The Voyage of the Longship “Hugin”
FROM DENMARK / JUTLAND TO ENGLAND IN 1949
This is the story of the longship which was built in Denmark and then sailed to Ebbsfleet in the county of Kent, part of what is now England, this was done to celebrate the landing Of Hengist and Horsa Jutish not Vikings,( to do a Viking means rape and pillage) in 449 A. D., they were here to help the then British king Vortigern as mercenaries, very similar to what the Roman Empire did with its own auxilaries as the British tried to carry on like the Romans, but now on their own as the Romans had now left Britain never to return, as they fought against the Picts, Scots/Irish, other Britons and now doubt other Anglo-Saxons, who opposed King Vertigern who was the Bretwalda of his day (chief king), so now we will let the writer tell his story of the Jutes not Vikings journey, who was a man called Jorgen Rojel who was a part of this adventure and wrote this book.
One evening last spring my wife and I were sitting snug and cosy at home. Suddenly she looked up from the newspaper she was perusing and remarked: “Have you seen that they `re thinking of sending a Viking ship to England this summer to celebrate the fifteen hundredth anniversary of the first landing of the Vikings (Jutes) over there?” Unwittingly she thereby kindled a spark in my soul. Many are the times I have stood beside the Oseberg and Gokstad ships on Bygdoy, dreaming myself out to sea with them and imagining what they would look like with mast, rigging and bellying sail. With a brief: “let me see!” I quickly glanced through the short intimation. Who “they” might be was not disclosed, but I was immediately certain that I simply had to be one of the crew, if it could be arranged in any way.
Some weeks passed by, and in the business of daily life the thought of the Viking cruise receded into the back of my mind, until one day a message arrived from the Danish Rower`s Union to all the rowing clubs in the country. The drift of it was, that the Union had been called upon by the Tourist Association to choose about fifty rowers who would be willing to row and sail a copy of the Gokstad ship to England some time in July. More detailed information concerning the date of departure would be sent to the clubs later on, but for the time being the trip might be considered to last about a month. All interested were invited to send in their applications to the Danish Rower`s Union via their respective clubs and fill in an inquiry form as extensive, as if it were a foreign-currency application to the National Bank. Besides age, stature, weight, and colour of eyes and hair, information was asked regarding how many years the would-be Viking had rowed, how many long-distance trips he had taken part in and whether he had ever rowed in any boat race. There were a whole lot of other questions, amongst which the following “Do you speak English”, to which one applicant very logically answered: “No…neither did the ancient Vikings!” Furthermore, it was stipulated, that the participators should be willing to let their beards grow and to leave off having their hair cut.
About two hundred and fifty applicants came in from the whole country, most of them well qualified people, so it was very difficult for the co-operative committee from the Danish Rower`s Union to pick out the fifty-one lucky ones … a task which we, who were chosen, consider they have executed with great bravura. First of all, all applicants under 180cm, (5ft. 11ins) were rejected … The remaining applicants were then allotted points according to their qualifications and the crew selected.
Erik Kiersgaard, a thirty-four year old insurance man and a member of the Danish Students` Rowing Club in Copenhagen, was chosen to be the chief Viking. He was to be the leader, responsible during the expedition and with power of life and limb over the crew … just the right for the job. In mind and body Kiersgaard is the typical Viking, a broad-shouldered, blue-eyed, blond-haired giant weighing a trifle of 105 kilos (16st. 8lbs). Since his early youth he has been a prominent sportsman, having won the Danish Rowing Championship several times, and a good bower into the bargain. At an early date during the war Erik Kiersgaard, together with his brother Henry, was erolled in the resistance movement and did eminent work there. Henry Kiersgaard was taken prisoner and died in a German concentration camp. Erik, however, succeeded in escaping to Sweden, returning at a later date to Denmark in the capacity of British Secret Service Agent. After the war he was decorated with a high British order on account of his exploits.
One day in the middle of June, Kiersgaard and I, together with representatives for the Danish Rowers` Union, had a meeting with Mr. Lichtenberg, the managing-director of the Tourist Association, in order to discuss the details of the approaching event. The ship was to be ready for launching at the beginning of July, and after a few days` trial on the Isefjord, we were to sail it across the Kattegat, through the Limfjord and on down to Esbjerg on the west coast of Denmark. From there we were to embark on the actual cruise about the 18th of July. The only date which had already been unalterably fixed was, however, that of our proposed landing at Broadstairs on the 28th of July at 2.00pm. As a precautionary measure, the Danish rowers` Union demanded, that we should have an escort across the Kattegat and the North Sea, Even if all possible safety measures were provided for, there would still be a certain degree of risk connected with the undertaking, and so it was agreed upon that the Tourist Association, in its capacity of “shipowner”, should take out a life insurance amouting to 10,000 Dan.Kr. (£500) for each man. Furthermore it was agreed upon that we should have a navigator with us, so that we could manage alone if anything unforeseen should happen.
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From the very beginning it had been the intention to build a perfectly accurate replica of the Gokstad ship … the most well-kept longship from the time of the Vikings. Contrary to the Oseberg ship, which was built for sailing among the skerries, the Gokstad ship was a sea-going vessel, and it is very likely that it was in ships of this type, that the Vikings voyaged to England, Iceland, Greenland and America. It is highly probable that it was by means of an armada counting several hundred ships of this kind, that Sven Forkbeard conquered England. (The St. Brice`s Day massacre caused this, King Ethelred `the unready` was king of England whose land had been ravaged by Danish raids every year from 997 too 1001 and, in 1002 the king was told that the Danish men in England `settlers`. “Would faithlessly take his life, and then all his councillors, and possess his kingdom afterwards”. In response he “ordered slain all Danish men who were in England”. This included the Gunhilde the sister of the king of Denmark, hence his retribution on England. This happened on St. Brice`s Day 13th November 1002.) That gives a good idea of what a gigantic enterprise such an invasion must have been in those days, a military operation of a magnitude which may well be compared with the landing of the allied troops in North Africa and France during the last war. The Gokstad ship measures 23.8 m (78 ft) from stem to stern and 20.1 m (66 ft) along the keel. Amidships it has a breath of 5.1 m (16.8 ft). It is a clinker-built craft of oak. The planking consists of 16 strakes on each side, these being lashed to the boat`s 17 frame timbers by means of whale-bone. The frame timbers themselves are loosely couched in little grooves in the keelson. Built in this fashion the ship was much more flexible than the usual stiff construction, and could yield to the varying pressure of the waves. The strakes were caulked with oakum to make the vessel water-tight. There are 16 oar-ports on each side, located in the third strake from the top, some 60 cm (2 ft) above the waterline. The upper part of the oar-port is furnished with a slit, through which the blade of the oar may be passed from inboard. When under way, the oar-ports may be closed by means of port-flaps, operated from inboard, in order to keep seawater from coming in, an arrangement which, however, proved to be comparatively useless, as water poured in every time the vessel rolled over and the oar-ports dipped under the waterline. Situated about amidships stands a single 12 m (40 ft) high mast of fir, sticking up through a hole in the mast-partner – a great oak-tree block, fashioned like a fish tail fore and aft – fitting into a hole in the keelson. When the mast is up, the space in the mast-partner aft of it is filled out by means of another large oak block, the forwardside of which is hollowed out to fit the curve of the mast. On removing the block mentioned, which is so heavy that two men can scarcely lift it, enough room is thereby obtained to lay the mast down sternwards. The mast is supported by two shrouds on either side and a stay down to the stem.
Just before the mast and midway between the mast and stem and mast and stern stands three upright beam-pieces on which oars may be laid, so that an awning, covering the whole of the bulk of the ship, may be spread out. As we have already mentioned, the Gokstad ship is a large open vessel, in which the bottom boards are raised about 50 cm (1 ft 8 ins) above the keel, thereby serving as assort of deck. The boards amidship are of fir and lie loose, so that they may be removed when baling the ship or when stowing gear and tackle “below”.
How the rowers were seated in the Gokstad ship is not accurately known, but it is assumed that they sat on loose chest or lockers, in which they kept their personal equipment, provisions, etc.
The sides of the Gokstad ship were heightened by means of thirty-two circular shields on each side, stuck into a batten beneath the gunwale. The batten had rectangular openings in which the shields were secured. These were arranged along side the ship, so that the foremost shield overlaps its neighbour, rim to centre and so on from fore to aft. The shields measured about 1 m (3 ft) in diameter and were made of thin spruce boards. The boss in the middle of the foreside of the shield had a handle inside at the back. The shield was reinforced with leather mountings round the rim. The Vikings painted them yellow and black alternately and decorated them with various motifs.
The shields have not only served ornamental purposes but have also rendered good protection for the crew during an engagement. We learn by experience, that they made good wash-boards and kept the spray out. In order to prevent them from being carried away by the heavy seas, we lashed them all securely to the battens, giving each a turn of a thin wire hawser.
An essential factor, in which the Godstad ship differs from the usual type of boat used nowadays, is the rudder. We are used to seeing the rudder located at the extreme end of the stern, but the ancient Vikings made use of a steering-paddle, mounted on the starboard quarter at some distance from the stern. The side, from which the ship was steered, was naturally called the steerboard or starboard side. The opposite side – the port side – probably derived its name from the fact that it was that side of the ship which could be brought alongside a pier or wharf, allowing the steering-paddle to operate freely on the outer side. The latter etymological explanation stands, however, to my account. The steering-paddle was equipped with a tiller at the top, pointing athwart. By means of two pivots of different sizes, the smaller one being fastened to the bulwark while the larger one was located just above the waterline, the steering-paddle was couched on to the side of the ship. The concave upper pivot followed the curve of the steering-paddle, allowing it to rotate on its axis. The lower pivot was provided with a hole, through which a very strong leather-muffled rope-end was led, passing through a hole in the blade of the paddle and secured by means of a heavy knot on the outer side of it. The other end of the rope was very ingeniously fastened inboard, so that it could be tightened by means of wedges. A light pull at the tiller was all that was necessary to turn the helm. Finally the steering-paddle was so contrived, that it could be raised by means of a lanyard, fastened near the lower end of it, when sailing in shallow waters.
