Just outside the small town of Sønderborg you find the historical memorial of Dybbøl Banke. The place is the location of the last major battle to take place in Denmark. The battle was the decisive battle of the second war of Schleswig. The rebels from Schleswig-Holstein won the battle thanks to the superior force of their Prussian allies. After the battle Denmark lost 40 percent of its former territory to Prussia and was finally reduced to a tiny state at the edge of Europe.
The battle has a major place in Danish history and a movie and television series has been made about the bloody battle which took place here. The battle signified a final major defeat of Denmark and at the same time it was the first major step of Prussia’s rise to the biggest power in continental Europe. The battle is one of the three Prussian victories on the victory column in Berlin.
The historical center at Dybbøl Banke has recreated part of the old battle filed to give an impression of what it looked like during the war. The area was one of the best fortifications in Denmark and it was expected it could hold off the Prussian force despite of its superior number of troops. There are a lot of presentations going on which give knowledge of the history of the battle. The presentations is given mainly in Danish and some in German hence they are of limited value if you don’t speak any of the languages of the borderland.
Part of the story they tell is about the guns used during the Prussian siege of Dybbøl. There had been a lot of progress in gun technology during the middle of the 19th century and by the time of the battle the Prussian army was equipped with new modern guns which had a much longer range and were able to hit their targets with a much better precision than the older guns. The Danish army was equipped with the same guns they had used in the first war of Schleswig 15 years earlier and they had become obsolete. Hence the Prussian army was able to send thousands of cannonballs into the Danish fortifications without the Danish artillery being able to hit the Prussian gun positions. The bombardment of Danish fortifications lasted for more than a month before the final attack.
A couple of times a day there is a demonstration of the guns where they fire one back of flour out over the field next to the memorial. You can stay up on a little raised hill and watch the loading and firing of the gun.
In addition to the actual shows at the old battle field there has been a recreation of some buildings which might have been in the area during the battle. There are a few shops where you can buy old style food if you like to try it. You can go and make you own bullet if you like to do this for a small extra fee.
Some of the buildings are a recreation of the old barracks where you can see how different the enlisted men lived compared to the officers who had a barrack which looked almost like a simple house.
In addition to the outdoor display there is a small museum about the war and the history of the region. It is spread over two floors and there is a movie theatre where you can see some of the history of the battle and the run up to the battle.
Some of the more macabre part of the exhibition is how the medical service worked during the battle. If you got wounded there wasn’t much to do except cutting off a limb with some very crude equipment.
The exhibition got signs in Danish, German and English so everybody can enjoy the exhibition but the live shows outdoors are mainly in Danish and a few in German. There is able parking outside so if you got a car it is easy to reach the memorial. If you rely on public transport you can take a bus from Sønderborg but there is only a departure every hour so you need to time the buses. There are other buses which drives close by the memorial – it turns just down the hill. There is no bus stop there but the driver stopped the bus and let us out just down the hill. If you miss a bus you might as well walk to Sønderborg since it is just over 2 kilometers so most people should be able to do it in half an hour and you can stop at Dybbøl Mølle on the way and have a look at the historic mill.