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Danish Presentation Spitfires at War

During the Second World War not only Danish men and women were in the air. Free Danes abroad donated � 40,113 for a number of Spitfires flown by Danish pilots in Royal Air Force squadrons.

In 1940, while the air war was raging in the skies over Southern England, a large number of Spitfire Funds were set up all over the world by corporations, counties, organisations and the like. The aim was to raise money for aircraft production. The tradition of donating money for weapons for the armed forces was not new; for centuries armament had been supplied by private initiative. In dark times, as the German forces were planning to cross the Channel, the idea caught on again. [1]

In the summer of 1941, a delegation of the Danish Freedom Council in London travelled North and South America to visit free Danish on this continent. Inspired by an initiative among Danes in Eastern U.S. it was decided to start a worldwide collection of funds; a Fighter fund was set up. [2]

Ceremony at RAF Station Ibsley

Danish representatives and pilots at the ceremony at RAF Station Ibsley, 10 April 1942, source: The Royal Danish Library, www.kb.dk.

On 9 April 1942, two years after the German occupation of Denmark, the result of the collection was presented to Prime Minister Winston Churchill in No. 10 Downing Street. The delegation consisted of representatives of the Danish Council in London, the leader of the Danish recruitment office in London, Captain Iverson, Pilot Officer J�rgen Thalbitzer, machinist P. H. Skov, and seaman Helge Christensen. The � 38,000 that were donated on this day were eventually increased to a total of � 40,113. The aim was to donate 8 Spitfires for Royal Air Force.

The next day, the first three Spitfires were presented to the Royal Air Force and 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron at a ceremony at R.A.F. Station Ibsley. Two Danish pilots, Pilot Officer J�rgen Thalbitzer and Pilot Officer Aksel A. Svendsen serving this unit demonstrated the aircraft in the air. Present were also C.E. Aagaard, Danish ambassador to Sweden, Kr�yer-Kielgaard, president of the Danish Council, Anker-Petersen, J. Wullf, H.T. Karsten, and E. Hertel. The three Spitfires were given the names �Skagen Ind�, �Niels Ebbesen�, and �Valdemar Atterdag.� [3]

Skagen Ind

�Skagen Ind.� means �Inbound the Skaw� (the Skaw or Skagen in Danish is the northernmost tip of Denmark). It relates to a phrase used by Danish seamen approaching Denmark from the North Sea.

Svendsen, Aksel Andreas

Pilot Officer Aksel Andreas Svendsen on the wing of 'Skagen Ind', source: The Royal Danish Library, www.kb.dk.

In most Danish sources 'Skagen Ind.' is attributed to BL831. Therefore it was a surprise to me that Boot and Sturtivant (2005) indicate that three Spitfires bore the name; BL830, BL831, and BL924. I am not convinced that they are right, though, even if documents suggest this. [4]

As for the first two their AM Form 78 confirms this. As for the latter it is documented in a photo of the aircraft. It is not likely, though, that all three aircraft had this name. [5]

First of all, Spitfire Vb, BL830, was taken on charge, at No. 6 MU Brize Norton the 14 February 1942 and allocated to 129 (Mysore) Squadron on 8 March 1942; a month before the Danish donation. Hence this aircraft would be the only of the four not taken on charge by the RAF at No. 24 Maintenance Unit on 16 February 1942. Furthermore it is the only that does not arrive at No. 234 Squadron on 5 April 1942. The AM Form 78 seems to have been filled in at a later point, and I find it likely that it is an error, that the aircraft is associated with the name. [6]

Spitfire Vb, BL924

Photo of Spitfire Vb BL924 as 'Skagen Ind.', 10 April 1942, source: The Royal Danish Library, www.kb.dk.

Secondly, a photo which is most likely taken on 10 April 1942 documents BL924 as 'Skagen Ind.' I find it unlikely, but not impossible that the aircraft switched name during the course of the following two weeks. From 18 April 1942 through to 24 April 1942 it is in the air at least once a day, except for the 21 April 1942. Nevertheless this aircraft is normally associated with the presentation name 'Valdemar Atterdag', see below. [7]

Spitfire Vb, BL924 'Skagen Ind.'

Profile depicting Spitfire Vb. BL924 as 'AZ-G' 'Skagen Ind.' in April 1942 � Mikkel Plannthin, 2008

The aircraft the most often associated with this name is Spitfire Vb, BL831. It was taken on charge at No. 24 MU Ternhill 16 February 1942 and went to 234 (Madras Presedency) Squadron on 5 April 1942. On 10 April 1942, it was one of the three Spitfires presented at RAF Station Ibsley. It was given the identification code �AZ-K� and was used for sweeps from RAF Station Ibsley over France in April 1942 and, according to the ORB, often piloted by one of the Danish pilots of the squadron. [8]

Spitfire Vb, BL831 'Skagen Ind.'