Apart from the fact that the use of the Vikings` technique in lashing the strakes to the frame timbers was considered too great a risk to run, copper nails being used instead, the Hugin was built an exact replica of the Godstad ship as far as size was concerned. How the latter vessel was rigged, and what the prow-decoration has looked like, is not known, so it was necessary to recourse to imagination. The dragon-head on the prow has been criticized from various quarters, and I feel inclined to add mine to the pool. Not only was it much too big and ponderous – it weighed 250 kgs (over 600 lbs) and caused the Hugin to lie by the head, but worse still, it was a misunderstanding from a stylistic point of view. It would have been far better to have used the graceful and elegant ornamentation of the Osberg ship or the dragon-head, found at the mouth of the river Schelde, and which may be seen at the British Museum.
On the 9thof May 1949, the Hugin`s keel was laid at the shipyard at Frederikssund, one of the largest shipyards for wooden ships in the country and specializing in building large sea-going fishing boats. Under the constant supervision of two civil engineers, Mr. Kaempe, dr. techn. And Mr. Petersen, the building of the hugin proceeded steadily to an end. Everything ran smoothly until the last day in June when we arrived to inspect the ship and decide the height of the thwarts and their distance from the oar-ports. The distance between the oar-ports was already given by the Gokstand ship, so we chalked off sixteen ports, one between each of the frame timbers. Two thwarts were now placed at a convenient distance from the oar-ports, and a piece of wood of a length corresponding to the loom of an oar, was procured. Tableau! The ports were too near one another! The boxes, which served as thwarts, were so near each other, that we had to sit with out knees bent, and worse still, out knee prevented us from swinging the oar far enough down the blade to lift clear of the water. We measured and calculated as if we were possessed, but in vain. We tried with fourteen holes instead of sixteen, marking them off along the side, but with no success. Sooner or later we hit a frame timber which spoiled the whole arrangement. The ship was definitely designed for sixteen oars, and they could be held with Dr. Kaempe amd Mr Petersen. As rowing experts we could only declare, that the ship could not be rowed in its present condition; the rowers could not both stretch their oars forward over their knees and lift the oar-blades up out of the water. In our imaginations we could see ourselves sitting waggling our oars as if they were so many soap-wisks. We would never reach England that way. We parted, frowning deeply, and my last words were to the effect that we could only get enough room by reducing the number of oars to eight on each side.
The next morning Mr Petersen phoned and asked s to come and have a look at the Hugin again, – he had got a bright idea. The idea proved to be splendid and was to the effect simply to remove the back of the box, so that the man behind could stick his legs in under the seat of the man in front of him. In addition it was proposed that the height of the thwarts should be reduced by the breadth of a board. The problem was thus solved as far as leg-room was concerned; we could straighten our knees enough to lift the blade of the oar clear of the water. Inboard, however, the oar could still be moved to and fro for a distance of only about 50cm (1ft 8ins). To exceed this distance meant digging the man in front in the small of his back. We should have to change our style completely and row with short, sudden strokes. Quick, energetic tugs, without trying to drive the blade through the water for any considerable distance, were indicated.
This incident strengthened me in my suspicion that the Gokstad ship, of which the Hugin is a true copy, must have been rowed by very small men, probably no taller than about 160-165 cm (5ft. 3 to 5 ins). I have expressed my conviction of this publically, and it has been refuted by several who refer to the fact, that during the excavations a fifty year old man, heavily built and 178 cm (5ft. 10 ins) tall, was found in the Gokstad ship. The manner of his burial makes it very likely, that he must have been the chief. This, however, does not necessitate that his height should be estimated as the average height of the Vikings of that period. His great height and physical strength have probably contributed greatly towards the choosing of him as chieftain-he must have stood literally head and shoulders above the rest. I do not think that I`am guilty of drawing too far-reaching conclusions when I assert that the Vikings must have been a short-built race, since it must be supposed that the oar-ports have been placed so that rowing could be performed as effectively and easily as possible. The Vikings have, on the other hand probably only used their oars when approaching or leaving the coastline or when engaging in a battle at sea. The dextrous craftsmanship and ingenious inventiveness, of which the ship`s design bears witness, only tends to justify my trend of thought.
As a consequence of the new arrangement regarding the thwarts, we had to forfeit the thirty-to watertight chests, in which the rowers were to have kept their kitbags and other private equipment. The chests were now converted into low benches, open at the back and furnished with a spar to serve as a foot-rest for the man behind when on duty. Because of this new arrangement, our difficulties in finding enough room onboard in which to stow away our gear, were increased.
On 1stJuly, the Hugin slid down the slips at Frederikssund. A very celebrated assembly witnessed the ceremony, headed by Mrs. Hedtoft, the Prime Minister`s wife, Mr. Gustav Rasmussen, the Foreign Minister, and the British Navy`s attaché. Furthermore an impressive army of press and film folk from Western Europe and North America were mustered for the occasion, thereby expressing the great interest which the whole affair had given rise to, not least in England.
We marched in procession through the town, dressed up in Viking costumes, borrowed from the wardrobe of the Royal Opera-house, down to the shipyard and boarded the hugin which stood on the slips, ready to be launched. Mrs. Hedtoft, who was the ship`s sponsor, expressed the wish that the Hugin might represent the best of the proud traditions of the Vikings of old on its campaign of friendship, where upon the ship gradually began to slide down the slips, slowed up and ultimately came to standstill. A Danish press-photographer proved the cause of the mishap, he having stationed himself on a wooden beam, which had to be removed if the Hugin was to take to the water. The photographer was very unwilling to move away, as he could only get the perfect “shot” from where he stood. The man and the beam were duly removed, however, and the Hugin began to slide once more, gained speed and with foaming prow made contact with her proper element, accompanied by the cheers of the spectators.
As soon as the traditional launching ceremony with its speeches and toasts had came to an end, we raised the mast and prepared the Hugin for her maiden voyage. Before embarking, however, a little ceremony was held onboard. Mr. Lichtenberg from the Tourist Association mustered the Vikings and presented Erik, the chief, with the Hugin`s flag, the ravern banner. It will be remembered that Hugin (hugr = thought) was one of the two ravens, that sat on Odin`s shoulders, keeping him informed as to what was going on in Valhalla and on earth. With loud cheers and shouts of “hail!”, the banner was hoisted. For obvious reasons we could not fly the Dannebrog, ( According to tradition the Danish flag. Dannebrog – white cross on red background – fell from heaven on the day of the Battle of Lydanis Heath. 1219 A.D.) and the raven banner actually became a symbol around which we rallied during the expedition . . . our private Dannebrog.
Warily we cast off and rowed out into the fjord. Our calculations proved to be correct. It was not possible to row with the usual strokes, we sat too near one another for that. The important thing was, however, that we really could row the ship after our small improvements had been carried out. It took some time before we got used to the new rowing technique, as the shield obstructed the view so that we could not see the oar blades. A fresh breeze was blowing from the northwest and, rowing against the wind, we only made 1 ½ knots in spite of our exertions. That gave us food for or reflections. How were we to get to England if the wind and sea were against us and we were compelled to row the whole way across? In any case it would take an interminably long time. As the rigging was not clear and the wind unfavourable, we did not hoist the sail that day, to the great disappointment of the spectators who had met to witness the event.
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The following day it was fine sailing-weather. As we were only a fraction of the crew – about 10 men in all – we got the Hugin towed a bit up the Isefjord and set sail. We hauled at halliards and sheets, and a moment later the 40 m2 (406 sq ft.) square-sail billowed over our heads. We could almost feel the Hugin stretch herself, as she creaked in all her joints; then gathering speed she sped swiftly forward. Bracing the sail we skimmed easily over the blue fjord, impelled by a strong sidewind. All onboard laughed and shouted exultantly like children. The waves foamed around the bows and look! . . . we were leaving a fine wake after us. Oh yes, the Hugin could sail to be sure, and made considerably better progress than when we rowed. We must have been doing about five or six knots. Erik and I caught each others eyes and “thumbs-upped”. Now we were certain of being able to reach England by ourselves by means of oars and sail.
The steering-paddle, upon which we had looked with no little scepticism, proved to be a great success. A light pull aft at the tiller and the ship canted to starboard, and to port when it was pushed forward. A six year old child could steer the great heavy boat as easy as anything.
The next few days were spent in practising rowing and manoeuvring the sail. For us rowers there were a whole lot of expressions such as: braces, tacks, stays, etc., with which we were totally unaccustomed; things with which we simply had to become acquainted, if we were to be able to manoeuvre rapidly. In between we did minor repairs and amended faults, discovered during the training. The oars were 5.3m (17 1/2 ft.) long, made of solid ash and weighing 15kilos (36 ½ lbs.) a piece. They were provided with collars to prevent them from being washed out of their ports, if the heavy seas should strike them out of the hands of the rowers. Moreover it was a mistake that we had the oars made of ash, partly because they were far too heavy and badly balanced and, what was worse, most of them were severely warped before we got to England. Four or five if them had to be scrapped as totally unserviceable, as they had become distorted and bent like bows. The oars found in the Gokstad ship were of fir, and it would have been wiser if that material had been used here too.
The space beneath the bottom boards was provided with a latticed framework to prevent out gear and stores from getting soaked by the bilge water, which is always present in wooden vessels.
