Danish WW2 Pilots

Arne Hroar Helvard

(1915 - 1943)

Arne Hroar Helvard is trained as pilot in the Naval Air Service before the war. He manages to escape to England in 1942 and volunteers for Royal Air Force. He is killed in action on 22 June 1943 in Belgium.

Arne Hroar Helvard is born on 10 March 1915 in Hobro, Denmark. In the mid 1930’s he is training on gliders at the Polytechnic in Copenhagen together with other enthusiasts. Among these is another later RAF pilot, namely Thomas Sneum with whom he years later escapes to England. [1]

Trained as Pilot in the Danish Naval Air Service

He joins the Danish Navy and is trained as pilot (pilot’s certificate 77/1936) in the Naval Air Service. The class of 1936 also includes the later Luftwaffe pilots Poul Sommer and Wolfgang Fabian. On 22 december 1935, he is promoted to Flyverløjtnant af 2den Grad (Flying Officer) and on 1 January 1939 he is promoted to Flyverløjtnant af 1ste Grad (Flight Lieutenant). [2]

Following the German occupation Helvard is demobilized on 30 April 1940. He is employed at the Kastrup Airport where he monitored arrivals and departures of German aircraft. [3]

On 28 March 1942, Arne Hroar Helvard and Thomas Sneum escape to Sweden by crossing the Sound then covered by ice. They walk from the seaside town Skodsborg, but have to land on the island Hven. They are arrested by the Swedish police and imprisoned for 67 days. They manage to avoid being turned over to the German authorities in Denmark.

They both manage to get to England. Initially they are imprisoned in the Brixton Prison in London. They are set free in mid-June 1942. Arne Hroar Helvard is accepted in the Royal Air Force (128521, RAFVR). According to some sources he is initially stationed in North Africa flying Handley Page Hampden. This aircraft did not fly in North Africa. [4]

He is later transferred to England and posted to No. 1651 Conversion Unit (CU), Wratting Common, Cambridgeshire, converting to Short Stirling Mk. III. Completing the conversion he is posted to No. 218 Squadron. [5]

The Last Mission

On 22 June 1943, Short Stirling Mk. III (BK712 'HA-D') takes off from Downham Market at 0014 hrs. The aircraft is part of a 705 aircraft strong force heading for Krefeld in Germany. The aircraft is captained by P/O William Golder Shillinglaw (412846, RAAF).

As the force approaches the target visibility is good and the Pathfinders manage to produce an almost perfect marking effort. Ground-markers from Oboe Mosquitos are baked up by heavier markers by the Pathfinders. 619 aircraft manage to bomb the markers resulting in more than 450 achieving bombing photographs within a 3-mile radius of the centre of the target. A large area of fire develops and rage for several hours. 44 aircraft or 6.2 per cent of the force is lost.

But BK712 never makes it to the target. The aircraft is successfully attacked by a German night fighter. The crew is the 13th victim of Leutnant Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer of II./NJG1. At 0133 hrs. the aircraft crashes at Langdorp in Belgium. Langdorp is situated about 60 km North-east of Bruxelles.

The eight crew members are all killed. Apart from Helvard and Shillinglaw these are:

  • 1258721 Sgt. R. P. Goward (Flight Engineer)
  • 1241848 Sgt. P. D. McArdle (Navigator)
  • 1167033 Sgt. T. R. Lunn (Bomb Aimer)
  • NZ404092, RNZAF F/Sgt. Douglas Joseph Ashby-Peckham (Wireless Operator)
  • 1581644 Sgt. A. E. Gurney (Air Gunner)
  • 1314568 Sgt. E. D. Hart (Air Gunner).

A Final Rest

The crew is buried the same day in a common grave in Langdorp churchyard. Military honours are accorded the deceased by a party of 3-4 German officers and about 6 soldiers. Three rounds are fired over the graves. No civilians are allowed to participate, but a Union Jack is hung over the grave and a floral tribute is placed as well.

At the time of the ceremony only three of the crew members are identified: Sgt. Hart, Sgt. Lunn and Sgt. Turton. 1438341 Sgt. Turton is a presumed name of Helvard. It is likely that he has used this to protect his family. Furthermore, initially it is thought that only 7 bodies are recovered leading to speculation on a possible survivor. Investigating the crash the after the war the Air Ministry concludes that the eight crew members died instantly in the crash. [6]


  1. Treeless og Sund, 2004, HfS
  2. Ancker, 2001, Clauson Kaas, 1943, HfS
  3. Ryan, 2008
  4. Troelsen og Sund, 2004, Ryan, 2008, Bjørnson, 2012
  5. host.raf38group.org/218squadron
  6. Chorley, 2004; NAA – 1076185