Spitfires in The Royal Danish Air force

After the liberation from the German occupation in May 1945 Denmark had no aircraft of any significance. It would have been quite easy for the Danish Army Air Force to take over and operate some of the many aircraft that the Germans left behind when retreating, however, it was decided that all these aircraft should be brought out of action. By setting off a hand grenade in the cockpits of the aircraft it looked like an act of hate against all that was German, but in reality it was the English authorities that ordered that all German aircraft should be destroyed. At the Jalta conference it was decided that all German military equipment should destroyed.

When things cooled down during 1948 and 1949 Denmark received a number of aircraft as weapon aide. It was 38 Spitfires, all of the type HF Mk. IXE with Merlin 70 engines. Most of them were of the high back conventional type, however, a few of them were low-back types. A further 4 Spitfires were delivered for use as instructional airframes at the aircraft mechanics schools. The photos from that time shows that aircraft were delivered configured with both normal and clipped wings and with standard rudders and the pointed broad chord type. The aircraft were gradually adapted to the same standard with normal wingtips and broad chord rudders, which is shown on pictures and footage.

At that time aviation was much different from what it is today; there were not the same regulations and red-tape, which are required today. If an aircraft needed repair - then you repaired it. Of course you had repair manuals which should be adhered to, however, flying was more important, so in those days you were more result-oriented than process-oriented as you are today.

Quite a number of aircraft and pilots were lost during that period. Eight of the Mk. IX'es were written off because of accidents, which claimed the lives of four of the pilots. One pilot was killed when he crashed during a blizzard, one when he collided with a tractor during an simulated attack on a highway, one when he crashed into the waters near Copenhagen for unknown reasons, and one also just crashed for no apparent reason. When you returned from a patrol the pilots flew right against the control tower and broke off in the last second before hitting the tower. However, this was stopped when a Dutch pilot was killed when crashing through the tower at an airfield in Holland.

In general you were allowed to fly as you pleased and at low level - very low level - which contributed to most of the accidents. During such a low-level flight over Ringkoebing Fjord a pilot succeeded in cutting off 8" of the prop blades when they struck the water. The pilot was unaware of this until he returned to AFB Karup where a horrified mechanic brought the situation to the pilot's attention.

A tail wheel was torn off against a fence when it was attempted to fly below some high-tension wires... etc. etc.

A story tells that a high-ranking officer was to keep his flying status on Spitfires. He was used to flying the high-back Spitfires, however, this flight was to be flown in a low-back Spitfire in which you open and close the hood by cranking a small handle on the starboard side of the cockpit. On the high-back Spitfires you just pull the handle on the hood itself. The officer took-off with the hood left open as he was supposed to and when he got airborne he wanted to close the it by pulling the handle. Unfortunately on the low-back Spitfires this handle is for emergency jettisoning the hood. The officer pulled the handle and immediately the hood took off on its own. The officer had to make a quick return to the airfield without his hood but with blushing ears. The morale of this story: read the manual and follow the check-list.

In a clipped-wing Spitfire another pilot once made some unfortunate maneuvers at very low altitude during which he practically buried the pitot tube in the ground when ripping off the pitot tube from the port wing. Man and aircraft continued without problems, however, returning to the airfield without a functional airspeed indicator. The pitot tube had to be dug up from the ground.

National sovereignty should be maintained - also during winter - which meant taking-off from winter-soft grass airfields. During one winter the airfield at Air Base Værløse was so soft that it was not possible to take off safely. Anyway the aircraft had to fly so guards were placed between the hangers in order to keep the traffic on the airfield back while the royal Spitfires took off from the concrete apron in front of the hangers a concrete road that lead to an ammunitions depot.

Towards the end of the service life of the Spitfire in the RDAF the pilots were allowed to do what they wanted with the Spitfires because they were going to be chopped up anyway. The rough handling that the Spitfires were subjected to really indicated what a Spitfire was able to endure.....

I want to express my thanks and appreciation towards "Flyvevåbnets Historiske Samling" (RDAF Historical Collection) because they took the time to have me around while they were extremely busy preparing for RDAF's fiftieth anniversary and for letting me use the pictures from their archives in this section of my web-site.

Also many thanks to Folmer ("MAS") and Mortimer for some very enjoyable hours, where the 2 ex-Spitfire pilots entertained with their memories of times where they really went for it. Both could confirm that the Spitfire was the best aircraft they had ever flown.

Click here to see which Spitfires the Royal Danish Air Force took delivery of.

Click here to see more pictures of Spitfires in the RDAF.

422 carrying the marking "Arrigtrolden", which is the Danish word for a "spitfire". - click for large picture

This type of accident was not unique, because a Spitfire is rather nose heavy on the ground and easily noses-over if you are not careful with the brakes or if the ground is heavy and wet. - click for large picture

408 with Mortimer at the controls - click for large picture

Low and fast...

A PR Spitfire during preparation