For a long time the daily papers insisted in maintaining that we were to subsist exclusively on mead, oysters, gammon, onions and honey. That would not have been so bad, of course, but hardly enough for modern, hard-working Vikings. At far as I know, it is still a problem of discussion whether the ancient Vikings had a fire-place onboard their ships. When out on an expedition, they followed the coastline as far as possible, and they probably went ashore for the night, camping and preparing their meals on the beach. A number of kitchen utensils were found in the Gokstad ship, giving some impression of the daily life of the Vikings: a big iron carving-knife, larding-boards, plates, cups, candlesticks and a few barrels for fresh water and mead. Perhaps the most interesting item found on that occasion was a large bronze caldron, which seems to have been the crew`s cooking-pot. The caldron is so big, however, that is may be assumed that it could only have been used ashore. It would have been simply impossible to have made a fire onboard, big enough to warm the caldron and its contents. On the other hand it is hardly probable that the Vikings, clever and practical as they were should not have solved the problem of a fire-place on board, which could be perhaps moths at sea at a time. How they could have room for even the most necessary provisions and for fresh water, I could not imagine. The want of space onboard the Hugin was a source of constant provocation; for example we could only have enough fresh water for a couple of days ` use at a time, and received fresh supplies periodically from the escort ship, the Thetis, on the way across.
Now that the whole show is over, I do not feel I`am a traitor, when I disclose how we solved the supply problem. In an opening amidships we erected a box-like contraption made of sheet steel iron with a lid of the same material. This box, measuring 1m x 1m x 50cm (3 x 3 x 1 ½ ft.), had holes in its sides, and fitted so conveniently into the space assigned to it, that it could stand there permanently, and the bottom boards could be laid over it when the galley was not in use. The bottom of the iron box was lined with asbestos. In it there was just room enough for four primus stoves, each with its 10 liter (2 gal.) cooking-pot. This arrangement worked surprisingly well, and it was quite amazing how dextrous we became in cooking our food in spite of the violent pitching of the ship; we had to have extra helpers, however, to keep the stoves and cooking-pots from capsizing.
It was my job to cater for the whole expedition, and when I now tell you about what we really got to eat, all who have been led to believe the fib about the oysters, mead, onions etc, will feel that they have been shamefully fooled – well, it is to be hoped that they are few in number. First of all it was important that the menu should be rich in calories, so as to have something to thrive on; and secondly that it was sufficiently nourishing. I assured myself of the latter by giving the Vikings vitamin tablets every morning.
Breakfast consisted of raw porridge-oats with condensed milk, rye-bread, white bread, butter, jam, sausage, cheese, sometimes soft-boiled or raw eggs and, of course, coffee or tea.
At midday there was a warm meal, i. e. conserves such as boiled beef, corned beef, sausage or black pudding were warmed and served together with bread and butter. The first few days we did not have any potatoes onboard, as we had thought it would be impossible to cook enough potatoes for fifty-three men over four small primus stoves and in heavy seas into the bargain. The midday meal, however, proved to be the most unfortunate meal of the day. There is a limit for how much meat you can stomach at a sitting; at ant rate it was only at a pinch that the calorie consumption stipulated could be upheld. In Holland we therefore procured some potatoes, and it son became evident that potatoes could very well be cooked for the whole crew if we just took our time about it, and time was the one thing we had more than enough of onboard. One of the mess crews laid such a stress on having potatoes to their meal, that when it was their turn at the galley, they began the day by lighting the stoves and putting the potatoes on to boil.
The evening meal was very much the same as breakfast: bread, butter, cheese. Sausage, eggs, pickled herrings, jam and again tea or coffee. We enhanced this otherwise excellent fare with a suitable number of “Gold Exports” or “Royal Navy Brew” . . . some marvellously fine ale, which Tuborg had kindly spared us. It is said that we consumed four thousand bottles of beer during the trip. It sounds a bit rough, but when distributed amongst fifty-three men over a period of twenty days, it sums up to a mere four bottles a day per man. Anyone, who has lugged an oar for a day on end in broiling sunshine, will agree with me that it was not so very much after all, and it proved, and we had to eke the daily ration with a couple of liters (half-a –gallon) of fresh water to each man.
Besides the more ordinary supplies mentioned above, we also had, however, a varied assortment of more dainty tit-bits with which to sweeten the tediousness of life onboard: pineapples, peaches, apricots, tinned pears . . . here the password was : three men to a tin . . . biscuits, chocolate, tec. To complete the picture I must add that each man received a daily ration of good English and American cigarettes and, after our visit to Holland, fine cigars and good shag tobacco now and then. On the whole we were very well provided for, but I must say that it really was very necessary, especially the first two days in which we see-sawed on the North Sea, soaked to the skin, shivering with cold and the most of us wretchedly seasick.
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The day before our departure from Frederikssund was busily spent in stowing supplies onboard. We only took enough provisions onboard to last us until we got to Esbjerg, a trip calculated to last about ten days. There we were to take a similar portion supplies onboard for the next part of out journey, which was reckoned to last another ten days. To give some idea of what we got to eat, I can mention that at Frederikssund we received 500 kilos (1100 lbs.) of tinned meat, 250 kilos (550 lbs.) of rye-bread, 100 kilos (220 lbs.) of plain bread, 50 kilos (110 lbs.) of sugar, 40 kilos (88 lbs.) of butter, several legs of bacon, sausages, various cheeses, etc. The Vikings certainly had good appetites. We had to store a good portion of our supplies onboard the escorting P-cutter, partly because of the difficulty in finding enough room for them onboard, and partly because we could not keep them dry.
On 6thJuly, al was ready for our departure, and the Hugin weighed anchor the same forenoon and began her voyage of 1500Km (930 miles) to England. Only a little more than half the crew onboard, as the chaps from Jutland were to join us at Hals.
Under way down the Isefjord and with a fine breeze astern, we were escorted by a vast armada of yachts and other pleasure craft, who accompanied us on the first part of our journey, wishing us good luck and a pleasant voyage. Later on in the afternoon the breeze fell, and we had to man the oars most of the way to Rorvig, where we spent the night.
Next morning we were under way again by 4 a. m. It was raining, and the breeze was not very favourable. On the way across the Kattegat, the Hugin redeemed the promise she had already given on the Isefjord and proved to be an admirable sailer. Even when close hauled, her speed was considerable and the leeway surprisingly little. Tacking was a bit of a problem, and necessitated our striking out a spar, every time we went about.
Later on in the day the breeze was dead ahead, so P-24 (the escorting cutter) paid out a hawser and towed us until Grenaa lay abeam. There we went ashore and, during the next few hours, brought the local bathing hotel to such a state of uproar with our Viking dances and howls, that the very tables shivered in terror-stricken abasement, we weighed anchor again directly after merrymaking, so as to escape from acquiring tender habits. The wind was blowing from the northwest, wind-force 4 and the sea rather heavy, but the Hugin swept on, riding the waves like a swan. That night some of the crew got a little foretaste of the bold life of the Vikings, and found that if consisted of more than merely being made much of by local bathing belles. The breeze forced us to keep course northwest , and we lost touch with the cutter during the night. This gave rise to all kinds of rumours and several newspapers brought the news that the Hugin had disappeared in the Kattegat. At sunrise on the 9th July we again gained contact with P-24.
That evening we dropped anchor outside Hals. The rest of the Vikings had assembled at Aalborg, and were motored down to the ship. We purposely refrained from shipping the rest of the crew at Aalborg, so to avoid newspaper blather, as the voyage was officially to start at Esbjerg. Until then our trip was only to be considered as a trial run and training cruise.
As soon as all the crew had donned their Viking garb and oilskins and sou`westers had been dealt out – articles of clothing which proved uncommonly useful during the coming days – Erik, the chief mustered his crew to roll-call at the stern. Here Erik Kiersgaards made a short speech, saying: 2We are now about to embark upon a voyage, during which the eyes of hundreds of thousands of people will be turned towards us. The success of the trip depends more or less on how we behave ourselves when we arrive at England. Let us show there English people good sport and good fun coupled with discipline and self-control.
Bear in mind that for the next few days we have the honour of being Denmark`s envoys in a foreign country. Although I am involved in the affair myself, I can bear witness of the fact, that Kiersgaard did not need to feel ashamed of his crew. During the hectic days spent in England, all kept their heads and showed a correct and dignified deportment.
After roll-call the crew was divided into three watches, each under the leadership of one themselves. The first watch was lead by “Mommes” who, who went not a Viking, is chief-warder in a prison and is also an ex-corporal in the King`s Guard. He distinguished himself by being the only one onboard, who could bawl an order with the proper military terseness, on the other hand his voice could pierce through the fiercest gale. He was therefore very often called upon to tip s a stave when we weighed the anchor, the whole crew standing from stem to stern, hauling in rhythm, or when hoisting the sail.
Hauge, a bookseller in civil life, was chosen to be leader of the second watch. His most distinguished qualification was that he, on festive occasions, went berserk and enacted a genuine, wild Viking knife-dance, bellowing in Tarzan-fashion.
I had the third watch and distinguished myself only as far as my choice of assisants was concerned. Raahauge, who is a police constable in Koge in civil life, proved to be a so capable lieutenant, that I left it to him to cope with the miscellaneous duties of the day such as mustering out crowd, setting the watches, distributing the daily rations of tobacco, etc. In this way I was able to devote myself to “special services” as they say in the army, so as to be at disposal should anything out of the ordinary happen. Each watch was divided into four shifts consisting of four men, of which one was shift-foreman.
