Lassen, Anders (1920-1945), was a famous Danish soldier of World War II (1939-1945). Serving in the British Army, Lassen earned several decorations for bravery, including the Victoria Cross (VC). The VC is the highest military decoration awarded in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations. Lassen was one of the few non-Commonwealth soldiers to be awarded the VC during World War II.
Anders Frederik Emil Victor Schau Lassen was born southwest of Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, on Sept. 22, 1920. He became a merchant sailor after leaving school in 1938.
On April 9, 1940, while Lassen was at sea, Germany invaded Denmark. Denmark surrendered the same day. Lassen arrived in Scotland in December. He joined the British Army in January 1941. He then volunteered for the United Kingdom’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). The SOE specialized in espionage (spying), reconnaissance (information gathering), and sabotage (damaging an enemy’s war effort) in Nazi-occupied Europe.
In January 1942, Lassen helped capture German and Italian ships anchored at Fernando Pó (now called Bioko), off the western coast of Africa. For his actions, he was awarded the Military Cross, Britain’s third highest award for valor. He was also promoted to lieutenant. After Lassen returned to Britain, he participated in raids on German forces in northern France and the nearby Channel Islands.
In 1943, Lassen joined the Special Boat Squadron (SBS), a British Special Forces unit. In the SBS, Lassen took part in raids against enemy forces on several Mediterranean islands and in Yugoslavia and Greece. He received two additional bars to his Military Cross. Bars represent the repeated earning of a military award. In October 1944, Lassen reached the rank of major.
In December 1944, Lassen began a short career as governor of the Greek island of Crete. As governor, Lassen was responsible for containing a pocket of about 13,000 German troops still on the island. He also sought to prevent conflict between opposing Greek groups.
Lassen left for Italy in February 1945. In April, he led a series of raids on German positions near Lake Comacchio in northern Italy. During a nighttime attack on April 9, Lassen took out two German machine-gun positions before being killed by a third. For his efforts, Lassen received the Victoria Cross. He was buried in Argenta Gap War Cemetery, near Lake Comacchio. Germany surrendered on May 7, bringing an end to World War II in Europe.
In 1996, the Anders Lassen Foundation was founded in Copenhagen to aid wounded Danish soldiers. The foundation also honors outstanding Danish citizens and members of the Danish Special Forces.
• Thomas Harder, M.A., Writer, literary translator, conference interpreter.