Profile depicting Spitfire Vb. BL831 as 'AZ-K' 'Skagen Ind.' in April 1942 � Mikkel Plannthin, 2008

It was shot down by a Focke Wulf 190A-2 from 4./JG26 on 24 April 1942 over Berck-sur-Mer killing the American Flight Lieutenant Vivian Eugene Watkins. At this operation, BL924 was lost as well. [9]

Niels Ebbesen

The second presentation name of the three presentation Spitfires was Niels Ebbesen. Niels Ebbesen was a Danish 14th century national hero. In 1340, he killed the German count Gerhard 3 of Holstein. The murder eventually leads to the end of the counts of Holstein ruling Denmark and King Valdemar 4 Atterdag seizing power.

Spitfire Vb, BL855 'Niels Ebbesen'

Profile depicting Spitfire Vb, BL855 as 'AZ-U' 'Niels Ebbesen' in April 1942 � Mikkel Plannthin, 2008

Spitfire Vb BL855 was named 'Niels Ebbesen.' The aircraft was taken on charge at No. 24 MU Ternhill on 16 February 1942. It was allocated to 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron on 5 April 1942 and given the identification code �AZ-U.� Like �Skagen Ind.� it was used for sweeps from Ibsley over Northern France in April and often flown by Pilot Officer Jens Ipsen. On 25 April 1942, Sergeant W.J. Marshall forgot to close the side door of the aircraft while tanking off, crashed, and was repaired by Westland Aircraft.

The aircraft�s last flight at 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron was on 7 November 1942 at the hands of Pilot Officer Jens Ipsen. The aircraft was eventually converted to Seafire Ib and renumbered NX920 arriving at Lee-on-Solet 20 May 1943. NX920 was allocated to 761 Squadron (Fleet Air Arm). [10]

Valdemar Atterdag

The third name born by the first Danish presentation Spitfires was �Valdemar Atterdag.� King Valdemar 4 Atterdag was a medieval Danish king who reigned from 1340 to 1375.

Spitfire Vb, BL924 'Valdemar Atterdag'

Profile depicting Spitfire Vb, BL924 as 'AZ-G' 'Valdemar Atterdag' in April 1942 � Mikkel Plannthin, 2008

Spitfire Vb, BL924 �Valdemar Atterdag� was taken on charge at No. 24 MU Ternhill on 16 February 1942. The aircraft was allocated to 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron on 5 April 1942 and given the identification code �AZ-G.� The aircraft was engaged in operations from Ibsley over France the following weeks. The aircraft was shot down 24 April 1942 by Focke Wulf 190A-2 from 4./JG26 over Berck-sur-Mer. Pilot Officer Aksel A. Svendsen was reported missing at the crash. Svendsen�s brother has donated a replica of the aircraft to the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum.

As mentioned above, this aircraft did carry the name �Skagen Ind.� at least once. AM Form 78 of BL924 associates the name 'Valdemar Atterdag' or rather 'Atterdeg' to the aircraft. [11]

Yet another Spitfire and a Hampden

The Free Danes� Spitfire Fund originally planned a donation of in all 8 Spitfires. At the end of the day according to Boot and Sturtivant (2005) four Spitfires and a Handley Page Hampden were donated.

A fourth Spiftire (mark and serial number unknown) was given the name �Holger Danske.� Holger Danske is a Danish national figure. According to the legend Holger Danske is asleep beneath Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, but he will awake and come to rescue if Denmark is in real danger.

Finally a Handley Page Hampden, AT524 (possibly AT254) was given the name King Kristian d. X. If indeed it was AT254 the aircraft was allocated to 489 (RNZAF) Squadron. Danish pilot Henning Petersen flew the aircraft. [12]

Sources

  1. Boot and Sturtivant, 2005
  2. Boot and Sturtivant, 2005, Palm�r, 1945
  3. Boot and Sturtivant, 2005, Palm�r, 1945
  4. Ancker, 2001, Palm�r, 1945
  5. Air Ministry, Form 78, BL830 and BL831
  6. Boot and Sturtivant, 2005, Air Ministry, Form 78, BL830
  7. Ancker, 2001
  8. Boot and Sturtivant, 2005, AIR 27/1439
  9. AIR 27/1439
  10. Boot and Sturtivant, 2005, AIR 27/1439
  11. Boot and Sturtivant, 2005, AIR 27/1439
  12. Boot and Sturtivant, 2005

This article is slightly adjusted compared to the original 2006-article on the topic.

Created on 26 Jan 10, 20:30 - last edited on 18 Apr 16, 7:43