Above: An unknown Danish RAF volunteer, wearing a ‘Danmark’ shoulder flash, listening to speeches on Constitution Day 1943, an event organised by exiled Danes in Britain. He is seated next to two men wearing the Canada shoulder flash. Danish National Museum, FHM-204138.
From early on in the war, Danish volunteers in the RAF wanted to distinguish themselves as Danes in Allied service. One way of doing that was to wear a national shoulder flash on the uniform.
Denmark had been invaded by German troops on 9 April 1940. In London, Danes in exile organised and on 30 September 1940 the Danish Council was founded. From the very beginning the Danish Council housed a Recruiting Office for Danish Nationals. Formally, the Recruiting Office was British, but in contrast to other similar offices, it was solely involved in the recruitment of Danish nationals.
Danish men and women, who had volunteered to become members of the different branches of the British forces, wished to be identified as Danes in British service.
In October 1941, Captain Werner M. Iversen, who was in charge of the Recruiting Office, asked the Air Ministry for permission to be accorded to Danes serving in the Royal Air Force to wear a distinguishing shoulder flash bearing the word “DANMARK”. The situation at this point, according to Iversen, was that there was an inconsistent acceptance of the flash in the Royal Air Force; it was accepted in some units, but not in other units. To complicate things further, Danish volunteers in the Army’s East Kent Regiment — the “Buffs” — were allowed to wear a shoulder flash on the left shoulder and the Danish flag on the right.
The Air Ministry’s response was received on 24 October 1941:
Your request has received very full consideration but it is regretted that the permission sought cannot be given.
As Captain Iversen had referred to the Danes in the Buffs being allowed to wear a shoulder flash, the letter continued:
I note your remarks that those Danes who have volunteered for service in the “Buffs” have obtained permission to wear such a distinguishing mark but I am informed that this concession was given in view of the personal connection which His Majesty, The King of Denmark has with that Regiment.
His Majesty King Christian X was an honorary colonel in the East Kent Regiment.
This shoulder flash on the uniform of F/S V M Mortensen is on display in the Royal Danish Arsenal Museum in Copenhagen. It reads ‘Denmark’, not ‘Danmark’ as in the shoulder flashes of the 1942 and 1943 photographs shown here. It is thought that ‘Denmark’ is the spelling finally settled upon by the Air Ministry. Ed.
The rejection by the Air Ministry of permission for Danish volunteers to wear the shoulder flash must have been disappointing. The Danish Council had just begun to collect funds for a Danish Spitfire Fund aiming to set up a Danish air unit, equipped with Danish Spitfires and manned by Danish pilots.
The Danes were not alone in wishing to distinguish themselves though a national shoulder flash. In October 1941, a the time of Captain Iversen’s request, personnel from Rhodesia (October 1940), Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (March 1941) and Newfoundland (July 1941) had received formal permission to wear such a flash. Belgians and Czechoslovakians, whose air forces in exile also used the RAF uniform, had been allowed to wear a national shoulder flash since 1940.
The Danes had to wait for permission to wear the flash. It was not until 30 August 1944, that Flying Officer E Schalburg, who had succeeded Captain Iversen in the Recruiting Office, was able to inform the Working Committee of the Danish Council that the Air Ministry, finally, had permitted the use of the Danish shoulder flash.
The Danish RAF-pilot Alfred Greve Frandsen on the left and Captain Michael W. Iversen at the celebration of the Danish Constitution Day in 1942. The photo was arranged for publicity purposes; the Danish flash was not officially allowed by the RAF until 1944, but it was important for the Danish Council to show the Danish support for the Allied cause. Danish National Museum”, FHM204344
As early as in September 1942, the Imperial War Museum, ‘endeavouring to make a complete collection of the badges and buttons of the armed services…’ asked the Recruiting Office for any special uniform markings worn by Danish servicemen. Captain Iversen forwarded a set of shoulder flashes of the design used by the Buffs. In their reply, the museum noted that:
Should Danish volunteers in the Royal Navy and RAF wear distinguishing flashes at any later date we would be very glad to receive specimens.
It is not clear from the documents, if a set of Danish shoulder flashes as worn in the Royal Air Force were sent to the Imperial War Museum at a later date.
Mikkel Plannthin is a Danish historian and a leading expert on Danes in the Allied air forces of the Second World War. He is the author of Britain’s Victory, Denmark’s Freedom (Fonthill Media, 2017) on this subject and a number of aviation articles in Danish He is the creator of Danish WW2 Pilots, a website commemorating these men and women.
 Sørensen, J., For Danmarks ære, Danskere i allieret krigstjeneste 1939-45, Informations Forlag 2011.
 DNA: 10194/72, Danske Råd i London, Rekrutteringskontoret, pakke 72 (Letter of 22 October 1941 from Captain Werner M. Iversen, Recruiting Officer, Danish Nationals to Director of Personal Services, Air Ministry).
 DNA: 10194/72, Danske Råd i London, Rekrutteringskontoret (Letter of 24 November 1941 from the Director of Personal Services, Air Ministry, to Captain Werner M. Iversen, Recruiting Officer, Danish Nationals).
 Cormack, A, The Royal Air Force, 1939-45, Osprey, 1990.
 DNA: 10194/72, Danske Råd i London, Rekrutteringskontoret (correspondence with IWM).
 DNA: Christmas Møllers Privatarkiv, pk. 50 (Minutes of the 169th meeting of the Working Committee).