The Danish Connection

On the 9th November 1906, the announcement was made of the appointment as Colonel-in-Chief of The Buffs of His Majesty King Frederick VIII of Denmark, K.G., G.C.B., G.C.V.O.  Thus was revived, after a lapse of two hundred years, the connection of The Buffs with the Royal House of Denmark which had begun in 1689 on the appointment, as Colonel of the Holland Regiment, of Prince George of Denmark whose name it had borne until his death.

In 1912 King Frederick VIII died but his successor as Colonel-in-Chief, King Christian X, K.G., G.C.B., G.C.V.O., maintained the closest possible link with the Regiment and during the First World War worked tirelessly for Buff prisoners of war.  King Christian paid many peace time visits to the home battalion and periodically awarded Danish decorations to officers and warrant officers of the Regiment.  King Christian also granted the Regiment the privilege of flying the Danish Flag on the anniversaries of his birthday and of his succession to the throne and appointment as Colonel-in-Chief.  All of these actions went far to endear him to The Buffs and to create a bond between himself, the people of Denmark and the Regiment.

Major Anders Lassen VC

Major Anders Lassen VC MC

On the outbreak of the Second World War, following the invasion of Denmark by the Germans in 1940 the connection with the Royal House of Denmark and the Danish people was to assume a more practical form.  There were, at this time, many Danes living in Britain who were anxious to serve in the British Armed Forces.  At the end of 1940 the War Office and Air Ministry each granted a commission to one Dane and after the recognition of the Danish Council by the British Government in February 1941 the way was opened for the recruitment of Danish nationals into the forces of the Crown.  Because of the connection with the Regiment as assurance was given that those Danes wishing to serve in the infantry would be welcomed into the ranks of The Buffs as their very own regiment.

Danes who enrolled in the Buffs were not confined to those who found themselves exiled in England, there were many adventurous spirits who made their perilous way across the sea in fishing boats to take a more active part in the fight against the Nazis than they could in Denmark.  All quickly settled down to their new lives as soldiers of The Buffs, vying with each other to live up to the highest standards of the Regiment many being decorated for gallantry.  Possibly the most famous was the late Major A. F. E. V. S. Lassen whose outstanding bravery resulted in the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross, he had already been decorated with the Military Cross and two bars.  The names of all of them who died may be seen, with those of the fallen of the Regiment, in the Book of Life in the Warrior’s Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral.  The Royal Danish Arms are incorporated in the new east window.

During the war King Christian remained in Denmark and suffered the indignities and hardships of the German occupation with his subjects. It had been his habit, throughout the occupation, to daily ride through the streets of Copenhagen on his charger, cheered by his people, much to the annoyance of the Germans.  One day his horse slipped and fell on him, severely damaging his legs.  From these injuries he never fully recovered and on 20th April 1947 the gallant King Christian died.

On 23rd December 1947 came the welcome announcement of the appointment as Colonel-in-Chief of The Buffs, in succession to his father, of His Majesty, King Frederick IX.  Following in his father’s footsteps, King Frederick maintained a very close relationship with Major Anders Lassen VC. MC the Regiment and the valued connection was further strengthened by the establishment in Copenhagen of a branch of the Regimental Past and Present Association under the presidency, appropriately enough, of Captain Michael Iversen, K.D., the first Danish officer to be commissioned.

On Wednesday March 1st, 1961, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) were amalgamated with The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment to form 1st Battalion The Queen’s Own Buffs (The Royal Kent Regiment). King Frederick was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the new regiment.

King Frederick with his ColonelsThe King with his Colonels, July 1960
From Left: Lord Cornwallis, Lt.Col. Gardner-Thorpe, King Frederick,
Lt. Col. Tilleard, Colonel Dean,  Major General Boucher

On June 23rd, 1962, King Frederick presented colours to the new Regiment and in a very moving scene the old colours of The Buffs and The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment marched off, in line, into history.

Just under 6 years later the regiment changed its identity once again and became 2nd Battalion The Queen’s Regiment and King Frederick retained the title of Allied Colonel-in-Chief of The Queen’s Regiment (Queen’s Own Buffs).  King Frederick IX died in 1972 and was succeeded to the throne by his daughter Queen Margrethe II who was appointed as Allied Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment in the same year.

In September 1992 further amalgamations were deemed necessary and The Queen’s Regiment were joined by The Royal Hampshire Regiment to form The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment which formed part of The Queen’s Division.  Queen Margrethe was appointed Allied Colonel-in-Chief and in February 1997 was appointed sole Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.

Throughout all of the changes and amalgamations the relationship between The Royal House of Denmark, the people of Denmark and the Regiment has remained as strong as ever.  Having a Branch of our own Regimental Association in Denmark has contributed enormously to that relationship.

Many Danes served in our regiment during and after the last war many of whom paid the supreme sacrifice.  There has been a Branch of our Regimental Association in Denmark for nearly 55 years.  In 2003 the surviving members of that branch paraded with their standard at the Canterbury Reunion for the last time.  A sad moment for us all but also one of great pride that our Danish comrades were with us on that day.

Sadly several of those pictured below are no longer with us but the picture is published as a mark of our respect.

Members of the Denmark Branch 2003Members of the Denmark Branch 2003

Back Row: Andrew Breining, Kaj Madsen, Kay Weeke, Knud Passer Iversen,
Mogens Birch Nielsen.
Front Row: Erik Jorgensen, Tom Jensen Bendt Ole Arndt.

Veteri Frondescit Honore