Danish WW2 Pilots

Fg Off. Niels Juul Rysensteen Buchwald

(1915 - 1944)

Niels Juul Rysensteen Buchwald had served in the Naval Air Service before the war. He escaped to Britain in 1942 and volunteered for the Royal Air Force. He was killed in October 1944 during an operation over the Netherlands.

Niels Juul Rysensteen Buchwald was born on 21 August 1917 in Copenhagen. He was the son of August Sofus Ragnar von Buchwald and Baroness Bodil Buchwald (née Juul-Rysensteen).[1]

Buchwald was educated at the Cathedral School in Viborg, graduating in 1934. During a stay in England, he obtained a civil aviation license at Ford Aerodrome in Sussex. After returning home, he commenced studies in social science at the University of Copenhagen. Restless of nature and seeking adventure, he joined the Navy in 1937, and trained as pilot in the Naval Air Service (pilot’s certificate 91/1938).[2] Buchwald trained with several pilots later in Allied service.

He was discharged from the navy in 1940 following an incident of reckless flying in a civilian aircraft and returned to his university studies.

Escape from Denmark

Buchwald managed to escape from occupied Denmark in August 1942, paddling the Sound between Denmark and Sweden in a kayak. In England, he reported to the Recruiting Office, Danish Nationals, in January 1943.

Fg Off. N. J. R. Buchwald (The Museum of Danish Resistance).

Buchwald volunteered for Royal Air Force and was accepted as fighter pilot (143462, RAFVR). On 30 March 1943, he was attached to 5 (P)AFU (No. 52 Intake), at Tern Hill. He had by then reached the rank of Acting Pilot Officer. At the end of advanced training, in August 1943, he was posted to 61 OTU at RAF Rednal before being posted to 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron.[3]

Buchwald arrived at the squadron as plans for the squadron to be posted overseas had just been cancelled. The squadron pilots and ground crews had transferred to RAF West Malling in Kent and practice flying commenced only days before Buchwald’s arrival. A number of Danish fighter pilots served at this squadron during the war. FS Jørgen Kjeldbæk had arrived in late May 1943.[4]

The squadron recommenced operational flying on 19 August 1943. Two weeks later, on 3 September 1943, Buchwald flew his first operation, escorting Marauders bombing an aerodrome north of Lille. The Ramrod operations continued through the week and Buchwald flew another two operations. On 16 September 1943, 234 Squadron was moved from West Malling to Southend-on-Sea on a gunnery training course until 7 October.

222 (Natal) Squadron

Buchwald and Kjeldbæk were posted to 222 (Natal) Squadron at RAF Hornchurch,[5] while the remaining pilots were sent on leave pending posting to Australia. Buchwald was to remain at this squadron for about a year, while Kjeldbæk moved to 501 Squadron within the month.

Buchwald took off on his first operation at the squadron on 8 October (Ramrod 261). This operation was typical of the operations carried out by 222 Squadron at the time: mainly Ramrod operations carried out in connection with US 9th Air Force medium bombers, bombing targets in France, Belgium and Holland. The squadron flew as fighter cover or carried out diversional sweeps, trying to draw the attention of the German fighters in the area. On 18 October, the weather had cleared, and Buchwald took part in no less than three operations during the day (Ramrods 272–274).

Two days later, on 20 October, both Buchwald and Kjeldbæk were part of the operation as the wing was rushed off in support of B-27 Fortresses going to Germany, alongside the North Weald Wing.

On 22 October, Buchwald and Kjeldbæk engaged in the first dogfights while at the squadron. The Hornchurch Wing was acting as 3rd Fighter Sweep while seventy-two Marauders attacked the Evreax/Fauville aerodrome (Ramrod 280). In the Bapaume area, a mixed group of twelve to fifteen Bf 109s and Fw 190s were approaching the squadron, and the wing prepared to engage and bounce the enemy aircraft from up sun. While 485 Squadron remained above as top cover, the two other squadrons engaged the enemy and several dogfights followed.

Blue and Red sections of 222 Squadron dived on a section of enemy aircraft, with the majority of these taking evasive action before the Spitfires came close, although Blue section still managed to approach a section of five enemy aircraft. Flt Lt D. F. Lanton (Blue 1) was leading the attack, closely followed by Kjeldbæk who was flying as Blue 2. Lanton concentrated his effort on a Bf 109, firing a burst with his machine guns from a distance of 600 yards; however, owing to the speed of the dive, he was soon able to close in on the aircraft. He recommenced firing. Keeping his finger on the button, he fired for eight seconds and saw strikes all over the aircraft. He only stopped as he had to break off violently to avoid collision with the aircraft. Kjeldbæk, who was following him, saw the strikes as well, and, after Lanton broke off, he saw a very large piece falling off the centre of fuselage, which caused the Bf 109 to flick over and disappear to the ground. Kjeldbæk was unable to say what the piece might have been: being the size of a man, it might have been the pilot; but it could have been the engine, or a considerable part of the fuselage. Returning to base, Lanton claimed one Bf 109 probably destroyed. Buchwald, flying as Blue 4, also fired a short burst from his machine guns at one of the other aircrafts, but he saw no strikes. The Wing returned to base at 11.00 hours.

