Ambulance donated to the RNZAF by the Danish Association in New Zealand
During the Second World War an ambulance was donated to the Royal New Zealand Air Force by the Danish Association in New Zealand. A number of photographs in the collection of the Royal Danish Library document the event at which some of the Danish volunteers were present.
Free Danes in New Zealand
Members of the Danish community in London founded the Danish Council on 30 August 1940 in order to support Britain in the fight for Denmark’s freedom and independence. In the same way, in early 1942, Danes in New Zealand came together in order to show the people and the Government of New Zealand where they stood in regard to the war against Hitler and Japan.
The objective of the association was the restauration of Denmark’s freedom and independence by means of strengthening Danish national feeling and by supporting the British Commonwealth of Nations and the Allies in the fight for freedom.
The founder of the society was Mr. Eli A. Dahl (1880-1950) and the resolutions from the inaugural meeting in March 1943 clearly status the ambitions of the association.
We hereby pledge support to the movement of Free Danes as represented by the Danish Council in London. Furthermore, we pledge ourselves to do all in our power to reinstate Denmark’s former status as an independent nation, and express the hope that the people of Denmark in one way or another will learn that we Danes and New Zealand-born Danish men and women are working unselfishly toward that goal. We ask our countrymen throughout the Dominion to subscribe to a fund toward the cost of defence aircraft for the Royal New Zealand Air Force to be used for the Allies’ cause and Denmark’s liberation.
In April 1940, £38,000 was donated to PM Winston Churchill in Downing Street 10 to finance three Danish Spitfires for the Royal Air Force. A similar collection of funds was now set up in New Zealand, and on the Danish constitution day, 5 June 1942, the first installment of £140 was donated to the Government.
From aircraft to ambulance
However the collection of funds did not turn out as Eli A. Dahl had envisioned; only £265 was received when the association assailed for the first annual meeting in March 1943. Dahl concluded—somewhat bitterly—
that the collection for an Aircraft is not popular amongst the Danes in New Zealand. It is not that the aim is too high, because the cost of such a plane, could be provided by three Danes here in Wellington, and it would not hurt them a flea-bite, but the enthusiasm is lacking. If we intended to keep the Association going, and if we are going to achieve SOMETHING in the not too far future, then I respectfully suggest that we switch our collection over to one for a complete motor Ambulance for the R.N.Z.A.F. so that is already a substantial start.
Seven months later, the association was able to present an ambulance to the RNZAF at a ceremony in the grounds of Parliament House in Wellington.
The Danish delegation consisted of where among others Mr. Johannes Andersen, Mr. Christoffer Langkilde and his wife, Mrs. Poula Langkilde Christie, Mr. A. Hislab, Mr. Otto N. Haderup and his wife, and Mr. Eli Dahl. At the presentation, Langkilde said that he hoed there would be little need for the ambulance.
Participants on the part of the Government where Air Vice Marshall Leonard Isitt, Brigadier Fred Thompson Bowerbank, Director-General of Medical Services, and Defence Minister Frederick Jones.
Danes in RNZAF Service
A small number of Danes in RNZAF service attended the ceremony as well. According to the caption of the photo in the Danish Royal Library collection these were Mr. Peter Hansen, Mr. Kaj Mortensen, Mr. Knud Graae, Mr. Arne Møller, ambulance driver Mrs. Andersen, and Mrs. A. Haderup.
Peter Hansen, or rather Thorkild Peter Niels Enevoldsen Hansen, arrived in New Zealand in 1916 and was naturalized in 1924. He enlisted in the RNZAF in March 1943.
Kaj Olaf Mortensen arrived in New Zealand in late 1941 as a mess-boy onboard the four-masted barque Pamir. He seems to have enlisted in the RNZAF in 1943 (NZ4311434).
Knud Graae had lived in New Zealand since 1929 and was naturalised in 1938. He volunteered for the RNZAF in 1943 and served in New Zealand and the New Hebrides.
Arne Leth Møller was a Pilot Officer in the RNZAF at the time. He had lived in New Zealand since his early teens, and had enlisted in 1942. He was promoted to Flying Officer in November 1943.
Audrey Nina Hadrup was the daughter of Otto N. Hadrup, who was member of the executive committee of the Danish Association. She was born in New Zealand, and had volunteered for the WAAF (W2019) in October 1941.
Further information on these four members of the New Zealand military forces can be seen in their individual profile. At this point in time, Peter Hansen and Mrs. Andersen have not been identified with certainty.
I have at this point no information on where the ambulance actually went into service, but it is clear from one of the photos that it had the serial number MT.2028 and it had, of course, a shield on the presentation on the door.
 Rules of the Danish Association in New Zealand (incorporated), http://danishsociety.org.nz/history/ (accessed on 7 July 2020).
 Danish Association, New Zealand Herald, Vol 70, issue 24220, 11 March 1942.
 New Zealand Danes, New Zealand Herald, Vol. 79, Issue 24301, 16 June 1942.
 The First Annual Report of the Activities of the Danish Association in New Zealand, by the First President and Founder, , http://danishsociety.org.nz/history/ (accessed on 7 July 2020).
 Gift from Danes, Evening Post, Vol. CXXXVI, Issue 88, 11 October 1943.