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William Wain Prior

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William Wain Prior
Chief of the General Command
In office
1 December 1939 – 28 August 1941
Preceded byErik With [da]
Succeeded byEbbe Gørtz [da]
Chief of the General Staff
In office
April 1931 – 31 October 1937
Preceded byJohan Christian Lund
Succeeded byEbbe Gørtz [da]
Personal details
Born(1876-07-18)18 July 1876
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died9 March 1946(1946-03-09) (aged 69)
Frederiksberg, Denmark
Resting placeFrederiksberg Old Cemetery
Jensine Ingeborg Hansen
(m. 1901; died 1945)
Parent(s)Oskar Frederik Leopold Prior
Agnes Wain
Military service
Allegiance Denmark
Branch/service Royal Danish Army
Years of service1894–1941
RankLieutenant general
CommandsZealand Division
Battles/warsWorld War II

William Wain Prior (18 July 1876 – 9 March 1946) was a Danish Lieutenant general and the Chief of the Royal Danish Army from 1939 to 1941.

Life and career[edit]

Following the death of Johan Christian Lund, in 1931, Prior became chief of the General Staff.[1]

On 1 December 1939, Prior replaced Erik With [da] as chief of the General Command.[2]

World War II[edit]

Before the Occupation of Denmark by Germany in 1940, Prior encouraged the Danish government to increase the strength of the army. These requests, however, were not accepted by the majority of the Danish parliament, who feared that increased military strength might provoke Nazi Germany.

When Germany invaded Denmark in 1940, he argued that the Danish army should actively defend the country, even when Germany threatened through the dropping the OPROP! leaflets to bomb the capital of Copenhagen. However, the Danish government did not agree to this, due to concerns that major Danish cities like Copenhagen might suffer the same destruction that other cities like Warsaw had just experienced during the German invasion of Poland. The government was also well aware that Denmark's position was untenable; it was too small and too flat to hold out against the Wehrmacht for a sustained period.

Prior continued as Commander-in-Chief of the Danish Army during the early part of the German occupation, and worked actively to prevent the Danish army from becoming involved on the German side during World War II. He resigned as Commander-in-Chief in October 1941 and was replaced by Lieutenant General Ebbe Gørtz.

Selected works[edit]

  • Operationerne paa Østfronten i 1914. Studier over Verdenskrigen (in Danish). Copenhagen: Det Krigsvidenskabelige Selskab. 1919.
  • Operationerne paa Østfronten i 1915. Studier over Verdenskrigen (in Danish). Copenhagen: Det Krigsvidenskabelige Selskab. 1921.
  • Generalløjtnant A.A.B. Kühnel: En dansk officers liv og gerninger (in Danish). Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard. 1942.


  1. ^ Olsen 1985, pp. 43, 75.
  2. ^ Clemmesen 1982, p. III-3.


  • "DENMARK: Economy". TIME.com. Time Magazine. 4 December 1939. Archived from the original on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  • Bjerregaard, W. (24 June 1946). "Generalløjtnant W. W. Prior". krigsvidenskab.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  • Clemmesen, Michael Hesselholt (1982). Jyllands landforsvar fra 1901 til 1940 (in Danish). Copenhagen: Det Krigsvidenskabelige Selskab. ISBN 87-981346-0-4.
  • Grøn, Ole; Clemmesen, Michael H. (2014). "Skyggerne på væggen: Et forsøg på delvis rekonstruktion af efterretningstjenesten i og fra Sønderjylland fra 1920 til ca. 1950". Fra Krig og Fred (in Danish) (1): 86–180.
  • Hedegaard, Ole A. (5 March 1996). "Generalløjtnant Prior og Generalkommandoens "varme" sommer 1941". krigsvidenskab.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  • Olesen, Niels Wium (13 June 2013). "William Wain Prior, 1876-1946". danmarkshistorien.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  • Olsen, Ole Isgaard (1985). Planlægning af det Sjællandske Landforsvar: 1922-1944 (in Danish). Forsvarskommandoen.
  • Wolff, E. H. (18 July 2011). "W.W. Prior". Dansk Biografisk Leksikon (in Danish). Retrieved 15 December 2020.