Buchwald and Kjeldbæk flew a couple of operations during the remaining part of October. On the 28th, Kjeldbæk proceeded to 501 Squadron. Buchwald remained at 222 Squadron. On 15 November, the Hornchurch Wing officially became 135 Airfield, 84 Group, in a large reorganisation of Fighter Command. The organisational change does not seem to have changed much in the day-to-day life of Buchwald. He flew another nine operations until the end of the year. The fighter squadrons of 2TAF were systematically withdrawn from operations at this point to receive further training. Towards the end of the year, 222 Squadron was posted to Woodvale for training. The squadron returned to Hornchurch on 12 March.[6]

'Noball' Targets

The following day, the squadron was fully operational again, acting as close escort to thirty-six B-26 Marauders bombing ‘Noball’ targets in the Fonges area (Ramrod 649). Buchwald was part of the operation. For some time, the squadron had supported bombers attacking construction sites in Northern France, but this was the first time the code name for V-1 construction sites was used in the operational record book. This was one of many operations in support of bombers attacking V-1 construction sites. Other targets for the ramrod operations during this period were marshalling yards and railway junctions. The squadron prepared for the coming invasion and to become a mobile unit on the continent. On the first day of April, the squadron carried out a practice move to Great Stamford, where they spent the night. A few days later, on the 4th, the squadron moved to Southend-at-Sea for a bombing course. The squadron did not return to Hornchurch. Instead, on 11 April, 135 Airfield proceeded to RAF Selsey, an advanced landing ground near Church Norton on the Channel coast. The bombing practice was soon used for operational purposes. On 18 April 1944, the wing carried out its first dive-bombing attack, attacking a Noball target situated in a small wood north of the Forest de Crescy. Buchwald was part of the attack, flying in Spitfire IX LF (MK774). Excellent results were obtained from the bombing, and no flak was experienced during the operation. The squadron continued providing support to medium bombers bombing in Northern France, but, from then on, the squadron carried out bombing operations by themselves as well.

During May, as the invasion got closer, the frequency of the operations increased. Buchwald participated in thirteen operations during the month; a mix of escort operations and dive-bombing of Noball sites and transport targets. When carrying out dive-bombing operations at squadron strength, eight aircraft would be bombing and four would operate as fighter cover. However, nothing was seen of the Luftwaffe—while the squadron experienced flak from the ground, no enemy aircraft were reported during the entire month.[7]

Normandy Landings

On 6 June 1944, the landings in Normandy were finally carried out after years of preparation. The experience from previous landings proved that air superiority was vital to a successful invasion, and so, on the first day of the operation, more than 1,500 fighter sorties were carried out over the beachhead by the Allied air forces. In addition to this, about 1,800 sorties were flown as escorts to troop carriers and bombers in the area.[8] Several Danish fighter pilots were part of this immense operation from the early morning.

During the first days of June 1944, at airfields along the Channel coasts, fighter squadrons began preparations for the coming invasion. The 4th was a fine day at RAF Selsey, but, even though Buchwald and the other pilots were at readiness all day, there was no flying. During the day, all aircraft of 222 Squadron had black and white stripes painted on the wings and fuselage. The next day, the weather was gusty and low cloud was hanging over the airfield. There was no flying. At 23.15 hours, Buchwald and the other pilots reported to Intelligence and were briefed by Wg Cdr P. J. Simpson on the landing operation the following day (OperationNeptune). Buchwald only had a couple of hours of sleep, as the squadron was called out at 03.30 hours. They had tea and sandwiches at 04.00 hours.

Buchwald took off at 05.40 hours on his first operation of the day, flying in Spitfire IX LF (MK774). The squadron patrolled at 5,000 feet offshore of the British beaches—Sword, Gold and Juno—and American beaches—Omaha and Utah. A very heavy ‘light flak’ was experienced from the British Naval vessels just outside of Le Havre and from the port itself, but this was the only opposition the squadron encountered. They patrolled for about 50 minutes before returning to Selsey. The pilots were amazed at the massive number of ships engaged in the operation. Buchwald did not participate in the second patrol of the day, but he was airborne again when the wing carried out a third patrol over the assault area in the afternoon. This time, four Ju 88s were reported, and a section gave chase to them. One of the Spitfires fired a burst at one of the Ju 88s, but they went into cloud and disappeared. The last patrol was carried out at 19.00 hours, without Buchwald participating. At this point, the pilots reported that the landings seemed to be going very well.

