The transfer ceremony

Henri Konow was the last governor of the Danish West Indies. He was commander of the warship Valkyrien, which had reached the islands one and a half years previously. When he arrived home again, Konow described a solemn transfer ceremony with both tears and cannon salutes.
Picture of the gendarmerie barracks in Charlotte Amalie.
The Dannebrog is lowered for the last time at 16:00 on 31st March 1917 on the parade ground in front of the gendarmerie barracks in Charlotte Amalie. (National Library of Denmark).

Henri Konow came to the Danish colony in the West Indies in December 1915 together with 230 men on the warship Valkyrien. He was appointed ad interim governor in October 1916. Konow’s most important task was to transfer the islands to the USA on 31st March 1917.

The money first

Before the islands could be transferred, the news that the USA had transferred the money to Denmark had to reach Konow. The telegraph line between Washington and the West Indies was kept free of all other traffic on the day of the transfer to ensure that the information arrived. The payment was made at 11 o’clock as agreed, and at 13:30 the telegram that the money had been paid reached St. Thomas.

“The tropical sun shone on the crowd”

Konow later told of the transfer ceremony that it took place on the parade ground in front of the gendarmerie barracks in Charlotte Amalie, where the tropical sun beamed down on the large crowd that had assembled there. Konow disembarked from the Valkyrien at 15:50, and the American Commander Pollock arrived shortly after. The two naval officers reviewed both the Danish and the American guards of honor. They then entered the barracks and signed the transfer documents.

Picture of Fort Christiansværn in Frederiksted on St. Croix.
A large crowd also assembled at Fort Christiansværn in Frederiksted on St. Croix on 31st March 1917 to see the lowering of the Dannebrog for the last time. (National Library of Denmark).

Tears and cannon

Out on the parade ground, Konow proclaimed in English that he was transferring the islands to the USA in the name of the king, and in Danish he gave the command: ”Lower the Dannebrog!” All present removed their hats in respect, the music corps played Kong Christian, the guards of honor presented arms and cannon salutes were fired. Konow recounted that ”the lowering of the flag made a deep impression on the crowd; not a sound was heard and many tears were shed”.

The president’s proclamation and a church service

Pollock then declared that he was overtaking the islands in the name of the president and gave the order to raise the American flag. The music corps played Hail Columbia follow by more cannon salutes. Pollock read the president’s proclamation to the population and the ceremony concluded with a church service.

The Valkyrien’s farewell

Already four days later, on 4th April 1917, the Valkyrien departed from St. Thomas bound for Denmark. It had spent 16 months in the colony and the crew longed for home.

Picture of Governor Henri Konow's official report.
Governor Henri Konow wrote his official report about the transfer of the colony on his way home on board the cruiser ”Valkyrien”. (Danish National Archives).