While touring the Assistens Kirkegård (Assistens Churchyard) in Copenhagen, we came past this burial site for soldiers in World War 1. Their story touched me.
Having learned the hard way that when we fought other European nations we usually got the short end of the stick, Denmark remained neutral during World War 1. The only Danes who participated in the “War to End All Wars” were members of the Danish minority in the Northern German provinces of Schleswig and Holstein (conquered by Bismarck in 1864), and of course those Danish “entrepreneurs” known as “Gullash Barons” who made a fortune putting trash in tin cans and selling it to the warring nations as “field rations”, which were then shipped to the soldiers at the front as “food”.
So why would soldiers from “The Great War” be buried in Denmark? Some of the luckier soldiers were not killed at the front; they were taken prisoner and kept in POW camps until the war ended in 1918. After the defeat of Germany and Austria-Hungary some of their prisoners of war came to Denmark to be fed and entertained until they were fit to be shipped back to their home – in this case France and Belgium.
Unfortunately for them, this was the time when the Spanish Flu – a particularly wicked strain of the Flu virus – raged. It has been estimated that one third of the world’s population was infected, and that between 10 and 20 percent of those infected succumbed to the flu, possibly making it the deadliest pandemic in world history. Soldiers fresh out of a POW camp obviously weren’t the best fit to combat a nasty virus infection and several of them died and are buried here.
They survived the hell of the trenches in Flanders, were caught and survived the hell of a prisoner camp and were finally on their way home – only to die of flu on the way!
Life can be cruel!