The Fearless Danish War Hero Who Defied the Odds

Major Anders Lassen VC, MC **

Discover the extraordinary life of Anders Lassen, a young Danish man whose insatiable desire to join the war effort led him on a remarkable journey of courage and determination. Fearlessly leading raiding teams across Africa, the English Channel, Italy, and the Aegean during World War II, Lassen left a trail of ferocity, determination, and ruthlessness in his wake. In this article, we uncover the untold heroism of Lassen, a soldier whose commitment to his cause continues to inspire future generations.

A Privileged Upbringing

Anders Lassen's upbringing was one of privilege, growing up in an aristocratic Danish family surrounded by the opulence of a sprawling country house and estate. His family's prestigious connections to Nyhavn, Copenhagen's historic district, added to their distinguished status. Amidst the tranquillity of the countryside, Lassen discovered his innate talent for hunting, becoming an exceptional archer with a remarkable ability to capture various wildlife prey effortlessly.

While academic pursuits posed challenges for young Lassen, he refused to be discouraged by the traditional expectations of a predetermined career. Instead, he embarked on a life-changing journey as a merchant sailor. It was during these formative adolescent years that Lassen’s natural fieldcraft skills were honed, laying the groundwork for his future accomplishments as a legendary Commando.

The Transformation into a
Commando Legend

As a member of the Danish SOE contingent, Lassen found himself immersed in the rugged wilderness of the Rough Bounds, Scotland. Drawing upon his early hunting experiences, he displayed extraordinary fieldcraft skills that distinguished him from his comrades. Legends recount a mesmerising moment during the stalking phase in Scotland. Armed solely with his Commando fighting knife, it is said that he skillfully took down a deer with his bare hands, solidifying his reputation as a formidable warrior.

Anders Lassen's journey from a skilled archer to a revered Commando exemplifies the transformation of a young man into a legend. His unwavering determination and exceptional fieldcraft talents acted as the driving force behind his ascent. Embracing his true calling on the battlefield, this Danish aristocrat exemplified that true greatness lies in embracing one's innate abilities and fearlessly venturing into the unknown.

Daring Raids and
Audacious Exploits

In the realm of legends, Anders Lassen's name truly finds its deserving place. A natural-born soldier, he exuded fearsome bravery and inspired those around him as a remarkable leader. Both diligent and adventurous, Lassen's daring and triumphant exploits in World War II earned him a prominent position among the finest.

One of his earliest missions involved a daring and covert postmaster boat operation off the coast of West Africa, targeting Axis commercial vessels. Operating as a member of No.62 Commando, an elite and clandestine SOE unit, Lassen and his fellow raiders would boldly land, launch attacks on German garrisons, strategically plant explosive devices, and tactfully retreat – though not always unscathed.

Even after 62 Commando/SSRF was disbanded, Lassen continued his maritime special operations service with various units beyond his time with SOE. Notably, he joined the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF), a precursor to the esteemed Special Boat Service (SBS), operating in the Mediterranean under the SAS's operational control. His biographer, Thomas Harder, tells Kathimerini that he seeks to ‘present the man behind the myth’.

Operation Albumen:
The Deceptive
SBS Mission in Crete

One of the notable highlights of the book revolves around a significant SBS operation codenamed 'Albumen,' conducted between 22 June and 12 July 1943 in Crete. The British devised a complex plan, involving a staged event where a deceased individual carried a briefcase filled with forged documents that would fall into German hands. The objective was to deceive the enemy into believing that the Allies' primary landing would occur in Crete or Sardinia, diverting their attention away from Sicily, where the actual landing was scheduled on 10 July 1943.

Anders Lassen, accompanied by 13 fellow comrades, made a daring landing at Trypiti on the south shore of Crete. The team then split into three groups, each tasked with attacking three key German military airfields, namely Tympaki, Kastelli Pediadas, and Herakleion. However, upon reaching Kastelli Pediadas, they discovered that only one aircraft was present, highlighting the inaccuracies in British intelligence reports (a recurring issue encountered in other operations, such as on Paros in May 1944).

Despite the challenges, Lassen's unit bravely engaged in a daring assault on Kastelli airfield. Four men strategically placed explosives on eight aircraft, managing to destroy only one, as the German troops had already removed most of the bombs, safely detonating them elsewhere. The intense clash resulted in a firefight with German and Italian guards, with one or two of them losing their lives. After the harrowing encounter, Lassen and his team managed to escape through the treacherous mountain terrain.

Though the operation's outcome may not have fully justified the risks and efforts expended, it still played a role in perpetuating the false impression that Crete held strategic importance to the British. Tragically, the Germans carried out ruthless reprisals, executing 60 locals in response to the raid.

SBS Efforts in the
Dodecanese and Aegean

With Italy's surrender in autumn 1943, the scope of operations for the Special Boat Service (SBS) expanded to the Dodecanese, aiming to prevent the Germans from occupying islands once under Italian control. Operating from caiques based on the Turkish coast, Anders Lassen and his unit engaged in deadly battles, particularly on Symi, but were ultimately unable to secure the islands, which fell into German hands.

During mid-1944, Lassen and his men embarked on multiple raids in the Central Aegean, receiving assistance from the Greek Sacred Squadron, who possessed superior knowledge of the local terrain. Successfully wreaking havoc on German infrastructure on Santorini, they tragically failed during their attempt on Paros, where they sought to destroy an airfield under construction at Molos. The aftermath of the botched operation resulted in devastating reprisals against the local population. In the chaos that ensued, Lassen's teams lost their way to the unfinished airfield. The Germans captured their guide, Nikolas Stellas, and executed him by hanging. Additionally, 125 men from the Marpissa region were slated for execution, but the German commander opted not to proceed with the reprisals.

In October 1944, Lassen's exceptional leadership earned him a promotion to the rank of Major. Following the liberation of Thessaloniki, he assumed a crucial command position in Crete, where the remaining German garrison found themselves isolated due to the lack of transport links. Tasked with containing the Germans in their enclave and mediating between various Greek armed groups, Lassen's role demanded qualities quite distinct from those of a raider.

Lassen's Final Battle

As the war drew near its end, Anders Lassen may have envisioned a return to his homeland, Denmark. However, his life was tragically cut short during a fierce battle against the Germans and their Turkmen volunteers. Lassen's final moments occurred while leading an assault on three heavily fortified German machine gun positions on the shores of Lake Comacchio in Italy. In recognition of his exceptional bravery, he posthumously received Britain's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, adding to his impressive collection of three Military Crosses.

Check out our latest clobber

shop the collection

Paying homage to the breaktaking region of the Rough Bounds and those who made it their training ground.