b. 22/09/1920 Copenhagen, Denmark. d. 09/04/1945 Lake Comacchio, Italy.
Anders Frederik Emil Victor Schau Lassen (1920-1945) born on 22nd September 1920, was the son of Emil Victor Schau Lassen and Suzanne Maria Signe Lassen, of Nyhavn, Copenhagen. He was also a first cousin of Axel von dem Bussche, who in 1943 unsuccessfully tried to kill Adolf Hitler. As a young man, Anders joined the Danish Merchant Navy, and arrived in England shortly after the outbreak of World War II, his homeland having been invaded by the Germans.
Shortly after his arrival in 1940, he joined the British Commandos, and served with No 62 Commando (also known as the Small Scale Raiding Force) as a Private. He was quickly commissioned in the field and awarded an immediate Military Cross for his part in Operation Postmaster the capture of three Italian and German ships from the neutral Spanish island of Fernando Po now known as Bioko, in the Gulf of Guinea.
No. 62 Commando was later absorbed into the Special Air Service in February 1944 and Lassen rose through the ranks to become a Major by October 1944. During his service he fought in North-West Europe, North Africa, Crete, the Aegean islands, mainland Greece, Yugoslavia and Italy. He was awarded two bars to the Military Cross, the first dated 27th September 1943 and the seconded dated 15th February 1944.
Lassen was highly respected by his men, described by one as having “the character of a first rate soldier and reacted in a flash. I never saw Andy hesitate to open fire, and as such he could have been labeled a killing machine; but that was the only way to survive.” It was known that due to the German invasion of Denmark, that he had developed a hatred of the Nazis. One of his men describes how Major Lassen dealt with them: “It was that while he and his sergeant were going through the small rooms of the German and Italian barrack-building outside Phira, a couple of nights before, Lassen had orders his companions to wake up the sleeping enemy soldiers before cutting their throats, so that they should know what was happening to them. The sergeant had refused. Nothing was said at the time, but when I met up with the party at the Perissa monastery Lassen was insisting on putting his sergeant on a charge for disobeying orders. The other officers had tried to dissuade him without much success.” Lassen did eventually back down and not place his sergeant on a charge.
On the night of 8th/9th April 1945, during operations in Italy at Lake Comacchio, Major Lassen was ordered to take out a patrol of one officer and seventeen other ranks to raid the north shore of Lake Comacchio. His tasks were to cause as many casualties and as much confusion as possible, to give the impression of a major landing, and to capture prisoners. ' No previous reconnaissance was possible, and the party found itself on a narrow road flanked on both sides by water.
Preceded by two scouts, Major Lassen led his men along the road towards the town. They were challenged after approximately 500 yards from a position on the side of the road. An attempt to allay suspicion by answering that they were fishermen returning home failed, for when moving forward again to overpower the sentry, machinegun fire started from the position, and also from two other blockhouses to the rear.
Major Lassen himself then attacked with grenades, and annihilated the first position containing four Germans and two machineguns. Ignoring the hail of bullets sweeping fire road from three enemy positions, an additional one having come into action from 300 yards down the road, he raced forward to engage the second position under covering fire from the remainder of the force. Throwing in- more grenades he silenced this position which was then overrun by his patrol. Two enemy were killed, two captured and two more machine-guns silenced. By this time the force had suffered casualties and its firepower was very considerably reduced. Still under a heavy cone of fire Major Lassen rallied and reorganised his force and brought his fire to bear on the third position.
Moving forward himself he flung in more grenades which produced a cry of " Kamerad ". He then went forward to within three or four yards of the position to order the enemy outside, and to take their surrender. Whilst shouting to them to come out he was hit by a burst of spandau fire from the left of the position and he fell mortally wounded, but even whilst falling he flung a grenade, wounding some of the occupants, and enabling his patrol to dash in and capture this final position. Major Lassen refused to be evacuated as he said it would impede the withdrawal and endanger further lives, and as ammunition was nearly exhausted the force had to withdraw. By his magnificent leadership and complete disregard for his personal safety, Major Lassen had, in the face of overwhelming superiority, achieved his objects. Three positions were wiped out, accounting for six machine guns, killing eight and wounding others of the enemy, and two prisoners were taken.
Lassen was buried in Argenta Gap War Cemetery with full military honours. His posthumous VC was gazetted on 7th September 1945. His medal group was initially held by his family, before being placed in the ownership of the Anders Lassen Foundation. The Foundation decided to loan the medal group to the Museum of Danish Resistance 1940-1945. In 2013, there was a fire at the museum and it is currently undergoing rebuilding work, and is due to re-open in 2019.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: MUSEUM OF DANISH RESISTANCE, COPENHAGEN.
BURIAL PLACE: ARGENTA GAP CEMETERY, ITALY.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT II, ROW E, GRAVE 11
Museum of Danish Resistance, Copenhagen
Lake Comacchio Memorial, Italy
Stirling War Memorial (Thomas Stewart)