The member of each watch had meals together, slept together, rowed together and were on watch at the same time. They also turns at the mess together. It will therefore be easy to understand, that each watch felt itself to be a unit, a fact which gave rise to a natural and healthy spirit of competition between the various parties. Of course I cannot begin criticising the qualifications of the various teams here, but I will take the liberty of mentioning that the third watch was no common crowd, in fact it was generally considered a rather uncommon assembly, and it took every opportunity of letting the others know all about it. It was especially the members of the second watch, who were frequently harassed by seasickness and other ailments, whose attention was drawn to the rapidity with which the third catered for them when on duty. They were profusely and frequently invited to take notice of the amazing skill with which we mastered that field of activity. It was especially the dinner, that the second watch had difficulty in getting ready before evening. Our encouraging remarks had the effect that they, when on mess duty, put the potatoes on in the morning. They got the knack of it in due time.
Each watch had its permanent sleeping place. The first watch slept abaft, the second watch amidships and the third watch in the forecastle. Later on, when out on the North Sea, we discovered that we, the third watch, had been allowed a rather exposed and decidedly wet berth. The space under the bottom boards was likewise divided into three, corresponding with the berths above, so that each watch could stow away their personal gear, kitbags, sleeping bags, etc., beneath the forecastle, amidships and abaft respectively. This dividing of the ship was absolutely necessary for keeping order and creating decent conditions for the fifty-three men onboard. In fact it is rather an achievement to have lived for ten days, stowed so close together that each man had even less than 1m2 (a square yard) to his disposal, without mutiny during the last part of the voyage, when exhaustion and lack of sleep asserted itself too strongly.
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Before sunrise on the 10th July we were awakened by the boatswain`s whistle followed by Erik`s sweet, melodious voice bellowing: “Get up! Get out of your bags!” as loud as he could yell. We staggered drowsily to an upright position, weighed the anchor and we were soon on our way through the Limfjord. It was from this fjord that Sven Forkbeard`s invading fleet actually embarked on its voyage of conquest of England. The old Viking fort at Aggersborg bears witness to this day of the fact, that there was a military point of support here in days of old.
It was a magnificent summer morning. To the east a purple tinge proclaimed the dawn of a new day – it was probably that, which the ancient Greeks so exquisitely denominated the rosy-fingered blush of day. Kaarsberg, our master of ceremonies and sound-effect operator, struck a couple of precursory blows on the big gong. Faster and faster the blows fell, causing the clang to rise in a sharp crescendo to the heavens, until the sun had risen above the horizon. The whole crew then turned to face the rising sun and, with arms uplifted, did obeisance to it, shouting aloud with stentorian voices: “Hail to thee. Oh sun, Phoebus, friend of us all!” We had become sun-worshippers like our forefathers. During the first few days, we spent on the North Sea when we, cold and with chattering teeth, saw the sun rise and simply sucked its rays into us, then it was that we understood, why our ancestors had worshipped the sun. when a man, on a dull and rainy day, suddenly caught sight of the sun breaking through the clouds, he shouted: “It`s clearing up!” and the whole crew would answer in chorus as if with one single voice: “It`s clearing up!”
Kaarsberg was untiring in his discharge of office. He sang ditties and told stories, conjured cigars out his nose and in at his ears and rehearsed “hails” and other weird ceremonies. In Esbjerg, the evening before we set off, we were the town`s guests at a dinner in a very swanky restaurant. There we gave the local notabilities a severe shock when we suddenly jumped up on to our chairs and yelled a the top of our voices: “Hordes of the Hugin bid you haleness and homage!” Then, pulling up our tunics, we smacked our bare, sun burned tummies with the palms of our hands, crying: “Curtain!” as the tunics fell back into place again. For many years to come, cries such as: “Midships, lads . . .S`long” and “Uppia-rrrupl” will awaken blithe and cheerful memories in the minds of all who tool part in the trip. These vociferations were used when we drank beer, a thing that did happen occasionally. They were, however, inspired by the moment, and should be heard and not described.
Kaarsberg was not only untiring; he was also undomitable and animated with the true Viking spirit. Even when suffering form seasickness and a bad attack of boils, he persisted in tending his job as master of ceremonies. He banged the gong and tooted his horn lustily . . . verily, he did not bear the horn in vain. “The sun, Kaarsberg! The sun!” the cry sounded one morning out on the North Sea, when he was pretty well overcome. He staggered to his feet and gave the gong a few bangs and, rather feebly to be sure, conducted our morning greeting to friend Phoebus. Just as the ceremony was over, he made a dash for the side of the ship and, vomiting, spluttered “Lord! There went Phoebus by the board!”
We rowed for a couple of hours when suddenly, shortly before we reached Aalborg, we caught sight of something black on its way out to sea. As we drew near, it proved to be a gentleman in evening dress with his trousers tucked up above his knees and his coat tails tied round his waist. He was on his way out to greet the Hugin. Not far away from him was a barge, full of ladies and gentlemen, all of them in evening dress and ditto gowns, who had been to a wedding the whole night. We exchanged greetings and asked if this was the bridegroom who had already begun to tread water, leaving the bride to sail her boat. Of course they received a farewell “Hail!”
We arrived at Aalborg without further ado. We had been previously informed that we were supposed to pass the town about noon, so in order to get there in time we let the P-cutter tow us the last part of the way. We did so quite openly, since we still regarded this part of the trip as mere training for the more serious part which was to begin at Esbjerg. In spite of this it was generally established by all the newspapers in the country, that the Hugin had been towed the whole way from Freederikssund to Aalborg, and that it was also to be towed all the way across to England. About the same time the Limfjord fishermen declared, that “these Vikings`ll never get to England, the way they waggle them spart”. They could not know, that there really was not enough room onboard to row in any other way.
At noon we passed Aalborg, where fifteen thousand people had been standing for hours along the wharfs in the blaze of the sun, waiting to get a glimpse of the Hugin. In spite of their long wait the people had not lost their good spirits, and they cheered us enthusiastically, as we passed through the harbour. A train, stopping in the middle of the railway bridge, saluted us with a shriek of its whistle. We had the wind and the current against us, and did some strenuous rowing for some hours in the heat of the day. In order to keep going, some of the rowers had to have buckets of water sluiced over them at frequent intervals.
We continued to Logstor. Just outside the town we ran aground, and an inquisitive horse came splashing right out to the side of the ship and stood still, starring spellbound at its “colleague” on the stem of the Hugin. The P-cutter pulled us off, and shortly after we moored in Logster harbour.
The next two days were spent in practicing sailing on the Livo Broads. On the evening of the 12thJuly we sailed in triumph into Nykobing Mors, flanked on both sides by motor boats and rowing boats. On 13th july we were dragged into a festivity, held in celebration of the town`s 500 anniversary. The town council gave a big dinner, followed by a Viking ball. As usual we were made incredibly much of, and the Vikings made off with all the nice girls to the disconsolation of the local beaux.
The 13thJuly celebrations turned the little town completely upside down. The climax was the visit of the King and Queen and their Majesties leave taking with the crew of the Hugin. The Vikings lined up on parade and the King walked the front wished us a good voyage.
The next day we had rain and squally weather as we passed through the Nissum Broads, reaching Thyboron in the course of the afternoon. The wind abated and, since the weather forecast had promised a north wind, we continued out into the North Sea after partaking of a meal and a farewell cup of coffee at the Seamen`s Home there. The Hugin was making fine headway, impelled both by sail and oars. Our meeting wit hthe North Sea was otherwise than expected. A slight swell caused the Hugin to pitch to and fro. We had “lucky weather” . . . the best thing a man can have according to “Red Worm” and the “lucky weather” accompanied us during the rest of the voyage. A week or ten days after we had crossed the North Sea, there was a three days` storm which grew in fierceness to a veritable tempest. It would have been decidedly uncomfortable to have been tossing on the North Sea in such weather. The whole of the following day a fresh breeze blew from the northwest, and we had fine sunny weather. As we were in fine time, we made a detour into Hvide Sands (White Sands) and lunched there. The afternoon saw s take to the water again and make good progress southward. Before long the Blaavand Hug lightship hove into site. Although we were making fine headway, the P-cutter draw near and informed us that she had received orders by telegraph to take us in tow, as the Hugin was to be surveyed by the state authorities at Esbjerg the next forenoon.
At 1400hrs, we made the port of Esbjerg where, in spite of the early hour, my old friend the mayor, Mr Hoyer-Nielson, stood a the head of an army of reporters and press-photographers on the quay to welcome us.
During the rowing practice the next day we ran aground in the middle of the harbour to the great amusement of the local fishermen, who regarded us with kind condescension. Luckily we got afloat again of our own accord. In the evening there was a wireless transmission from the Hugin, entitled: “Evening onboard”: It was the most wearisome evening we spent on board, because the whole affair was arranged by the broadcasting company. We could have done the whole thing much better and far more amusingly, if we had been left to out own devices.
We spent a couple of very animated days in Esbjerg, where the citizens competed with each other in killing the fatted calf in our honour. The last evening we were the guests of the town council, who gave a very entertaining and delightful dinner, where we were treated with shark steak and mead.
The day of our departure, the 18th July, dawned at last. Now we were to get on with the job. Up to now we had been objects of indulgence and admiration everywhere we went in Denmark, and we felt that it had all been so undeserved. Now we were to show whether we were worthy of it.
The whole town was on end from the early morning. The streets and the harbour were dressed with flags led from where the Hugin was moored up to a bandstand and a rostrum, draped with green cloth. Tens of thousands of spectators had accumulated at the harbour, hours before the time of departure. At 1700hrs the farewell ceremony commenced, with music, speeches and the parade of the Vikings. The whole show was conducted with high spirits on all sides, and the speeches were very informal and praiseworthily short.
