December the 3rd this year, the Danish movie Under Sandet (English title: Land of Mine) premièred.
We were some, which had looked forward to it, as it was to portray the (German) mine clearing of the west coast of Jutland peninsula in the summer of 1945.
The end project is rubbish, and I have recently found out that the movie has been sold to almost every country in Europe, and is praised wide and far as a great movie – and is perhaps the Danish hope at getting an Oscar….
Let me first point out, that the movie is a great piece of cinematography. It is very well made.
That is why it is even more important to stress, that the story it tells is not the real one. It is not the only version of it, and certainly not the most plausible.
There are two main problems with the movie:
1) THE FACTS
The director has officially told, that his sources are:
a) The book, Under Tvang, by the historian Helge Hagemann and
b) contact with the children / grandchildren of the German soldiers that cleared the mines of the coast of Jutland in 45.
This is an enormous problem, since the other side of this story, the Danish soldiers of the DANFORCE and the British major Holland's viewpoint is not taken into perspective. - it is a very "one-sided" perspective, and is worthy of the professional criticisms the movie has received.
Helge Hagemans book is only one presentation of the problem and the discussions the book started are not yet concluded since WWII historians are still much divided on the subject.
In short Hageman puts forward evidence in his book, that Denmark and the Allied Forces broke the Geneva Convention by forcing German POWs into clearing the mines of the Danish, Belgian, Dutch, French and Norwegian coasts after WWII.
Others would argue that with the end of hostilities the German POWs became DPs (Displaced Persons) and were as such not covered by the Geneva Convention in 1945, and that they “volunteered” to do the job.
However all historians agree, that in Denmark the Germans worked under their own officers and NCO's (and they got to keep their weapons) - as pr. the agreement between SHAEF, Danish officers and the German high Command in Denmark from May 9th 1945.
The Danish soldiers (DANFORCE) only controlled the mine clearing in cooperation with German pioneers, and where present to secure the premises, control the finished job, and to aid the German officers.
In Land of Mine the German pioneers are portrayed as scared little children, commanded at gunpoint by a Danish NCO to clear mines. Gone are the German NCO’s and the German officers. Gone is the “aid” perspective, and gone is the guidelines as pr. the agreement of May 9th 1945.
2) MINOR DETAILS:
Uniforms and equipment are off by a mile.
The German uniforms are “ok”. It is post WWII after all, and they had to use whatever was left. The Danish uniforms in the movie, is on the other hand an abomination.
Pionerkommandoet - Jylland 1945.png
(Photo of the real deal - Danish soldier with M/37 helmet, and Germans)
(Work apparel and combat uniforms: The real deal, and in KODAK colour - members of the DANFORCE in Copenhagen 1945)
The Danish soldiers in the summer of 1945 were members of the Danish Brigade in Sweden. A Danish force of about 5000 men (and a few auxiliary women) trained and equipped in Sweden from 1943-45.
Their uniform was a light grey, “battledress” style uniform. Made from Swedish wool cloth, as used for the Swedish M/39 uniform. In summer, or as “work” uniform, they wore a grey cotton jacket, and grey cotton trousers with black buttons – non of these uniforms are present in the movie. Instead the actors are issued British battledress uniforms (brown!) and British equipment (webbing!). Some of the extras have been issued Swedish M/26 helmets, Danish post war M/44 uniforms (brown) but Swedish leather equipment. It looks horrid, and is completely wrong. The helmet used in the DANFORCE was the Swedish M/37 helmet, with Danish decals and often a helmet net.
The list of minor mistakes is nearly endless, as there are many, even more minute, details they have managed to get wrong.
Even though the sources are readily available!
To cut a long story short:
I will not advice you not to watch the movie. But if you intend to do so, watch is as you would with any “thriller” or other movie with a plot based on fiction. It is has very little, if any, to do with the actual events it portrays. It is more a political statement by the writer.
THE REAL EQUIPMENT:
Photo source: Armémuseum
Brigaden uniform - Armémuseet.jpg
Combat uniform - Nicknamed the "monty" uniform by the DANFORCE troops.
Brigadens Uniform - Hjelmhue - skråhue_ Brigaden.jpg
"Garrison cap" - Garnisons hue.
Brigadens Uniform _ M37 hjelm - Brigaden - Armémuseet.jpg
Swedish M/37 helmet, with Danish markings.
M41 Armeemuseet 01.jpg
Cotton work uniform (Originally a Swedish M/41 jacket for their Home Guard units.
Ryggsäck m.1939 - Armémuseet Stockholm.jpg
Swedish M/39 back pack. Used extensively by DANFORCE.
If anyone wants to know more about the DANFORCE, I would happily make a thread about it.
Just let me know. I have studied the particular unit for more the two years now, and have amassed a great deal of knowledge about it as part of a ongoing project with collecting and writing about the unit together with some other students of history at university and a lonely archaeologist.