1915, so it's a choice that offers many gaming options too. Thanks for dropping by!

  11. Wonderful work and a very interesting bit of history - thank you.

  12. Wow Sören these are amazing! Some of your best work to date, and that's saying something. :)

    Interesting bit of history too, as usual with your blog posts.