Try to lie down in the narrow canvas bunk bed like the soldiers did.
It was busy in the room when all were ordered to turn in.
In the barrack room there was space for 26 soldiers: 24 in double bunk beds and 2 sergeants in single bunk beds. There was space for 200 men in the actual artillery part of the fort. Additionally, it was possible to billet approximately another 200 men in the fortified infantry barracks in the forward part of the fort. Garderhøjfort was the only land fort around Copenhagen with integrated barracks for the infantry tasked to participate in the close defence of the fort.
During the First World War, many of the soldiers of the Neutrality Guard Force were billeted at civilians, because there was not enough space at the existing army barracks.
From private clothes to military equipment
When you were called up to the Neutrality Guard Force, you had to hand in your own clothes. The Army then issued you with the “over wear”, that is uniform, boots, etc.
- The soldier had to bring certain things with him:
- “Under wear” which also included shirts and socks.
- Polishing outfit for uniform and boots, toilet requisites and sewing gear, so that he could repair the equipment himself.
- Additionally, he could bring a picture of the family, wife or sweetheart
At the outbreak of the First World War, it was not unusual that a called up soldier in the fighting armies took his wife or sweetheart to the photographer before they separated. Thus, the soldier had a picture to take with him, and there was another copy at home. In worst case, it was the last photograph to be taken
At the end of the 1800’s and the beginning of the 1900’s, it was also common in the Danish Army, that the called up soldiers went to a photographer and had a picture taken, which was copied several times in the seize of a visiting card, which could be sent home to the sweetheart, wife, friend or the parents.
He could also give his card to the cupboard lover, who could be a maid in a better family. The solider went out with the cupboard lover, and he could also pay her a visit in the kitchen where she worked as a maid.
General national service for all men was introduced in the first Constitution of Denmark of 1849. From then on, it became the duty for men between 18 and 50 to take part in the defence of the nation, and all men at the age of 18 were called up to an examination for liability for military service to be assessed qualified, less qualified or not qualified. At least 50% of a year class were and still are fully qualified.
National service and conscious objectors
Around the First World War, most of the qualified men were called up for a number of months’ basic training. When the war actually was a fact in August 1914, Denmark called up a Neutrality Guard Force of several year classes. At the beginning, about 60,000 men between 20 and 36 years of age were in the force.
The national service also created conscious objectors during World War I. They were young men from the Youth Organisation of the Social Democratic Party, and they were imprisoned. In 1917, as the third nation in the world, Denmark made a law about this making it possible to do civilian national service instead of military national service.
There was a lot to be worried about for the soldiers at the Garderhøjfort under the First World War. Would Denmark be involved in the war? Could the fort keep the enemy away? How was the family, the farm, the workshop or the business at home? There was not much information, however, most of the soldiers realised that their families missed them.
Punishment for going home without permission
For many farmers the military service inflicted sowing as well as harvest. Some soldiers risked the military punishment because they went home to assist on the farm without permission. In 1917, a young artilleryman abandoned the service to help his invalid father to harvest and plough. The solider had applied for 12 days leave, but was rejected. He deserted for 6 days and was punished with 6 days imprisonment in a dark cell.