Shortly before 1800hrs the Hugin cast off from the quay, while the orchestra played the British and the Danish anthems and the crowds of spectators waved and cheered their farewell. Slowly we rowed through the harbour, noseing our way out through a myriad of boats, both large and small, all adorned with flags and fussing in and out and round about us. Some small motorboats, manned by ladies and gentlemen dressed up in queer attire, created quite a sensation they belonged to a circus which was visiting Esbjerg at the time. The great ocean-going ships, lying in the harbour, saluted with their whistles and sirens as we rowed by. Even the cranes were decorated; up on one of them there was an immense placard – a last greeting to one of the Vikings, who was from Esbjerg. A fishing boat with a big orchestra onboard followed in our wake, and to the tune of “It`s a long way to Tipperary” we put to sea. Someway out from the harbour we were overtaken by D.F.D.`s new England-liner – “Kronprinsesses Ingrid”, which slowed down and accompanied its more ancient colleague for a short distance while the meeting between antiquity and modern times was eternalized by hundreds of film and press photographers.
Now we were alone with the sea. The last of the accompanying boats had left us and were on their way back to Esbjerg. We heaved a sigh of relief, thankful for escaping from the madding crowd and their cheering, little knowing what was awaiting us in England. We fifty-three Danish lads were now on our way over the North Sea. The youngest of us was the nineteen year old Thrane, and the oldest was Claus Sorensen from Esbjerg, aged sixty-one, whom we immediately nicknamed “Double-Soren” on account of his immense girth. He is one of the leading men inside the Danish fishing industry. At the moment of writing, he is participating in the attempt to break new ground for Danish initiative by sending his fishing fleet up to Greenland, where he intends to establish bases. Up there he has already built a whole town with quick-freezers and fish-tinning factories, besides new houses for the fishermen and workers. In the midst of all this general business he took a holiday and showed the world that the Viking blood also courses through his veins. He was signed on, so that we should profit by his knowledge of the North Sea and its everchanging currents and tides. Soren was a real fine shipmate, who never shirked from taking his turn together with us other chaps, in spite of his advanced age. He is not talkative . . . a genuine west-coast fisherman type . . . but when he does open his mouth, you are certain that he knows what he is talking about. We were on watch together one night off the coast of Holland. In simple words he told me the story of his life; it was an exciting as a novel, and showed what painstaking struggle, perseverance, frugality and good fortune can lead to. He began his career as a boy onboard a fishing vessel, and is now one of the most well off men in Esbjerg.
The oldest but one onboard was our “skipper”, P. C. Jenson. He was signed on as navigator, a grand, deep-water sailor, who loved to tell about how he had been 149 consecutive days at sea on a voyage from Australia to London onboard a four-masted barque from Hamburg. There was always a joke on his lips and a glint in his eye, yet his was a great and wonderful thirst with which there was, fortunately enough, the means of complying onboard. “Well, Jorgen, let`s break our fast,” the skipper would exclaim every morning, as soon as he stuck his gray-haired and ditto bearded face out of his sleeping-bag. Breaking the fast consisted of stomaching the contents of a “long-necked” and a Royal Navy brew, quickly followed by a morning sing-song. In this way the day was begun without regard to whether it rained or blew a gale, and the better the weather, the greater was the attendance to “morning servce”. After some days “Stoffer” was persuaded to accompany on the accordion, and a choir that did not fight shy of even “In the east the sun ariseth” got together, singing all the parts.
In the course of the next few hours the wind arose, and we made good headway by means of the sail alone. It was a wonderfully fine evening with a sunset more magnificent that I remember ever having seen the like before. We swept past Graadyb before the twilight fell. The crew had spread into small groups all over the deck, and there was an atmosphere of heartiness and good cheer over the whole assembly. “Bamse”, the bo`sun, was busy trimming the lanterns for the night, and “sausage”, who stood for the bread-and-butter rations onboard, sat astern playing chess with my oldest brother, Kaj, in the dusk of the evening.
Kaarsberg gonged the sun down, and the air became pregnant with peace and tranquillity. Out in the stem “Red Worm”, B & W and I sat quietly drinking our beer, enjoying the serenity of the evening. Phosphorescence lit up the twilight; it was as if we were sailing on liquid silver, the waves dancing around the bows and in our wake gleamed and sparkled in the darkness. We began getting ready to turn in. The aftmost awning was rigged up, but we could not rig the one before the mast because of the sail. The third watch, to whom the forecastle had been allotted, would therefore have to sleep out in the open air. Raahauge and I rigged up a couple of hammocks and after much exertion we succeeded in getting into them!.
The wind increased and, veering a point or two, caused us to fall off a bit. We were still going southwest however, so we shaped our course so that we would close Terschelling Island (an island off the coast of Holland) on our way. The sea was rising, and the Hugin began to roll heavily. We soon had to abandon our hammocks for fear of being pitched overboard. It began to spray, and now and then the top of a wave detached itself and came flying in to us. “Rinse your mouths, gentlemen!” cried Kaarsberg, who is a dentist in civil life. He was still lying dry and cosy, but his turn was to come later on. The ship was now shipping water through the oar-ports every time the waves struck the sides or when she rolled over. The port-flaps did not do much good. In midst of all our troubles, the rain began to pour. Although most of our sleeping-bags were waterproof, this was more than they could stand. The deck was drenched, and we were wet to the skin. Even so, the night was not without charm. Every time the Hugin ascended, it seemed as if a glistening shower of melted silver poured in over us . . . so great was the phosphorescence. Many of the crew were already seasick; others lay quiet, struggling to keep it down.
As mentioned before, the third watch had very exposed quarters before the mast with no protection whatsoever against the rain and sea. We soon abandoned our position and, creeping aft, huddled together in an attempt to keep warm. There was now about a foot of water in the hold, and our kitbags, in which we had a change of clothing, floated about amongst the provisions and other gear. Baling was definitely indicated, so we baled by turns the whole of the following day.
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The night dragged to an end, and it was a teeth-chattering crowd that did honour to the rising sun. Our hail to friend Phoebus was evidently not ardent enough, since the sun son disappeared and showed itself no more that day. “Morning service” was not to be subdued, however, yet the singing did not seem to rouse the desired response.
We had advanced about sixty miles sea-miles during the night and were running at an average speed of six knots. If we kept on at this rate, we would be across in three days. The wind held the same direction all day and rose a little. It was a cheerless day, cold and rainy. With much painstaking, Sevensson, our primus-stove expert, succeeded in warming enough water, so that there could be a mug full of beef-tea with egg or tea with rum according to taste to each of us. That was all that could be done that day as far as warm meals were concerned, but it did not matter much, as the demand for heavier fare was low.
Suddenly the Thetis (a Danish Navy corvette) loomed up out of the rain. She drew near, almost within hailing distance, and the load-speaker sounded across the windswept North Sea: “Hugin! Hugin! Can you hear me? If so, signal: understood! If so, signal: understood!” Tolderlund, also a dentist and a smart fellow, was our signaller. To our surprise the Thetis asked, whether we wished to be towed back to Esbjerg. We refused the offer flat, pleasantly but definitely. What would the world say if we, as soon as the first difficulties arose, turned tail and fled back to port? The thought of giving up at this stage had not occurred even to the most seasick Viking. All of them showed a magnificent fighting spirit. I specially remember Victor as he lay there, green in the face and rolling to and fro on the deck in a wet sleeping-bag. Every now and then he started up and stuck his head over the gunwale, groaning: “Gosh, what a hell of a lovely weather we are having!” Not for a moment did he complain but rejoiced, in spite of his wretchedness, that we were making good headway. It was almost heroic. What did it matter that the flesh was weak when the spirit was willing? From the Bayeux tapestries we know that the Normans of old were not all good sailors either; on one of them you can see a warrior vomiting piteously into his helmet.
We continued on our way all day long, but again the wind veered and we fell off a bit to south. This caused us to enter into a territory, which the Thetis reported as dangerous on account of mines. Towards evening we had to let the P-cutter tow us, as the captain of the Thetis would no longer take the responsibility if we proceeded further into the mine field. For some hours they towed us the wrong way towards the northwest against a heavy sea. The Hugin bumped savagely in the choppy sea, “driving in piles” as they call it in Denmark. She creaked and groaned in all seams. It was pitch dark night and raining. The hawser from the P-cutter was pretty long, so that when we were down in a trough or on our way up with the dragon-head pointing right up into the sky, we could not see the ship. A moment later we were careering headlong down, butting into the next wave with a jolt that made the Hugin shiver from stem to stern.
I could not help thinking about what would happen, if the hawser snapped during the night in such heavy sea. Even though the Hugin rode the seas like a swan when the sail was up, answering the helm and gracefully mouting even the highest waves, it was highly probable that she would turn broadside on. If the hawser parted. A heavy breaker would swamp the ship, and then we would al be out bathing. It was not a pleasant thought.
Or what would happen if one of the chaps who were seasick tumbled over-board as he leaned out over the gunwale, offering to the fishes. I do not think that anyone, knowing me, would call me anxious, but I have the habit of thinking through the various possibilities that may arise to a critical situation, choosing beforehand what measures to take, if things should begin to happen. I got the Very-pistol ready, laying it so that I would be able to find it in the dark if necessary. A red star would call the Thetis, if we should have need of her assistance. It was difficult to say beforehand, what we were to do during a possible rescueing operation, as the corvette could not lower her lifeboats in such weather. Furthermore I got a lifeline and a lifebuoy ready for immediate use.
