Danish Volunteers in the Winter War
The Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939. People all over the world were appalled by the aggression. To many Danes it was an inexcusable attack on a neutral country and a sister nation.
Approximately 1,200 Danes volunteered for service, of which only about 300 had a military background. Hence, the rest had to be trained before seeing active duty in the war. The war was short, but fierce. A peace treaty was signed in Moscow on 12 March 1940. Therefore, many Danes did not see before the end of hostilities. On 28 May 1940, most of them leave Finland in order to return to Denmark; a country occupied by the Germans since 9 April 1940 (Tingleff, 1988).
The Finnish Air Force opposed a gigantic Soviet aerial force in the spring of 1940. Furthermore, they were desperately short of experiences pilots.
Danish Pilots in Finland
A number of Danish military and navy pilots volunteered. The exact number is uncertain since many sources differ on the matter. The identity of four pilots is certain, though, because they lost their life to the Soviet invasion force.
On 2 February 1940, lieutenant Frits Rasmussen is shot down while attached to 4./LLv 24 (24th Squadron). He manages to bail from the aircraft, but the parachute is caught in the aircraft’s rudder, and he is killed.
On 13 February 1940, navy lieutenant Knut Kalmberg is shot down while attached to 1./LLv 26 (26th Squadron). Before is death Kalmberg is credited with two victories: a Tupolev SB-2 bomber on 2 February and another SB-2 on 12 February.
On 19 February 1940, flight lieutenant count Erhard Krag-Juel-Vind-Frijs is shot down and killed while attached to 1./LLv 24 (24th Squadron). Before his death he is credited with a shared Tupolev SB-2 bomber on 30 January, another SB-2 on 17 February, and final SB-2 on the day of his death; the latter though not confirmed.
On 29 February 1940, flight lieutenant Carl Mogens Heiner Khristensen is shot down and killed while attached to LLv. 26 (26th Squadron).
Apart from these pilots, it is certain that several other pilots saw active duty in Finland. One of these is navy lieutenant Jørn J. Ulrich who was badly wounded on 13 February 1940. Ulrich has published his memories from theese month in Døden har Vinger (the Death has Wings) (Ulrich, 1941). Another pilot, P. B. Christensen is also wounded on the 29 February 1940 but manages to bail out (Clauson-Kaas, 1943; Tingleff, 1988; Finnish Military Page (internet)).
According to Ancker (2001) further nine Danes volunteered for the Finnish Air Force, of which seven were pilots:
- craftsman Poul Anton Born (private pilot’s certificate 363/39),
- manufacturer Frits Drescher (private pilot’s certificate 410/39),
- commercial pilot Mogens Fensbo (military pilot’s certificate 129/33),
- Lieutenant Adolf G. K. Jessen (military pilot’s certificate 207/37),
- Lieutenant Knud Clauson Kaas (military pilot’s certificate 70/26),
- Corporal H. Møller (military pilot’s certificate 240/39),
- staff sergeant R. Rasmussen (technician),
- First Lieutenant Ejnar Thorup (military pilot’s certificate 187/36), and
- Lieutenant Henry M. Wittrup (military pilot’s certificate 107/31).
According to Finnish sources quoted on the Finnish Military Page further three Danish pilots can be related to the Winter War: lance corporal Harald Blom and Corporal Petter A. Pettersen both at Air Fighting School and Lieutenant Hans Fenger who supposedly was killed in 17 February 1940.
This brings the grand total of Danish volunteers to the Finnish Air Force during the Winter War to 18 people.