Danish military aviation in relation to the Second World War
(This article and photos gratefully provided by Morten Hein)

1. Participation in the Winter War between Finland and Soviet

  • The Winter War made quite a few Danes to enlist in the Finnish forces. The motive was compassion for a brother nation - and in some cases an anti communist conviction. At least 12 pilots joined the Finnish air force. One of them had participated as a pilot in the Finnish liberation war in 1919. 4 were killed in action.
Finland 1940. Lt K.Clauson-Kaas and Morane MS406

Finland 1940. Lt Mogens Fensbo and Morane MS406 >

2.  The occupation of Denmark, April 9th 1940

  • Before the war Denmark was extremely unprepared having downgraded its military force. The air defence was divided into the Naval Air Service and the Army Flying Corps.
  • The Naval Air Service had a squadron of outdated Hawker Nimrod (Danish version of Fury) fighters and seaplanes. Some were for use in Greenland and there was a growing interest in torpedo launching.
  • The Army Flying Corps had Gloster Gauntlets fighters and was upgrading to Fokker D XXI fighters The first was bought in Holland the rest were built in Denmark. A Danish production of Fairey Battle bombers had started but none were finished. Licence to build the Fokker G-1 heavy fighter was acquired.
  • On the morning of April 9th 1940 the German occupation started finding Denmark as unprepared as many other countries.
  • An attack by a stafel of ME-110 fighters destroyed most planes at the Vaerloese Army Airfield. One Danish aircraft was shot down during take off. From that day Danish military aviation stopped. Aircrafts were kept in storage. Some were taken by the German occupation force and reused elsewhere. The majority of the aircrafts were destroyed at a later stage by the Danish resistance.
  • Two incidents may be noted as they formed the background for Ken Folletts novel: Hornet flight.
  • In 1941 two lieutenants managed the refurbish a deHavilland Hornet Moth and to take off for a flight to Britain where one joined to RAF the other served in a special capacity due to his knowledge of German radar systems. In the fall of 1943 another Danish pilot under the same difficult circumstances took off in a deHavilland Moth to fly to England. He joined Special Intelligence Service.
Danish Fokker DXXI Danish Fokker DXXI
April 9th, 1940. A destroyed Danish Fokker DXX!

3.   Danish pilots joining Luftwaffe

  • Some Danes tried to join Luftwaffe. 6 pilots were accepted. They were all flying on the Eastern front and were all killed in action.
  • For some it was difficult to see the difference: To join the Finnish Air force to fight communism would make you a hero. To join the Luftwaffe with the same purpose would make you a traitor.
Peter Horn Danish Army Pilot, later flew with Luftwaffe (from In the Skies of Europe by Hans Werner Neulen © The Crowood Press 2000)
Poul Sommer Danish Navy Pilot, later flew with Luftwaffe. Danish naval uniform is very similar to French style with passants on shoulder. (from In the Skies of Europe by Hans Werner Neulen © The Crowood Press 2000)
Wolfgang Fabian Danish Navy Pilot, later flew with Luftwaffe. Not that wing is similar to Army wing but now features an anchor device. (from In the Skies of Europe by Hans Werner Neulen © The Crowood Press 2000)
Ejnar Thorup Danish Army Pilot, later flew with Finns and Luftwaffe. Uniform is typical army style with open collar and garrison belt. Army wing is worn on right breast. (from In the Skies of Europe by Hans Werner Neulen © The Crowood Press 2000)

4.   Danish airmen joining the allied forces

  • A great number of Danes joined allied forces. Some of these as airmen. Quite a few come to RAF via the Norwegian training camp built up in Canada. After the training The Norwegians formed their own squadrons in RAF. Others joined became operational through other channels. Danes were flying in the RAF, in the Norwegian RAF squadrons, in the Royal Canadian Air Force and in the South African Air Force.
  • Danes served as pilots and in other capacities in RAF. One example is Morian Hansen predicted winner of the 1939 speedway world championship that was never held. He was too old to be a pilot and won a DSO as a tail gunner. A Danish born woman served as one of the ferry pilots.
  • Danes living in Britain collected money and donated three spitfires to RAF. Sadly two of them only lasted a fortnight before they were shot down.
  • Of the Danish pilots 26 were killed in action. The size of the Danish involvement was, however, limited compared with other nations. Danish opposition to Nazi Germany was inside Denmark and in the merchant navy.
One of three Spitfires dontated to the RAF by the people of Denmark
Pilot Officer Kield Roenhof demonstrates his experience in a dogfight
Wing Commander Kaj Birksted, RDAF flying with the RAF, Allied Ace

5.     The Danish Brigade in Sweden

  • Danes escaping to Sweden also included military personnel. A Danish Brigade was formed very discretely due to Swedish neutrality. This brigade also had a Danish flying squadron. It was flying as a part of the Swedish air force. The squadron was nominated to 15 SAAB B-17 dive bombers intended for ground support for the brigade when it should participate in the recapture of Denmark. The German forces surrendered on May 5th 1945 and the fighting following was relatively light. The brigade did not use the air support. The squadron was flying in Swedish colours until May 5th when all planes were painted in Danish colours.
May 5th, 1945 Danish SAAB B17 Dive Bombers
May 5th, 1945 Danish SAAB B17 Dive Bombers

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