Buchwald flew twenty-one patrols over Normandy during the month of June, almost all entirely devoted to this kind of operation. The operations on the 14th was an exception. Buchwald took part in an escort to Bomber Command, carrying out the first daylight attack since May 1943. This was the first time that the squadron escorted Bomber Command aircraft and—without knowing it—Buchwald was providing escort to the Danish rear gunner FS Andreas Petersen, who was in position in one of the Lancasters.

About two weeks later, on 29 June, Buchwald touched down on French soil for the first time. The squadron was carrying out a patrol of the beaches in poor weather. As the weather further deteriorated, the squadron had to land in Normandy. Two sections landed at B.2 Bazenville and a third landed at A.4 Deux Jumeaux, where they spent their first night in France. They remained in France the following day, patrolling from these landing grounds, before returning to their new base, Coolham. As June closed, Buchwald had experienced the busiest month of his operational career. He had carried out twenty-four operations during the month, the majority of which were patrols of the Normandy beachhead. The small number of enemy aircraft they had met in the air was a testimonial of the Allied air supremacy.

Over the Continent

At the beginning of July, Buchwald and the rest of 222 Squadron moved from Coolham to Funtington. A few days later, Buchwald was part of the close escort as a large force of Lancasters and Halifaxes bombed enemy troop concentrations north of Caen, in support of the Canadian First and the British Second Army. Once again, the Danish rear gunner Andreas Petersen was among the Lancaster crews.

On 24 July, the squadron observed enemy aircraft in large numbers for the first time in weeks. The squadron was carrying out a fighter sweep accompanied by 349 Squadron in the Chartres-Evreux area (Rodeo 378); past Rouen, enemy aircraft were reported on a northerly course. At first, they were reported by 349 Squadron to be friendly, but, as they got closer, it turned out to be sixteen Fw 190s. The enemy aircraft rolled over and disappeared, as the squadron turned against them. Later, another four Fw 190s were chased, but the squadron failed to make contact.

The squadron continued to provide support for daylight operations against Noball sites and transport targets during August. The many daylight operations carried out by the Bomber Command—who had been operating primarily at night for the last few years—in the late hours of the day over France indicate that the Luftwaffe was no longer considered a severe threat in this area. On 19 August, the squadron moved to Tangmere en route for France. The air party left on the 26th in thirteen Dakotas, and the squadron finally moved to the new landing ground, B.17 Carpiquet, on the 31st. Meanwhile operations continued: Buchwald had carried out a total of twenty-five operations during July and August.

Buchwald moved with 222 Squadron to B.17 Carpiquet, near Caen, at the beginning of September, but conditions at the landing ground were difficult. On 10 September, the squadron moved to B.35 Godelemesnil near Le Treport, and two days later they continued to B.53 Merville, near the Belgian border.

Operations were few in the beginning of the month. By now, the squadron was operating in

a more tactical role than previously, supporting the armies fighting in Belgium and Holland. Buchwald had flown nearly 100 operations over the past year, and the war was wearing him down.[9] He had been up for operational leave, but he had chosen to stay at the squadron.[10] Even if few enemy aircraft were seen, flying over enemy controlled territory was still dangerous. On 6 October, the

squadron bombed and strafed self-propelled guns in a wood north of Baarle Nassau. Buchwald returned with the starboard mainplane ‘bent upwards’.[11]

The Last Mission

A week later, on 13 October 1944, Buchwald was not as lucky. The squadron was airborne from Merville at 12.55 hours on a skip bombing and strafing mission, with Buchwald flying in Spitfire IX LF (PT718). The squadron attacked a German strongpoint in a village at Schoondijke, and Buchwald’s section also strafed a number of motorised enemy transport vehicles entering the village. Following the second attack, Buchwald, who was flying as Red 4, was nowhere to be seen, despite the section searching for him. Buchwald had been killed. According to information from locals in the area, Buchwald had tried to fly between the barn and the house of a local farm, when his wings had hit the barn. The aircraft had continued through a couple of trees and had landed on a potato shed. It is thus believed that he was diving too low during the attack, rather than having been shot down.

Fg Off. N. J. R. Buchwald's grave in Holland (The Royal Danish Library).

Buchwald was initially buried in Holland (se photo), but in 1946 a Danish relief worker in Holland discovers the grave. On 4 November 1946, he is repatriated in a ceremony in the Cathedral in Viborg. He is buried at Bislev Cemetery.


[1] DNA: Parish register, Garnison Sogn.

[2] Birkeland,I kamp for Danmark (2013), p. 158.

[3] Pontoppidan and Teisen,Danske søofficerer 1933–1982 (1984), p. 189.

[4] NA: AIR 27/1439.

[5] NA: AIR 27/1372.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Shores and Thomas,2nd Tactical Air Force. Vol. 1 (2004), p. 127.

[9] Reventlow,I dansk tjeneste (1956), p. 160–161.

[10] Pontoppidan and Teisen, op. cit., p. 189.

[11] NA: AIR 27/1372.