No. 234 Squadron - A 'Danish' Squadron
During the Second World War, a large number of Danish pilots were in British or Norwegian air service. Though many were accepted in one of the Norwegian squadron, 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron is by far the most 'Danish' of all squadrons of (or associated to) the Royal Air Force. In all nine Danish pilots and three Spitfires is in 234 service.
One might distinguish between three periods in the Danish involvement in No. 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron. The initial buildup in 1942, from Orkney and onwards in mid-1943, and finally the invasion buildup in 1944. These three periods saw different Danish pilots posted to the squadron and the squadron performing different roles.
Four Men and Three Spitfires
The first Danes to join the squadron were Aksel A. Svendsen and Jørgen Thalbitzer who were both posted to the squadron in early April 1942.
A few days later, on 10 April 1942, the squadron received further three ‘Danes’ as three presentation Spitfires, BL831 ‘Skagen Ind.’, BL855 ‘Niels Ebbesen’ and BL924 ‘Valdemar Atterdag’ were presented to the Royal Air Force and No. 234. Both Aksel A. Svendsen and Jørgen Thalbitzer were pictured at the ceremony.
Tragically, Aksel A. Svendsen in Spitfire Vb BL924 ‘AZ-G Valdemar Atterdag’ is shot down and killed on 24 April 1942 by a Focke Wulf 190A-2 over Berck-sur-Mer on the Channel Coast. Jørgen Thalbitzer too is shot down on 23 July 1942 and taken prisenor. He escapes and returns to Denmark in 1943, but drown in an attempt to get to Sweden on the night between 28 and 29 March 1943.
During the summer of 1942 another two Danes are posted to No. 234. This is Jens Ipsen and Michael Randrup.
Jens Ipsen originally followed the same pilot’s course at No. 5 Advanced Flying Unit, but during operational training at RAF Sutton Bridge his Hurricane hits a tree and he is severely injured and, hence, delayed in his training. Jens Ipsen is posted to No. 234 on 7 June 1942 from No. 118 Squadron. He is posted to No. 234 until early January 1943 at which point he is posted for overseas duties.
Michael Randrup is living in Britain before the war and he is trained as commercial pilot. He volunteers for the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reservce, but is not accepted for operational duties in the first place. Following two years as instructor in Britain and Rhodesia, he is posted to No. 234 on 6 October 1942. The period at the squadron is rather short, however, as he is transferred to Air Service Training Ltd. for test pilot duties on 1 January 1943.
Another Two Pilots Join
In mid-1943 two pilots replace the initial Danish pilots at No. 234.
On 25 May 1943 Jørgen Kjeldbæk joins the squadron then based at RAF Skaebrae, Orkney Islands from No. 58 Operational Training Unit. He remains here until October 1943 where he is posted to No. 222 Squadron.
The other pilot posted to the squadron during mid-1943 is Niels Juul Rysensteen Buchwald. He joins the squadron on 14 August 1943 from No. 61 Operational Training Unit, two years after his escape from Denmark. He is posted at this squadron for only two months before he too is advanced to No. 222 Squadron.
At the same time – on October 1943 – No. 234 Squadron is reformed.
The Last of the Danish 234 Pilots
In late 1943 and early 1944 another three Danish pilots are posted to 234; Vagn Christensen, Erik Flohr Jacobsen, and Kjeld C. J. Pedersen.
Vagn Christensen and Erik Flohr Jacobsen are both part of the No. 63 Intake at No. 5 (P) Advanced Flying Unit, Tern Hill, from 15 June 1943 and they are both posted to No. 53 Operational Training Unit. On 24 November 1943 they are posted to No. 234 and remain here until the beginning of April 1944. The Operational Record Book records only 4 operational sorties for both pilots during these months.
The last Danish pilot to be posted to No. 234 is Kjeld C.J. Pedersen. Following service in No. 33 Squadron and No. 94 Squadron from December 1942 to January 1944 in North Africa, he is posted to No. 234 on 9 March 1944. He is only at No. 234 for a brief period however as he is posted to No. 1 Squadron on 7 April 1944.