Danish WW2 Pilots

Plt Off. Jørgen Billy Thalbitzer

(1920 - 1943)

Jørgen Thalbitzer was one of several Danish pilots who joined Royal Air Force early in the war and was attached to 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron.

Jørgen Thalbitzer is born on 22 May 1920. He is the son of Billy Thalbitzer. He is interested in flying from an early age. In 1939, he qualifies for a private pilot's certificate. At the time, he is only 18 years old even though the minimum age is 19 years of age to qualify for the certificate.

On 26 December 1940, he leaves Denmark and travels to Istanbul, Turkey. From here he is known to have travelled to Cyprus, Suez, and Cape Town to London. He is accompanied by Sigfred Johannes Christophersen, who is later to become British agent in Denmark and who is killed in 1943, while in RAF service.

Jørgen Thalbitzer on the wing of Spitfire Vb BL855 (‘AZ-U Niels Ebbesen’) of 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron on 10 April 1942 at RAF Station Coltishall
Jørgen Thalbitzer on the wing of Spitfire Vb BL855 (‘AZ-U Niels Ebbesen’) of 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron on 10 April 1942 at RAF Station Coltishall, Source: The Royal Danish Library

It is not clear, when he volunteers for Royal Air Force, but it is certain that he is in London in April 1941. Furthermore, it is known that he is appointed Pilot Officer on 28 October 1941. [1]

In the Royal Air Force

On 9 April 1942, he represents the very same pilots at a ceremony in Downing Street 10, at which three Danish presentation Spitfires were donated by Free Danes around the world.

He is also, as the photo verifies, present at RAF Station Coltishall where the aircraft were presented to the Royal Air Force the next day.

The last mission

On 23 July 1942, Jørgen Thalbitzer is involved in a Mass Rhubarb. [2]

Jørgen Thalbitzer was taking of from Portreath, Cornwall, at 15.20 in Spitfire Vb, AB864 (AZ-). He is shot down, but manages to crash land. For some time he is hiding in France, but eventually he is captured. He becomes prisoner of war.

In the 234 Squadron ORB it is described as follows:

The Squadron carried out a low level attack between Plouescat and Guissmey [possibly Guissény, ed.]. Enemy opposition (fighters) were encontered, togehter with light flak and machine gun fire from Landereau. Radio masts, high tension cables, and masts, goods trucks, signal box and water tower were attacked. [3]

Under the presumed name John Thomson, he is imprisoned in Stalag Luft III (Gefangennummer 629), where he joins the team of escapists. As a result he ends up in a punishment camp at Schubin, Poland (Oflag XXIB). [4]

Escapes from captivity, but drowns

In March 1943 Jørgen Thalbitzer is among more than 30 prisoners to escape from the camp. Jørgen is teamed up with Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Buckley of the Fleet Air Arm, who had chaired the Escape Committee at Schubin. The plan is to reach Stettin on foot and to board a Danish vessel. Reaching Stettin they are without luck as there are no Danish vessels. They jump on a freight train for Rostock, but have no more luck here. In the end they board a vessel in Flensburg.

They eventually arrive in Copenhagen where Jørgen leaves Buckley in the ship while he visits his family. On the night between 28 and 29 March 1943 they attempt to cross the Sound between Denmark and Sweden, but they disappear possibly being hit by a larger vessel. The body of Buckley is never found, but the body of Jørgen washes ashore some months later. He is identified by his signet ring. [5]


  1. Ryan, 2007, Thalbitzer, 1945
  2. Foreman, 2001
  3. AIR 27/1489
  4. Ash, 2006, Thalbitzer, 1945
  5. Ash, 2006, Thalbitzer, 1945