Sven Nielsen's Memoirs Part 3


I got a homemade kayak


Going on trips with the kayak

Camping on a kayak trip


In uniform

Wedding picture

When I turned 18 I got an old homemade kayak from my brother and spent a lot of time alone on the water, paddled over 10000 km. On one vacation I got a lift on a truck with a friend and our two kayaks to the start of the longest river in the country. It was only 200 km away, but it was exiting to follow the river all the way home, over all kinds of obstructions like waterfalls and hydro dams etc., but we made it home after 3 weeks. It was interesting at the beginning when the river was only the width of the kayak, the farmers looked surprised to se us, they had never seen any one coming through their farm that way. Other times we would push the kayak on a homemade cart, which could be dismantled and put onboard for the return trip, once we walked 30 km on a weekend and paddled 35 km. back. That took a lot of energy.

Ham radio

Ham radio was another hobby of mine; I made a station out of old radio parts. It was very exiting the first time I got an answer to my call over the air, and right after that someone else called me from another town. I didn't have a licence, but it was very interesting. Also I made a wire recorder, long before they were available in stores, it worked very well. I made a portable transmitter for my bike, and made transmission as I was biking along, describing what I saw, and they could hear the sounds of the traffic at home. It was exciting then, when it was something new.


A friend of mine, Espen Sund, was taking flying lessons and needed 300 hours of practice, before he could become a commercial pilot, so I went up with him a few times. He was very daring. Once we flew somewhere, where a few people were standing on a bridge, he would dive down towards them, and they would scatter like rats running for their life. One person on a beach on a bike, with nobody else around for miles, got off his bike and lay flat on his stomach in his suit, and we would come a few feet over him. He then ran up in the hills to hide. Someone complained to the authorities, and he was told to clean up his act or loose his license.

In the Civil Defense

In 1938 I had to turn up for service in the Danish army. At that time I had a big open wound on my leg from the rubber boot, which was grinding my skin, because I had no other footwear, so I was told to come back next year. In the meantime the Germans occupied the country, so in a way I might have been lucky. Instead of army service I had to do civil defence, like extinguish fires from bombardment, also I had the basic army training.


In the thirties I spent some time conducting tours for the Danish youth hostel organization. I would plan and conduct walking tours in the country, where we would stay in a hostel or in a barn on a farm somewhere. Here we would have dance in the evening, I played guitar in a band I would bring along. It was here I meet my first wife Tonny, she was 17 then and wanted to marry. I wasn't quite ready, but after a while she talked me into it.


During the war there was a shortage of a lot of things. One of them was pails, so I got the idea to go to the nurseries and get the handle from the pails they use to cover plants; it was just in the way. I would chip it off, then sell the handles to a wood shop where they made wooden pails. At that time there was a shortage of everything, you could not even buy bed sheets or underwear except made from paper.

My brother Erhard builds a house

My older brother Erhard bought a low price piece of land with a small cottage on in the outskirts of town. When he got married, he then built a house around it with the cottage left in the living room. Then he slowly dismantled the cottage and used the wood to heat up the place. Eventually the cottage had disappeared up through the chimney; he then installed the ceiling in the living room.

Encounters with the Germans

On a Saturday in 1940 I had just come back from an orienteering competition 20 km from town with a compass and maps at my side of an area, where the English had dropped supplies for the resistance movement the night before. When I got arrested by the Gestapo, they were dressed in black suits and carrying violin cases with automatic weapons. It was a coincidence I ran into them, because they were looking for a man who had just sent messages to England on a radio, which they had traced to the area where my fathers work shop was located. They checked all my pockets and found a piece of paper where I had written a tune for guitar in letters representing the notes, and they kept insisting it was a code. They handcuffed me to a water pipe, when they were searching the building. The man they were looking for was hiding in my fathers shop, and he told him to hurry out the back door to a cemetery nearby. A few days later he came back and thanked my father for helping him. I was getting nervous and expected to be taken to the headquarters for torture, and to make matters worse, at home I had a short-wave transmitter I used for experiments. If they had searched the house I would probably have been shot as a spy. Fortunately they found out that the man they were looking for had escaped, so I was let lose.


On another occasion I was walking with a friend, when we passed a German officer, and my friend shouted you swine hound and some other dirty words. The officer got mad and drove his revolver, we ran as fast as we could through a port way into a courtyard when he started shooting at us. We were lucky that it was pit black so he could not see us, besides he didn't know if he would get attacked in the dark, so he left.

About the same time my father was approached by the Germans to make some bunk beds for a barrack at the airport. He told them he was too busy, but they didn't buy that. He was told he had no choice in the matter, so he made a hundred beds 3 on top of each other. He built them of very flimsy wood. I was out there to assemble them, my father told me to use one and a quarter inch screws to hold them together, I told him they were too short, but he said they are just right, so we got them all set up and left. That evening when the troops went to bed, they all collapsed. The Germans got furious and came back to the workshop and accused him of sabotage, but my father said he didn't know how to make that kind of furniture, so they left and never asked him to make anything for them again.

I start my own business

The first year I was married I still worked for my father, but by then I couldn't stand it anymore. So I quit and started my own business in electronics, repairing radios, building amplifiers, manufacturing fluorescent lighting fixtures. I made a machine where I could cut sound records; customers would come to the studio and sing or send voice messages. Have in mind this was long before tape recorders were invented. Once I gave a demonstration in a local films club, of how to synchronize records with sound to the film projector, in a big country club with 200 people attending. I never advertised but got a reputation of being able to make anything in electronics and had many interesting projects, but most of all I really enjoyed my work.