Danish WW2 Pilots

A/F/L Charles Marinus Sundby

(1908 - 1948)

Charles Marinus Sundby is one of the Danish officers, who escapes Denmark in order to join the allied air forces. In late 1940, he joins the Royal Canadian Air Force and serves as a flight instructor for a year and a half. He then flies aircraft over the Atlantic. In late, 1942 he joins the China National Aviation Corporation and flies over the Himalayes about 600 times to deliver war supplies and troops from India to China. He is killed in a flying accident in 1948.

Charles Marinus Sundby is born on 15 November 1908 in Valby, Copenhagen. He is the son of Jens Marinus Jensen Sundby and Anna Kathrine Sundby (nee Gerdt). [1]

In the 1920s he is at sea earning experience to pursue a maritime education and career in the merchant marine. In 1933, he qualifies as a ship's officer, and in early 1934, he passes the exam for shipsmaster. [2] When the opportunity comes to train as a naval pilot, he changes careers.

On 23 May 1934 he commences pilot training in the Royal Naval Air Service and gets his wings in 1935 (pilot's certificate 71/35). On 21 December 1935, he is appointed Flyverløjtnant af 2en Grad (Pilot Officer), and on 1 January 1938 he is promoted to Flyverløjtnant af 1ste Grad (Flying Officer). [3] During this period, he participates in four expeditions to the Arctic, including two lead by Lauge Koch.

The Escape from Denmark

On 9 April 1940 German troops occupy Denmark. On the night between 16 and 17 April 1940, Charles Sundby and fellow officer Kaj Birksted escape from Denmark to Sweden in a boat with the intention of joining the Norwegian forces still fighting against German oppression.

On 26 April 1940, Charles Sundby and Kaj Birksted get in contact with the Norwegian forces at Namsås. According to Ancker (2001) they are engaged as liaison officers with the British forces on-board HMS WOLVERINE, and follow the British forces, as they evacuate from Norway. According to a 1945 account from Sundby they are asked by the British to board a Mærsk ship bound for Britain.

They arrive in Britain on 5 May 1940 and apply for the Royal Air Force in London. They are not accepted.

They sign on the M/S TASMANIA bound for Burma, leaving London on 10 June 1940 for Cape Town. Arriving in Cape Town on 10 July 1940, they try to volunteer for the South African Air Force. They have to wait for the final approval. They left Cape Town for Calcutta, where they receive two telegrams: one accepting them in the South Africa Air Force and the other informing them that they have been accepted for the Norwegian air forces. [4] They choose to proceed to the Norwegian forces in Canada.

They sign off in Cuba on 16 October 1940. They arrive in Miami on 18 October 1940 and cross the U.S.-Canadian border on 29 October 1940. In Toronto, Birksted joins the Norwegian air forces as an instructor and later fighter pilot at the training camp "Little Norway". [5]

Joining the Royal Canadian Air Force

Contrary to what was planned, Charles Sundby joins the Royal Canadian Air Force (C 3000). He is a flight instructor at No. 13 Operational and Training Squadron in British Columbia until February 1942. [6]

Royal Air Force Ferry Command

On 4 May 1942 Charles Sundby reports to Royal Air Force Ferry Command at Montreal. His first short-range delivery flight, a Lockheed Hudson IIIA (BW720), takes place on 30 May 1942.

On 12 June 1942 he commences his first trans-Atlantic delivery, Ventura (AE782), departing from Presque Isle via Goose Bay and Greenland arriving in Britain on 15 or 16 June 1942. During the next months he delivers several aircraft: Ventura (AJ213) to Britain, B-25 (FL217) to Britain, Hudson VI (FK498) to Cairo.

He leaves the Ferry Command in the end of October 1942; according to his crew card the last entry is on 29 October 1942, but according to his daughter he leaves on 23 October 1942. [7]

China National Aviation Corporation

In November 1942 he signs a contract with China National Aviation Corporation and flies to India. In December 1942, he checks out as a Captain/first pilot. Between 1942 and 1945, he flies supplies and troops over the Himalayas between India and China. He flies about 600 flights over "the Hump." [8]

He is given home leave in 1944 and visits friends and family in the USA and Canada. On 25 May 1944 he arrives in Miami, Florida, and he crosses the US/Canadian border on 6 July 1944. [9]In September, he returns to India.

After the War, in the fall of 1945, he returns to Denmark for a short visit to reunite with his wife. They fly back to India and settle in the Far East, where he continues as a pilot with China National Aviation Corporation.

A Tragic Accident

On 21 December 1948 Charles Sundby captains one of three DC-4's leaving Shanghai for Hong Kong. Due to inaccurate weather information the pilots are not aware of very bad weather conditions in Hong Kong.

The DC-4 of Charles Sundby (XT-104) strikes a mountain top near Hong Kong at full power. All on-board are killed. Among these is the grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and Senior Vice President of the China National Aviation Corporation Quentin Roosevelt. [10]

This text has been compiled with the help of Charles Sundby's daughter, who has also written a more comprehensive account found for www.cnac.org. The Charles M. Sundby archive of documents and photos, along with a more extensive biography and a fuller account of the Basalt Island crash, has been donated by his daughter to the Aviation Library & Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum at the San Francisco International Airport.


  1. Valby parish record
  2. www.cnac.org
  3. www.cnac.org, Clauson Kaas, 1943, HfS, 1940
  4. www.cnac.org, Ancker, 2001
  5. www.cnac.org, Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956
  6. www.cnac.org, Ancker, 2001
  7. www.cnac.org, Hugh Halliday
  8. www.cnac.org, Ancker, 2001, FLYV, 1946
  9. Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956
  10. www.cnac.org, Stars and Stripes