Much has been written on the Danes that joined Waffen-SS during the Second World War. Considering their numbers this is obvious. Less attention has been paid to the rather small number of pilots, who joined Luftwaffe. Of these Hauptmann Poul Sommer is the most well known; not the least because he returned to Denmark in 1943 to become leader of the Wachkorps der Luftwaffe in Dänemark. Hence, the corps is also known as Sommer’s Corps.
Poul Sommer was born 13 October 1910 in Rønne on the island of Bornholm, Denmark, where his family moved to in 1906. He was the son of school teacher, later headmaster Jens Peter Nicolaj Sommer (1874-1948) and Birgitha Kristine Hansen (1884-1928). He graduates from high school in 1928 and continues his studies at the Polytechnic Institute in Copenhagen.
In 1930, he is volunteer at a machine factory near Stuttgart, where he encounters the growing German Nazi movement. He is interested in the movement and through Danish friends – e.g. founder of the first Danish Nazi party e.g. Ejnar Vaaben – he meets some of the leading members of the party. In 1932, he participates in a course at a SS-school in Munich. The same year he publishes an anti-marxist leaflet, Under Hagekors (Under Swastika), and the following two years he is editor of the newspaper Kampen (the Fight) that promotes the national socialist idea (Cedergren, 1984).
In Naval Air Service
In 1934, he returns to Denmark and works as engineer for a short while before joining the Navy. He is accepted as pupil pilot. On 22 December 1936, he is appointed Flyverløjtnant-II (Flight Lieutenant II). He gets his wings (pilot’s certificate 76/1937). On 1 January 1939, he is appointed Flyverløjtnant-I (Flight Lieutenant I).In 1939, he is discharged from the Navy, but remains officer of the reserve.
In 1939-1940, the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union breaks out. According to some sources, e.g. Neulen (2000), Sommer volunteers for the Finish Air Force, but his application to be seconded from the Danish Navy in order to join the Finninsh Air Force is rejected by the Naval Staff (Pedersen, 2000).
Joining the Luftwaffe
On 8 July 1941, an announcement from the Ministry of War permits commissioned officers of the Danish armed forces to volunteer for Frikorps Denmark (Free Corps Denmark). A number of Danish officers enlist; on of these being Poul Sommer who volunteers for Luftwaffe service.
In October 1941, he and a number of other Danes are posted to Fliegerorst Prenzlau (appr. 200 km south of Stettin). The initial flight tests take place at Reichüberprüfungstelle Prenzlau, while he is posted to Jagdfliegershule 1 for operational training (Ravnskov, 2000; Krabbe, 1998).
On 20 September 1942, he is posted to II./JG27. According to Prien (1995) he is posted from JGr.Süd and according to Neulen (2000) he is posted from Jagdfliegerschule 1. He is attached to II./JG27 from September 1942 to June 1943. During the first part of this time, the unit is placed in Africa as part of Fliegerführer Afrika.
Initially, Poul Sommer is attached to 4. Staffel with the rank of Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant. 1 January 1943, he is promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) and at the same time he is attached to Stab II./JG27.
During the time in Africa, Poul Sommer is credited with three arial victories. Some sources, e.g. Neulen (2000), mentions a further three victories on the Eastern Front, but I have not yet been able to trace these with certainty. The first two of these victories are connected to the activities surrounding the famous Battle of El Alamein.
On 23 October 1942, at 15:00, as part of a fighter force of 4. Staffel, Poul Sommer shoots down a Kittyhawk east of El Daba. According the RAF loss lists several 260 Squadron Kittyhawks are shot down in this area at approximately the same time. Therefore, it is impossible to identify the victim with certainty. The information seems to suggest, though, that it could be Kittyhawk (FL238) of 260 Squadron.
Only five days later, on 28 October 1942, at 09:40, Poul Sommer shoots down his second enemy aircraft, a Spitfire, north of El Alamein. Again the victim cannot be identified with certainty. The time of the day would suggest that the victim is Flight Lieutenant Cocker of 92 Squadron. F/L Cocker takes of at 09:45 escorting a group of Baltimores and B-25’s, but fails to return.
II./JG27 is withdrawn from Africa in the beginning of December 1942.
In Defence of Sicily
In the spring of 1943, II./JG27 is transferred from Germany to Sicily to take part in the defence of the island. The presence of the Gruppe influences in favour of the Luftwaffe the relative strength between Luftwaffe and RAF who have had air superiority over the island for some time. At this point, Poul Sommer is attatched to Stab II./JG27.
