History - Dybbøl Banke

The battles in 1864, the 56 years under German rule in southern Jutland, the referendum and Reunification have all made Dybbøl a Danish national symbol. The site is also important in German history. The foundation for a federal Germany was laid here in 1864.

Lars Gundersen _Dybbøl Banke _Mod -syd _003_1920_1080

Prehistoric Dybbøl Banke

Dybbøl Banke is a plateau rising more than 60 meters above sea level. The heights make up the northern part of a glacial landscape of margin moraine hills around Vemmingbund, which is the innermost part of Sønderborg Fjord. Along the coast are steep, high cliffs.

The area around Dybbøl has been inhabited since the Stone Age. There are several grave mounds in the forests of Østerskoven and Bøffelkobbelskov, south-west of Dybbøl village. Dybbøl village has roots back in the Iron Age. In 1352 it was referred to as Duttebul.

A typical village in Schleswig

Up to the mid-1800s Dybbøl was a Schleswig village like many others, with half-timbered houses, and a white-chalked church with a red-tiled roof. The oldest parts of the church around the choir stem from the 1100s. The peasants of Dybbøl were tied to Sandbjerg Castle on the Sundved side of Als Sund. In 1673, the King sold the Castle and land to Conrad Reventlow, who was a high-standing local landowner in Haderslev.

When it was owned by the Reventlow family, the estate was something of a pioneer in agricultural history. When the ties were repealed in 1788, the owner of the estate, Conrad Georg Reventlow, was the first in Denmark to sell the tied farms to the peasants and divide the land up into independent farms. This meant he went even further than his more famous elder brother, who is regarded as the father of agricultural reform in Denmark. The subdivisions are still run as farms to this day.

The three-year war on Dybbøl Banke

During the three-year war, Dybbøl Banke and Als were flank positions for the Danish army. These were good positions from which to attack enemies from the south. On 5 June 1848, Prussian troops were beaten back by the Danish army at Dybbøl and in April the following year there was a full-out battle at Dybbøl Banke. The mill was burnt down during the fighting and was not in operation again until four years later.

In 1861-62 Danish engineers built ten redoubts at the Dybbøl position in a three-kilometre-long crescent from Vemmingbund to Als Sund. The redoubts were small earth redoubts with concrete powder magazines and wooden blockhouses for the soldiers.

Read more (in Danish) at grænseforeningen.dk

From Dannevirke to Dybbøl

On 1 February 1864, war broke out between Denmark and Prussia/Austria. On 5 February the Danish forces evacuated the southern defensive position at Dannevirke. They retreated to the positions at Dybbøl, which had been hastily completed.

On 15 March, the Prussian forces commenced firing from their batteries at Gammelmark on Broager. The Prussians had rifled cannon, giving them a greater range than the Danish cannon. The Prussians could shoot the Danish positions across Vemmingbund without any real resistance.

Over the following month, the main Prussian force worked themselves close to the Danish redoubts through trenches, while at the same time keeping up a massive bombardment of the Danish positions.

The storming of Dybbøl, 18 April 1864

On 18 April 1864 at 10.00 am, the Prussian forces attacked the Danish redoubts. The redoubts had been shot to pieces after a six-hour bombardment with more than 8,000 shells. The central and southern parts of the Danish line of redoubts fell after just half-an-hour.

The Danish 8th brigade led a counter attack. After heavy losses they had fought their way forward to Dybbøl Mill. After 90 minutes the counter attack fell apart and the remains of the Danish army were forced to retreat to Als.

About 1,800 Danish soldiers had been killed, wounded or missing after the Battle of Dybbøl, while a further 3,000 had been taken prisoner. The total Prussian losses were about 1,200 dead, wounded or missing.

About the name Dybbøl

The name Dybbøl is composed of "Dytti" - an old name, and -bøl, which means farm.

Denmark lost one-third of its total territory

Peace negotiations commenced after a brief cease-fire. However, these soon fell apart and the fighting began again. On 29 June, the Prussians occupied Als and the Danes gave up any further resistance. A peace treaty was agreed in October 1864 under which the Danish Realm ceded to the victors the Duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg. Denmark lost one-third of its territory and about 40% of its population.

The remains of the Danish redoubts were removed by the Prussians immediately after the war. Between 1865 and 1871 a continuous line of redoubts was built over them between Sønderborg and Dybbøl. These are the redoubts we can see today.

The new Prussian redoubts never came into use, however, and they were abandoned for military use as early as 1883.

National celebration at Kongeskansen (the King’s redoubt), 1920

After its defeat in the First World War, under the Treaty of Versailles Germany was forced to allow part of the population of Schleswig to vote on whether they would be German or Danish. The referendum resulted in the current border between Denmark and Germany.

The Reunification of North Schleswig and Denmark culminated in great festivities at which King Christian X took part on 11 July 1920. The celebrations were held at and around the former German Redoubt 10 which was later dubbed Kongeskansen (the King’s redoubt).

After the Reunification, a national fund-raising campaign raised enough money to buy the area around the redoubt. It was transferred to the state in 1924 as the “Dybbøl Redoubts National Park”.

Landscape returned to 1864

Since then, the state and local and regional authorities at Sønderborg have purchased more land, making it possible to stop further building development. Over the years, a number of buildings have been removed, water holes have been excavated and cornfields have been turned over to grass to give the public an idea of what Dybbøl Banke looked like in 1864.

In order to make the landscape more accessible for walkers and cyclists, 10km of gravel and grass paths have been laid.

A total of 750 hectares of Dybbøl Banke were listed in 1987. In 1864 there were three to four-times more hedgerows at Dybbøl Banke than there are today, and in 1992 some of the original hedgerows were replanted in the area south of Langdamgård. The redoubts are grazed by sheep and cows so they do not become overgrown with trees and bushes, and the open countryside and grasslands are now protected. The state-owned farmland has been run organically since 1997. Corn is grown on much of the area, and other parts have been turned over to grazing and grass. Today, the Danish Nature Agency administrates about 200 hectares of Dybbøl Banke.

Danes and Germans meet at Dybbøl Banke

Dybbøl still has great symbolic significance for both Danes and Germans. Since 2002, German soldiers have taken part in the annual remembrance event on 18 April. At the 2011 event the German soldiers bore arms for the first time.

The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Dybbøl was commemorated by a large number of events in 2014.