The privateers engaged in a form of state-sanctioned piracy, with letters of marque issued by the Danish king during the so-called English Wars in 1801-1814; essentially a kind of guerrilla warfare at sea.
A privateer ship and its crew brought hostile ships to Danish harbours, where special courts ruled whether the ship was an “authorised prize”.
If it was the ship was deemed a lawful capture, and the both the vessel and its cargo could be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
In the 1800s, Allinge was the hometown of many of the island’s privateers.
Allinge harboured lots of privateer captains, which had a massive impact on the town.
It became a centre of commercial development and progressive building projects.
One of the more famous privateers was Johan N. Holm, who lived on Østergade 9 in Allinge.
The people of Allinge were among the first to capture enemy vessels, and also held the dubious honour of being among the most fearless and foolhardy privateers.
Only a few days after being given the green light - but before receiving their official letters of marque - the privateers of Allinge had captured three ships.
These ships alone brought a lot of wealth to Allinge.
The Allinge privateers sailed out to passing ships and pretended to be interested in trading, attacking and capturing them once they got within range.
While privateering was a dangerous way of life, the rewards were so great that many still sought it out.
Several privateer vessels from Bornholm were captured by the enemy, and the crews had to spend the rest of the war in captivity, in some cases for several years.
It was an ordeal that few survived. Other vessels ended at the bottom of the sea, and many sailors perished.
The exact number of privateers from Bornholm who died in those years is unknown, but the death toll is estimated to have been several hundreds.
In the period 1807-14, the Danish king issued around 600 letters of marque to Danish ships, 80 of which to ships based out of Bornholm and especially Allinge.
All the wealth acquired from privateering resulted in a significant boost to the ailing Danish economy.
You can learn more about the Danish privateers of the English Wars in the book “Pirater og Patrioter.
De bornholmske kapere 1807-1814” by Niels Erik Sonne (only available in Danish).