In the course of the night, one of the chaps did come to grief on account of the lurching of the ship. A violent jolt caused him to loose his footing, with the result that he fell on his back, hitting is head on the deck with a thud. He lay insensitive for a moment, but came to himself again shortly afterwards. He got off with concussion and a livid congestion as big as a fist. Then, on the 20th, the first accident, I had foreseen, happened. The hawser snapped. The wind had fallen a bit, and the swell had grown less. The Hugin turned broadside on, but in a twinkling we had the sail up and had her in check. Continuing south-south-west we got clear of the minefield off Terschelling Island. The P-cutter, drawing so near that we could hail each other by means of megaphones, informed us as to the day`s weather forecast, our position and speed. We took the opportunity of asking the Thetis, whether she could lower a boat and take off some of the lads who were sick. Besides the chap who had received concussion, there were a couple so chilled and exhausted by seasickness, that from a medical point of view we deemed it unwise to keep them aboard the Hugin.
Again the Thetis appeared out of the haze, and again we heard the call: “halloa, Hugin! Halloa, Hugin! Do you hear me?” We semaphored back: “Understood!” and the Thetis informed us that she could not lower a boat, but would try with a raft if we wished. That, however, was out of the question, so we kept our patients with us on board.
The weather cleared up during the day and the sun broke through the clouds. We hung up our wet garments all over the place. The Hugin veritably looked like a floating drying-ground. The air became warmer and the crew began to recover their normal condition. There was a growing demand for the products of the galley, although there still was a certain fastidiousness as regards what was eaten.
The breeze fell towards evening and the swell calmed down so much, that the captain of the Thetis thought he could risk lowering a boat to take out patients onboard. By 1600hrs. on the 21st July, we were becalmed and had to pull energetically at the oars. The first two days we had covered a distance of over 180 sea-miles by sail . . . , more than half the journey. Now we were to show that we could also get along by means of muscle-power. Kind friends ashore had spread the rumour that we were to be towed the whole way; we would show them something different. We promised each other that the Hugin would be rowed or sailed to Broadstairs, and only a case impending peril should persuade us to take a hawser-end aboard.
The next day we had blasting sunshine. The Hugin resounded with the steady creak of the oars to the tune of “London`s burning” . . . the only tune to which we could keep time. We had now got the knack of the special “Hugin rowing style”, and although we only had the back of the man in front to keep an eye on, our oars thrashed the seas with the clockwork precision of a connecting rod in a machine. Two watches rowed while the third had watch “below”, laying on the deck, basking in the sun. for eighteen solid hours we rowed on, alternately rowing for an hour and resting for half-an-hour. Our speed at the oars was only about three knots, but a puff of wind now and then gave us a helping shove, so that we could reckon with a sea-mile more per hour.
Meanwhile out two most prominent soloists, Stoffer on the accordion and Svend, the community-singer, provided for our entertainment. With a brilliant delivery and a waggish glint in his eye that was quite irresistible, Svend sang “The song of the Seamstress” ( A popular Copenhagen music hall ditty) again and again for us. In fact the Vikings could hardly stop humming: ” . . . for you just have to sit and sew.” Another ballad, the chorus of which was: “there is beer in the nuns` cellar”, was also one which he often had to repeat. We felt like Elder Tree Mother, (fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen) who could best like the stories, she knew already.
At noon we held a short rest in which Kaj Rojel, our field-leech and bonesetter, removed a bad boil, which had developed on Kaarsberg`s leg, so that he could not sit down. The boil was so serious that kaarsberg, to gether with Strigel who had developed pneumonia during the past few days, had to be transferred to the Thetis. The first three days had thus taken a toll of 10 0/0 of the crew.
All the others had pretty well recovered by now, and they rallied round the flesh-pots with keen appetites. There were still two or three, however, who bounded to the gunwales every time they had swallowed a meal, and only after some days were they able to keep their food down. That was the first day we had direct contact with the P-cutter, which brought us fresh water and fresh supplies of bread, chocolate, tobacco, etc.
It was late when “Skipper” and I arrived back onboard. The Hugin lay swaying with lighted lanterns, pitching in a slight swell. We were glad to get back to our ship, where our shipmates lay snoring in all possible keys and pitches. The Hugin had changed to a Noah`s Ark. The awnings had been raised, so that most of the deck was covered. A storm-lantern hung amidships, shedding a warm glow over the sleeping men. They were laying close up to each other, squeezed together like sardines in a tin, every inch was occupied. The more you huddle together, the easier it is to keep warm. Everywhere, on and between the thwarts, along the bottom boards and up against the mast-partner, the lads lay sleeping in their sleeping-bags.
I had not slept many hours when the bo`sun`s pipe awoke me. It was 04.00hrs and perfectly calm. The first and third watches took over the oars, while the second watch stowed away the awnings. Bamse, the boatswain, and our phenomenal jack-of –all-trades, Svensson, got busy making things shipshape; then we catted the anchor and shoved off. By now we were co-operated, that the work on board was despatched quickly and with ease. It was Friday, the 22nd July, and it proved to be even warmer than the previous day. We toiled at the oars, and at about 11.00hrs land hove into sight for the first time since we left Esbjerg.
In broiling sunshine we sailed down the Dutch coast. As far as the eye could reach we could see air-raid shelters and tank barrages. Just before we reached Ijmuiden, we were met by a Dutch vessel, dressed with signal-flags. Suddenly, those on board began to sing: “There is a beautiful country”. It proved to be a party of Danes, who had come out to bid us welcome. We acknowledged with a threefold “Hail”. Immense fortifications marked the approach to Ijmuiden, including a big U-boat base. Ijmuiden is the port of Amsterdam, and has therefore played an important military part during the war. Three canals with great locks lead through the town, connecting Amsterdam with the sea. One begins to conceive how vulnerable Holland actually is during a war, when one sees that badly damaged town with its locks and canals. The fortifications, abandoned and ghostlike, reminded us of another invasion, constrasting sharply with our little summer lark.
After a bath onboard the Thetis, five or six of us went off sightseeing into Amsterdam, where a obliging Dutchman showed us some of the three-starred sights of the city. We only had a few hours to our disposal, but, thanks to our Dutch friend, we got quite a thorough impression of the town. We also managed to get a glimpse of the many old patrician houses in Dutch renaissance style, which line many of the canals. All of them had pulleys hanging from strong beams, which stick out from the upper part of the gables, facing the street. These are used to hoist furniture up and in through the windows, the staircases being far to narrow to allow for that sort of thing.
We eventually dropped anchor at the oldest tavern in Amsterdam:” The Five Flies”, dating from 1627. There was not much room there, but it was cosy sort of place. The rumour quickly spread as to who we were, and people began without further ceremony to move across to our table, treating us as if we were friends of long standing. The Dutch people, it seemed, were following the voyage of the Vikings with great interest, and they declared that it was daily newspaper stuff in all the papers in the country. We were rather taken aback on hearing that our little summer jaunt was creating such a stir. Before leaving the tavern, we had to sign our names in a visitors` book, in which Winston Churchill, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Franklin Roosevelt, jun., and other celebrities had written their autographs.
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The next day, the 23rdJuly, we continued our voyage accompanied by most favourable weather. It was as if it pleased the wind to follow in our wake all the way, veering every time we changed our course. When we wanted an east wind, it immediately blew from the right direction. There were now only about 130 sea-miles to Broadstairs, and we still had five days in which to cover the distance. We were now in the English Channel – one of the busiest highways of the sea. A large number of ships passed us during the following days. Even great ocean-going liners went out of their course to come and pay their compliments to their more ancient and smaller colleague. It is common politeness for ships to dip their flag when they meet each other, but when they hoot and whistle their sirens, then it is a demonstration of honour. By far the most of the ships, who passed us by, did homage to the Hugin in this fashion. We answered by manning the thwarts and giving the passing ship a steady, threefold “Hail”. One ship, a big English vessel, carried its courtesy so far, that the captain and crew sent the Hugin a telegram of congratulation via the Thetis.
The wind blew steadily the whole of Saturday and all Saturday night. By Sunday morning we were a distance of about sixty sea-miles west of Ijmuiden. The wind lulled and the day grew intolerably hot. As we were already days too early, we stopped rowing and drifted with the current in the direction of the North Foreland lightship, which lies at the mouth of the Thames. Several times during the day we had “air-raid alarms” as we called it, when numerous aeroplanes circled low over our heads. There were both fighting planes and bombers from the Royal Air Force, besides many civil planes, sent out by the big press-bureaus and manned by newspaper and film-photograghers. One of them kept flying over our heads for some time, until we caught sight of a man hanging out of the window, wildly waving his arms as if he was rowing. We immediately understood his wild antics, and dipped our oars so that he could get a snap of the Hugin under oar, and he flew off again, happy and contented. We did not pay due consideration to the efficiency of the English air-photographers, however, and ran about in puris naturalibus in spite of the planes flying overhead. The result was, that a London newspaper published a picture the next day of a naked Viking, posing as figurehead on the Hugin. The text under the photo read: “What! – – no pants?”.
During the afternoon we had some more visitors. First of all a school of dolphins came and played merrily around us, beating the water with their tails so that it splashed all over the ship. The next visitor stayed a bit longer and aroused much merriment. A carrier pigeon suddenly appeared, alighting to rest on the plate of one of our valiant heroes. We gave it shelter for the night besides food and water, whereupon it left us the following day, carrying with it a note stating our position and course.
Towards evening we took to the oars again for a couple of hours on top of our idle lounging in the sun all day. We were not a little scorched by the heat of the Sun, especially our lips and noses were badly burned. We dropped anchor for the night in the mouth of the Thames near the North Foreland lightship. We had received telegraphical instructions not to arrive at North Goodwin Sands before Wednesday, the 27th July at 09.00hrs G. M. T., where the British destroyer Bleesdale, would relieve the Thetis of her duty as escort.
