Danish WW2 Pilots

Distinguishing Shoulder Title

From early on the Danish volunteers in the RAF wanted to distinguish themselves as Danes in Allied service. One way of doing that was to wear a nationality shoulder title on the uniform.

Denmark was invaded by German troops on 9 April 1940. In London, Danes in exile organised and on 30 September 1940 a Danish Council was founded. From the very beginning the Danish Council housed a Recruiting Office for Danish Nationals. Formally, the Recruiting Office was British, but in contrast to other similar offices, it was solely involved in the recruitment of Danish nationals.[1]

Danish men and women, who had volunteered to become members of the different branches of the British forces, wished to be identified as Danes in British service.

In October 1941, Captain Werner M. Iversen, who was in charge of the recruiting office, asked the Air Ministry for a permission to be accorded to Danes serving in the Royal Air Force to wear a distinguishing shoulder title bearing the word “DANMARK”. The situation at this point, according to Iversen, was that such a title was accepted in some parts of the Royal Air Force, while not considered reglementary in other parts of the air force. To complicate things further, Danish volunteers in the East Kent Regiment—the “Buffs”—were allowed to wear a shoulder title on the left shoulder and the Danish flag on the right.[2]

The Air Ministry responds was received on 24 October 1941.

Your request has received very full consideration but it is regretted that the permission sought cannot be given.[3]

As Captain Iversen had referred to the Danes in the Buffs being allowed to wear a shoulder title, the letter continued

I note your remarks that those Danes who have volunteered for service in the “Buffs” have obtained permission to wear such a distinguishing mark but I am informed that this concession was given in view of the personal connection which His Majesty, The King of Denmark has with that Regiment.[4]

His Majesty King Christian X was an honorary colonel in the East Kent Regiment.

The rejection by the Air Ministry to allow the Danish volunteers to wear a shoulder title must have been disappointing. The Danish Council had just begun to collect funds for a Danish Spitfire Fund aiming to setup a Danish air unit equipped with Danish Spitfires and manned with Danish pilots.

Shoulder title “DENMARK” on the uniform of FS V. M. Mortensen. The uniform is on display in the Royal Danish Arsenal Museum in Copenhagen. © Mikkel Plannthin
Shoulder title “DENMARK” on the uniform of FS V. M. Mortensen. The uniform is on display in the Royal Danish Arsenal Museum in Copenhagen. © Mikkel Plannthin

The Danes were not alone in wishing to distinguish themselves though a nationality shoulder title. In October 1941, a the time of Captain Iversen’s request, personel from Rhodesia (October 1940), Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (March 1941) and Newfoundland (July 1941) had received a formal permission to wear such a title. Belgians and Czechoslovakians, who air forces in exile also used the Royal Air Force uniform has been allowed to wear a nationality shoulder title since 1940.[5]

As early as in September 1942, the Imperial War Museum, “endeavouring to make a complete collection of the badges and buttons of the armed services…” asked the Recruiting Office for any special uniform markings worn by Danish servicemen. Captain Iversen forwarded a set of shoulder titles as work in the “Buffs”. In the reply, the museum noted that

Should Danish volunteers in the Royal Navy and R.A.F. wear distinguishing flashes at any later date we would be very glad to receive specimens.[6]

The Danes had to wait for permission to wear the title. It was not until 30 August 1944, that Flg Off. E. Schalburg, who had succeeded Captain Iversen in the Recruiting Office, was able to inform the Working Committee of the Danish Council that the Air Ministry, finally, had permitted the use of the “DANMARK” shoulder title.[7]

It is not clear from the documents, if a set of Danish shoulder titles as worn in the Royal Air Force were sent to the Imperial War Museum at a later date.

Endnotes

[1] Sørensen, J., For Danmarks ære, Danskere i allieret krigstjeneste 1939-45, Informations Forlag 2011.

[2] DNA: 10194/72, Danske Råd i London, Rekrutteringskontoret, pakke 72 (Letter of 22 October 1941 from Captain Werner M. Iversen, Recruiting Officer, Danish Nationals to Director of Personal Services, Air Ministry).

[3] DNA: 10194/72, Danske Råd i London, Rekrutteringskontoret (Letter of 24 November 1941 from the Director of Personal Services, Air Ministry, to Captain Werner M. Iversen, Recruiting Officer, Danish Nationals).

[4] Ibid

[5] Cormack, A, The Royal Air Force, 1939-45, Osprey, 1990.

[6] DNA: 10194/72, Danske Råd i London, Rekrutteringskontoret (correspondence with IWM).

[7] DNA: Christmas Møllers Privatarkiv, pakke 50 (Minutes of the 169th meeting of the Working Committee).