His third and, as far as I know, final aerial victory is not until the month of March. On 20 March 1943, at 16:32, he shoots down a Spitfire, 6 km south of Cap Scaramia, Sicily and at an altitude of 100 m. Thanks to accounts from both sides, this time it is possible to identify the victim.
During this day, II./JG27 is engaged in a series of fights against the allied forces. North of Bizerta, part of the Gruppe has engaged a force of P-38 Lightnings, escorting 15 B-24’s. Again several Spitfires are lost in the area, but thanks to the accounts, it is possible to reconstruct what happened.
Early in the afternoon, a Rotte (two aircrafts) of 5. Staffel engage a Spitfire at Cap Scaramia. Feldwebel Schneider, 5. Staffel, shoots down the Canadian Pilot Officer Miller of 185 Squadron flying Spitfire Vc Trop. (BR109) in the sea outside Cap Scaramia. Apparently, P/O Miller escapes from the aircraft and a rescue operation is carried out.
Prien (1997) tells the story of the ASR search:
Gut eine Stunde später kam es über demselben Gebiet emeut zu einem Luftkampf, nachdem eine Rotte des Gruppenstabs mit Hptm. Sommer auf einen frühzeitig erfassten Einflug von Malta angesetzt wurde; dabei handelte es sich um vier Spitfires, die ein Walrus Flugboot begleiteten, welches den vor Cap Scaramia treibenden Flugzeugführer bergen sollte. Während das Flugboot den im Wasser treibenden britischen Flugzeugführer aufnehmen konnte, gelang Hptm. Sommer der Abschuss einer Spitfire (3.).
During the ASR operation, Poul Sommer shoots down one of the Spitfires protecting the Walrus Flying Boat. The victim is Flight Officer J. Locke of 249 Squadron (BR345 ‘T-W’). Locke is a 20 year old Canadian from Newfoundland. He is buried on Malta. According to his own information, Poul Sommer is injured during these months. It is not clear exactly how and when.
Proceeding to Greece
In May/June 1943, a new Gruppe of JG27 is established. IV./JG is declared operational in June 1943, in Kalamaki near Athens. Commander is Oberstleutnant Sinner, while Poul Sommer is appointed Staffelkapitän of 10. Staffel. It is not clear exactly for how long he remains with this unit. According to himself (Krabbe, 1998), he is mostly occupied with planning and organising airfields in the Balkans.
Several sources, e.g. Neulen, 2000 and Prien, 1997, state that Poul Sommer is transferred to JG54 on the Eastern Front. It is also claims that he is credited with further three aerial victories. In contrast to this, Krabbe (1998) states that he arrives in Africa following a period at the Eastern Front. This might just be his operational training. It is certain, though, that Poul Sommer is back in Denmark is early as September 1943.
Back in Denmark
On 30 September 1943, General Plenipotentiary of the Reich in Denmark, SS-Gruppenführer Werner Best, informs Berlin that a new section of the Schalburg-Korps has been established under the leadership of Poul Sommer. At the same time, he is appointed second in command of the Schalburg-Korps (Pedersen, 2000). On 17 October 1943, it is certain that he is back in Denmark, since he speaks at a memorial ceremony of Danes killed in action in the Waffen-SS.
He does not remain in this function for long. In February 1944, Luftwaffe establishes the Wachkorps der Luftwaffe in Dänemark under his leadership. The primary task of the corps, which includes approximately 800 men, is to guard different Luftwaffe installations in Denmark. It is disbanded in February 1945 the remaining personnel being transferred to other units.
On 15 August 1944, Poul Sommer is shot in the back at an ambush near his home in Charlottenlund outside Copenhagen.
After the Liberation
On 25 May 1945, Poul Sommer is dishonourably discharged from the Navy because of his Luftwaffe service. Under an asumed name he and his wife buys the farm Bakkelys near the town Stevnstrup near Randers. The couple, former Waffen-SS volunteer Johs. Emborg and the German Paul Felz are hiding here in the months following the German surrender.
Poul Sommer is arrested in July 1946 and is sentenced to eight year in prison in the city court. The sentence is appealed, an in 1949 he is sentenced to 12 years in prison in the High Court. After some years, he is pardoned and make a living as business man.
During his Luftwaffe service, Poul Sommer is decorated with Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse and Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse (Iron Cross).