We spent the following two days riding our anchor in rather blowy weather. There was a stiff breeze coming from the northwest which caused us to drift, so that we had to lower our second anchor. Many press- and film-photographers came out to see us, and got a severe tossing for their pains. They did not seem desirous of prolonging their visit more than absolutely necessary. There was, however, a couple of very active photographers who ventured onboard with peril of losing both life and camera. The one of them got so seasick, that he could neither hear or see anything whatever, and it was with considerable difficulty that we got rid of him again.
The next day was a bit more calm. More boats came out, and more journalists and camera-men came aboard. They got a good picture of “Double-Soren” in the act of carrying a barrel of mead. During the afternoon the whole crew went across to the Thetis to have a bath. The P-cutter ferried us across in two batches. “Skipper”, my brother and I, who were in the last batch, were not finished in time to catch “the last boat home”, and when at last we were ready to go onboard the P-cutter which was to take us back to the Hugin again, night had fallen. The wind had risen during the evening and there was a heavy swell. The Hugin lay tossing with its anchor-lantern lit, and we tried several times to draw near to its stern. The darkness and the heavy sea made it too dangerous for us to risk jumping from the P-cutter over to the Hugin, however, so we had to return with the P-cutter to the Thetis, where we were installed for the night in the officers` messroom. We had only been asleep for a couple of hours, when the officer on watch came rushing in and declared that the Hugin was adrift. We went on to the bridge. There the captain and the second officer were already, so we turned in again. The next day saw us onboard the Hugin again.
On Wednesday the 27thJuly it began to blow and the rain made visibility poor. To prevent us from losing contact with each other, we received orders to let P-24 heave us a hawser and weigh anchor. The whole crew lent a hand, and under Momme`s inspiring leadership we hauled at the anchor cables as if we were possessed. One of the anchors bit fast to the sea-floor, and we had to cut the cable. We got the other one hauled clear, but when half-way up the cable snapped, and the crew of the Hugin sat down suddenly with a bump.
Towards evening we dropped anchor again close to the North Goodwin Sands lightship – – we had borrowed a spare hook from the P-24. The British destroyer, H. M. S. Bleedsdale, cruised once around the Hugin and dipped the flag, while the crew stood facing us on parade from stem to stern. We acknowledged by manning the thwarts and the steering-paddle, shouting: “Hail, Bleesdale!”
It was our last night at sea. The next morning numerous small vessels, decorated with British and Danish flags, headed in our direction. At 09.00hrs there was customs inspection of the Viking silver, we had brought with us to England, and our passports were checked off. The forenoon was spent in making the vessel ship-shape, – – the compass and navigating gear, the galley, the life-saving apparatus, etc., and all surplus paraphernalia was brought onboard the P-cutter.
Our Viking costumes, spears, swords and axes were brought onboard – they had been sent across to the Thetis, partly in order to get them dried, and partly to be cleaned and brushed up. By 11.00hrs we were ready to weigh anchor, and commenced to row the last lap to Broadstairs, at which port we were due to arrive at about 14.00hrs. The current was against us, and the wind slightly fore-ward of the beam. We worked hard at the oars, but made little progress. We were now surrounded by a great many vessels, both great and small, up to about 1,000 tons in size, and all of them packed with press-reporters and film-photographers, so we simply, had to make land without aid. Shortly after 13.00hrs, one of the harbour authorities` boats put out from Broadstairs and a gentleman, who seemed to be the harbour master, asked whether we would have a hawser, since we could not be able to make Broadstairs before 15.00hrs., even if they towed us in. he also informed us ten of thousands of people had been standing since early morning, waiting on the beach where we were to land.
We swore a grim, Viking oath that it should not be so, and put an extra man on to each of the eight rear oars on either side. Never before on our voyage had we tugged so hard at the oars as now, and the sweat burst from all our pores. Suddenly the current seemed to fall off, and the Hugin sprang forward. The beach at Broadstairs drew near, minute by minute, as “Skipper” steered us in, dextrously making full use of every current and gust of wind.
Now we could clearly see the flat bay, skirted by high cliffs, where we were to land. A prodigious final spurt, in which we went all out, churned the water to a foam, and with full sail we ran the Hugin halfway up the beach. We heard the sand grind against the keel, then a sharp jolt as the ship struck the beach. It could not have been done in a more perfect style. An ear-splitting roar of approval rent the air, and the next moment all was confusion. We leapt ashore and were met by a multitude of eyes, positively radiating with enthusiasm. The multitude simply engulfed the Vikings, small groups of whom could be distinguished all over the beach. As for myself, I stood for a full quarter-of –an-hour completely isolated from my companions, shaking hands and signing autograph albums. Suddenly there was somebody who mentioned my name, and there, among the tens of thousands of Britishers, I met my old friend. Mr S. L. Day, who had travelled down from Henley to meet me.
As soon as the far too few policemen had managed to clear the way for the reception committee, the Mayor of Broadstairs, Mr Frederic B. Salt, bid us welcome. Three thousand school children stood cheering, waving Danish and British flags, and a company of soldiers paraded while a big military brass band played the Danish and British National Anthems. Lord hacking from “Travellers Association” called upon the assembly to give three cheers for Denmark, after which Prince Georg made a speech in which he praised England and concluded by bidding us welcome on the occasion of our journey of good will. My brother, Preben Rojel, brought the ceremony to a close by reciting on Old English an epic poem about the Vikings after which Erik, the chieftain, expressed thanks for the splendid reception, assuring that we came intent on no evil purpose.
That evening we were guests of honour at a grand dinner, our hosts being the town of Broadstairs. The regale was opened in grand style by proposing a toast to the kings of Britain and Denmark, after which the respective National Anthems sung standing. During the course of the dinner many speeches were held, the gist of them all being the desire to strengthen the ties of friendship which had conjoined the two nations on each side of the North Sea for so many centuries. A big open-air festival with dancing, pageants, illuminations and firework displays was arranged for the ten thousands who could not take part in the dinner-party at the hotel. After dinner we marched in procession carrying flaming torches round the place where the festival was held, and were loudly cheered a second time by Broadstair`s population.
In Broadstairs all the members of the crew were billeted in private homes, and we met with an overwhelming hospitality in all the English homes in which we were quartered. I take the opportunity here to express the most heartfelt thanks to all our hosts on behalf of my comrades and myself, and deeply deplore the fact that scarcity of time prevented us from associating more with them.
Early the next day we started on our way to Ramsgate. In spite of the very difficult conditions, we made a perfect landing, thanks to incredible luck coupled together with precise manoeuvring by means of the oars and sail. At Ramsgate the police cordon was 100 percent effective. In spite of the fact that enormous crowds had assembled inside and round the harbour, the reception ceremony was conducted without mishap of any kind. The mayor and the aldermen of the town, all arrayed in scarlet and purple ceremonial robes and wearing gold chains around their necks and three-cornered hats, were waiting to receive us. The Mayor, Mr Owen Hughes, bid us welcome to Ramsgate, and a company from the Royal Air Force gave a parade of honour.
Through immense crowds of onlookers, we drove by bus out to Cliffends at Ebbsfleet, where we were the town`s guests at a lunch at St. Augustine`s Hotel. Here it is that Hengist and Horsa are said to have landed, and now 1,500 years later, we were to turn back the wheel of time and re-experience and ourselves play a part in that event which marked the dawn of a new epoch. We had come sailing across the North Sea in an open boat by means of only oars and sail, just as Hengist and Horsa had done. I firmly believe that the main reason, why our Viking expedition gave rise to such great interest and enthusiasm in the hearts of the British people, is to be sought for in the fact that the beginning of their long illustrious history was being re-enacted before their very eyes. In his “Short history of the English people”, John Richard Green writes: ” It is with the landing of Hengist and his war-band at Ebbsfleet on the shores of the isle of Thanet that English History begins. No spot in Britain can be sacred to Englishmen which first felt the tread of English feet.”
In the historical play, in which we were to take part, Erik and I played the parts of Horsa and Hengist respectively, while the rest of the crew of the Hugin played the role of Saxon fighting men. King Votigern was very vividly personified by the well known English actor, Alec Mason, while members of the Ramsgate Art Society played the other parts. The play relates the landing of the Danes / Jutes at Ipswine Fleet (now called Ebbsfleet), their meeting with King Vorigern of Kent, their victorious home-coming from the war against the Picts and Scots, ending with the scene in which Hengist gives away his daughter, Rowena, in marriage to the king who, in his turn, presents him with the Kent peninsula (Isle of Thanet).
After the play, Prince Georg concluded the incident at Cliffs End by unveiling a stone in commemoration of the landings of Hengist and Horsa.
“Red Worm” and I accompanied Alec Mason in his car in to Ramsgate. We were still dressed up and the car was chock full of spears and swords. At a crossroads we torpedoed another car which was crossing at right-angles to us. We struck the other car amidships, causing it to slither some distance before it ultimately rolled over and came to a standstill with all four wheels pointing up to the sky. Luckily enough none of the passengers were badly hurt, so “Red Worm”, who drives an ambulance in civil life, and I doctored the wounded as best we could.
That evening we were Ramsgate`s guests at a dinner-party at the Sunray restaurant. Here Prince Georg made a speech, saying: “Many people in other countries have forgotten that when the last war was going on and at its fiercest, the British people fought against a superior force of great magnitude, than any other country in the world ever had to cope with. All that Britain possessed was thrown into that mortal battle – her men, her women, her capital! If people would but reflect upon what the British kingdom went through during these years, all criticism would die out. When we the Danes have a friend in whom we believe, nothing can shake our confidence in him. Denmark never lost confidence in that you would win the war. We look up to you and have faith in you. We are also convinced that somehow or other you will find the means of getting over the crisis, in the throes of which you now are, – simply because you deserve to. ” There was dead silence for a moment after that speech, and it semmed to create a deep impression on all present. The evening concluded with a very delightful Viking-ball at ” The Cornation Ballroom”. Ramsgate Rotary Club procured lodgings for the night for us all in private homes, and we were met with exceptional hospitality by everyone.
