Operation Eclipse: How Churchill and Canadian troops saved Denmark from Stalin in the last days of World War Two

Mark Felton just posted a video about a fascinating episode in the last days of WW II

Mark Felton video about Operation Eclipse

View the whole thing. But here is a quick summary:

At Yalta, the Elbe River had been the agreed-upon demarcation line between the Red Army and the Western allies. On April 25, 1945, the Red Army and the US Army had met at Torgau on the Elbe, effectively cutting what remained of the “Thousand-Year” Reich into two.

Winston Churchill, however, feared that if the Russians were allowed to reach the Elbe river in the North, they would be able to march into Schleswig-Holstein and thence into Denmark — adding that to their growing inventory of Soviet satellite states.

So a group of Canadian paratroopers was sent on a deep-penetration raid across the Elbe to capture and hold the Baltic port of Wismar, and block the Soviet advance there. The Canadians encountered negligible resistance — instead, they ran into thousands of Wehrmacht soldiers eager to surrender to the Western Allies. In order not to be slowed down in their advance, the Canadians disarmed the soldiers and sent them on an unaccompanied march toward the Elbe, while they continued.

Eventually they made their objective. Shortly after they had occupied the town (against no resistance other than sporadic sniper fire), advance scouts for a Red Army tank column showed up — they were headed for the Hanseatic city of Lübeck — confirming Churchills’s suspicions, as Lübeck was the Eastern gateway to Schleswig-Holstein and then Denmark.

An uneasy standoff ensued, but no open hostilities. Of course the Canadians had to be withdrawn just days later — but their maneuver had bought Montgomery and Churchill enough time to accept the surrender of the remaining German forces in Northern Germany and in Denmark.

This was not the most glamorous or heroic operation of WW II — but it achieved an important objective, and materially affected the power relationships between NATO and the USSR in years to come. And, of course, it spared the Danes from life as a Soviet satellite.

Two cheers for Winston, and for Canadian paratroopers! And thanks to Mark Felton for sharing this unknown but important tale with us.

UPDATE: more on Operation Eclipse here: https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/world-war-two-and-eastern-europe/operation-eclipse/