It’s the evening of September 28. Carruthers and Davies have moored in a ‘shaded backwater’ about halfway up the Als Sound when they catch sight of a spire on the opposite shore. What can it be?
It’s called the Arnkieldenkmal, and it’s one of several monuments the German erected in a flush of triumphalism after their victory over the Danes in 1864. This one commemorates the Battle of Als. The Germans were that cocky about winning, they even composed music to go with their monuments. This is ‘Der Alsenströmer’ by Gottfried Piefke:
There was an equally Gothic and showy spire at Dybbøl plonked on the headland at the end of the Flensburg fjord. Carruthers takes that one in on his trip to the Sonderburg shops. Such a draw were they, that people used to buy postcards of them at the time.
We have no problem, therefore, working out where the Dulcibella moored on the 28th. Basically, Childers has placed his characters exactly at the point where the Prussian army set off across the sound in little boats, between the village Sottrupskov (or Satrup) and the Sandbjerg Estate, a grand house originally owned by the Duke of Schleswig Holstein. If you want a precise map reference, we’ve got it in the form of the battle map itself:
If you haven’t got the message already, Childers is trying to tell us something, and it’s this: look at how good those Germans are at crossing channels and invading countries. Or as Davies puts it: “ Germany’s a thundering great nation… I wonder if we shall ever fight her.”
It turns out there are still quite a lot of small monuments still to be found around the area – Sören Östergaard on his wonderful site fortress-scandinavia.dk has done a great job of logging them. The big gothic spires of the Dueppeldenkmal and the Arnkieldenkmal are long gone, though. Both of them were blown sky-high by Danish freedom fighters as soon as the Second World War was over. In the case of the Dueppeldenkmal, they blew it up while Doenitz was still negotiating the surrender of the Third Reich in nearby Flensburg. He would have heard the explosion, for sure – perhaps even seen the resulting puff of smoke & dust hanging over the fjord.
Go there now and you’ll find a rather striking symbol of Danish national pride – a windmill. A few broken pieces of the German monument are lying around. But at Arnkiel there’s nothing – it’s completely gone. So we can’t quite recreate the scene when we head out there in the autumn.
What we can do, however, is join in a re-enactment of the Battle of Als itself. This is happening in June, and there’s a call for participants on the website http://www.kampenomals.dk/welcome. Perhaps this would be a good dry run for Adventure Club members before we start the adventure proper in September.