On the top of the first hectic days spent in Broadstairs and Ramsgate, we felt a bit waek-kneed, so we were not sorry to hear that our visit to Margate was to take the form of a sort of “day of rest”. Our landing there took place at the far end of a very long and high pier, and we had to clamber up several flights of iron steps to get to the platform where the Mayor of Margate, Mr W. C. Redman, stood waiting to receive us at the head of the usual throng of local dignitaries. From there we marched in procession to the “Winter Gardens”, where we were the town`s guests at a lunch. In the course of the afternoon we went on a bus-trip, visiting Canterbury amongst other places. While attending a cricket-match there, we met His Grace, the Archbishop , Dr Fisher. He proved to be a delightful and charming gentleman, and behind his kind and jovial demeanour one could catch a glimpse of a strong personality. It was quite a sight to see the Archbishop in his black frock-coat, knee-breeches and silk stockings, bustling around the Vikings, serving the tea. In an unguarded moment I saw him snatch a bun from the plates and gulp it down like a schoolboy. One feels confidence in such an Archbishop. After tea we visited the ancient cathedral, and his Grace showed us around, telling us amusing anecdotes about his famous predecessors. After showing us around, he held a short speech, concluding with the Lord`s Prayer and the Benediction. Finally he asked us to sing “Kong Kristian”; and I cannot imagine that our fine old national hymn ever sounded more pompous than there under the venerable arches of the old cathedral at Canterbury.
During the night the Hugin was towed to Chatham to which town we were driven in buses the next day. On the way we paid an unplanned visit to Chilham Castle which is owned by Lord Cologne. His Lordship received us with great cordiality, and showed us round the beautiful old castle which is very magnificently furnished – there was a vast number o f very beautiful paintings, amongst which I specially admired a portrait of Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen mother), painted by a contemporary artist. There, on the castle grounds, the first battle was fought in the year 50 B. C. between the invading Romans, led by Julius Caesar, and the ancient Britons. The Romans won, and that battle marks the beginning of an occupation of England/Britain which lasted for a period of 400 years. Only when the barbarians forced their way into Italy and conquered Rome, did the Romans withdraw their troops, thus bringing England/Britain into the helpless situation of being unable to defend herself against the onset of Scots and the Welshmen meaning Picts. It was this state of affairs that caused King Vortigern (The High King)to invite Hengist and Horsato come and help him. Chilham Castle was originally built by the Romans to serve as a “strong point”, and it is on the old foundations of the Roman stronghold that the present castle has been built. The castle has intimate reference to the history of England on account of the fact that a great many rulers of the country have lived here, amongst others Queen Elizabeth l, the Stuarts and Queen Victoria.
On account of our immensely interesting visit to Chilham Castle, we did not arrive at Chatham before 13.30hrs. The Commander of the naval station there, together with between thirty and forty distinguished officers with their ladies, had been kept waiting with lunch fir us for an hour-and-a half. We could not be blamed for the delay however, and the Britishers were all very kind about it, still is was all very embarrassing for us.
Our delayment from the forenoon resulted in our time-table being badly disturbed, so that we were two hours late when we at length arrived at Rochester, where we were received by the Mayor of the town, Mr. E. Washford, together with the aldermen and a crowd of spectators numbering about a hundred thousand. In spite of the long wait, the town people gave us a wonderful reception. That afternoon we went on a very interesting trip around Rochester and paid a visit to the cathederal which proved to be not quite so big as that of Canterbury, but still very imposing. The magnificent crypt contains columns so old, that our forefathers may very well have seen and touched them. Our visit concluded with a beautiful organ recital, after which we sang “Kong Kristian” as we had also done at Canterbury.
We spent the evening in pleasant companionship with naval officers at the Royal Naval Station at Chatham. Lieutenant-Commander B. J. Anderson from H. M. S. Jutland, one of the newest ships in the British Navy, invited some of us to come onboard, and we received a very vivid impression of the high quality, not only of the war material but also of the human standard, which has created so prominent a position for the Royal Navy in the history of Britain.
We all spent the night billeted in the officer`s quarters at the Naval Station. The following day was the 1st August and Bank Holiday. Before departing by bus to Greenwich, we witnessed a fine and imposing flag parade. A company of enlisted seamen, headed by a fine brass band, came marching up through one of the camp “streets” of the Station, and at precisely 08.00 hrs hoisted the “White Ensign” from a high flagstaff. It was an inspiring and picturesque sight to see the Vikings lined up in military fashion behind the English mariners, saluting the colours.
We were now ready to cover the last lap from Greenwich to Richmond-upon-Thames. On account of the current we started at 14.00 hrs on the thirty kilometre (18 miles) long stretch to Richmond. The bridge paid its compliments to the Hugin by raising its claps as we passed under it. The current was hard against us for the first part of the way, and although we pulled with all out might, we advanced but a little. Slowly we rowed past the old Tower fortress, behind whose time-honoured walls so many gory incidents in England`s history have been enacted.
At Tower we were joined by our escort consisting of eight double-paddled kayaks belonging to the Special Boat Service. A young Dane shouted to us from the leading boat that he brought a greeting to us from Anders Larsen`s regiment. Anders Larsen was the only Dane to receive the Victoria Cross during the last war. On we went, under London Bridge, past badly bombed regions between St. Paul`s Cathederal and the river. A living wall of Londoners, lining both the river bank, cheered us the whole way. As it was impossible for the same chaps to keep on waving and shouting “Hail!” throughout the five hours the trip pasted, we established a “waving watch” which was frequently changed.
At Waterloo Bridge we hove to, and Erik, the chief, presented the English Boy Scouts with a four-thousand year old flint axe and a piece of hide – a present from the Danish St. George`s Guild. It was showery weather and there was a fair wind blowing. Just before we reached Westminster Bridge we got a heavy shower of rain, but as we passed under the bridge the sun broke through the clouds, gilding the Houses of Parliament with their ancient and proud traditions.
At Lambeth Pier we were attacked by a band of ancient Britons. A boat full of wild warriors, all painted over with woad and led by a formidable-looking amazone, steered straight for us. All onboard were armed with scrubbing brushes and pot lids and they kicked up a terrible racket as they bombarded us with tomatoes and flour-bags, trying to make a hit. Later on they proved to be some doctors from St. Thomas Hospital who revived in this fashion the traditions of the Britons of yore. The River Police warded off the assault, however, and the Hugin rowed on un-assailed. Continuing on through Chelsea and Putney, we emerged at length out into rural surroundings. Our cruise ended at Richmond, where the same proceedings, already experienced at Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate, were repeated, the only difference being that here there were even larger crowds jammed the traffic completely. Busses stuck fast as far as the eye could reach. We got a most refreshing bath at the local swimming-baths, after which we dined together with the aldermen of the town. After the dinner we bade farewell to the Hugin under somewhat dramatic circumstances. Under cover of night and in pouring rain we were ordered down to the river to empty the ship and bring our gear into a hotel in London.
The climax of our adventure was the reception on Tuesday, 2nd August, at the Guild Hall, where the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Percy Walter Greenaway, received us on behalf of the metropolis. The reception took place in the ancient crypt, where for once our Viking apparel and the arched vaults were concordant with each other. The Lord Mayor presided at table at which the City Magistracy were present, together with a large number of military and civil dignitaries headed by Admiral Sir Henry Moore, Ex-Minister of Home Affairs Sir John Anderson, Lord Hacking and Sir Charles Hambroe.
Flanked by his Sheriffs and Sergeant-at-arms, the Lord Mayor welcomed all the guests in the reception hall, after which ceremony the luncheon could begin. The tables were magnificently decorated with huge golden goblets, and reposing in the middle of the main table was the City`s 1,500 year old Viking horn. There was a fine spirit from the very beginning and the hosts amused themselves quite as much as their guests, and that is saying something. The merriment culminated when the City Council stood up and sang “For they are jolly good fellows”, and Kaarsbrg conjured cigars and coins out of the Lord Mayors nose.
During the afternoon Lord Hacking showed us over the Houses of Parliament which we thorough;y examined from the roof to the cellar. Amongst other items of interest we saw the cellar where Guy Fawkes, famed on account of his share in the gunpowder plot, placed his charge just under the spot where the present Speaker1s chair stands in the House of Commons. Furthermore, we also saw a beautifully kept chapel, situated under the Parliament Buildings, which Cromwell had used as a stable, for which reason it could not be considered consecrated. Only on certain occasions is it put to use for ecclesiastical ceremonies, and is then specially consecrated on each separate occasions
The following day saw the last of the official receptions which terminated with an evening-party onboard H. M. S. Wellington, at which “The Anglo-Danish Society”, “The English Speaking Union” and “the Honourable Company of Master Mariners” were out hosts. The open sandwiches, so peculiar for Denmark, Danish beer and schnapps were served, and the Britishers seemed to relish the fare also. As usual there was a fine spirit of friendliness.
Our sojourn in London concluded with a bus-ride through the bombed regions of the city, and there we received a vivid impression of what the city and its inhabitants had suffered when Hitler relentlessly loosened the tether of his “Blitz”. We realized what enormous sacrifices had been made, and that Churchill`s words in 1940 had been meant seriously when he said “we would rather see London in ruins and ashes, than that it should be tamely and abjectly enslaved”.
A feeling of infinite gratitude welled up from the deepness of our hearts towards London, “The Bastion of Liberty”, towards Great Britain and towards the whole of the English/British people.