Danish WW2 Pilots

Sgt Henner Friser Frederiksen

(1913 - 1992)

Henner Friser Frederiksen was employed by the East Asiatic Company in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur before the war. He volunteered for the Malayan Volunteer Air Force in late 1940 and was mobilised in December 1941. He served with the air force until the retreat from Java in February 1942.

Henner Friser Frederiksen was born on 21 April 1913 in Gentofte, north of Copenhagen, the son of adjunct professor Holger Frederiksen and Ingeborg Jensine Frederiksen (née Berthelsen).[1] His father was a teacher at the Ordrup Gymnasium from which Frederiksen graduated in 1929.

Frederiksen was employed by the East Asiatic Company in Copenhagen that same year. In 1936, he moved to the company’s office in Bangkok, in 1937, to Singapore and, in 1939, he became manager of the office in Kuala Lumpur.[2]

Frederiksen received flying training in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur before the war.

Malayan Volunteer Air Force

The Malayan Volunteer Air Force (MVAF) was formed at Kallang in August 1940, following the outbreak of war in Europe. MVAF succeeded the Straits Settlements Volunteer Air Force (SSVAF), which had been created in 1936 with the goal of assisting the RAF in the defence of Singapore. The members came from all walks of life, and included men from different ethnic origins. When the war broke out in Europe in 1939, the SSVAF was disbanded, and qualified members enlisted in the RAF. The remaining members were reorganised into the MVAF, with additional personnel for the new air force recruited from the local civilian flying clubs, each constituting a flight. In addition to the flight, the MVAF was responsible for an Elementary Flying Training School, which was financed by the Malayan Government. Flying training here commenced in September 1940 with a series of courses in Singapore that aimed to bring pilots up to the standard required by the RAF. In November 1940, foreign nationals became eligible to join the MVAF and the Flying Training School if approved by the Governor. The amendment of the requirements aimed at attracting a number of experienced pilots in the Danish community, among others. These men had already applied for enrolment in the MVAF and expressed a desire to be allowed to enter the Flying Training.[3] To enrol in the MVAF, the candidates had to possess a valid ‘A’ license and be recommended by the local flying club committee. Candidates were enrolled as a leading aircraftman or a pilot under training. The pilots then had to obtain Club certificates, including passenger and cross-country tests, to be promoted to Acting Sgt Pilots. They were then eligible to attend the continuous training camp in Singapore; this lasted three weeks, during which the pilots followed an intensive training programme, including lectures on theory of flight, airmanship, administration, reconnaissance, aero-engines, rigging, and meteorology. At the end of the course, the pilots had to pass written and oral examinations and flying tests to qualify for the MVAF ‘wings’. On passing, the pilots were promoted to the rank of Sgt Pilot. The pilots then returned home, but carried out a non-continuous training programme at their own flying club to maintain proficiency as pilots.

Air Vice Marshal C. V. H. Pulford, Air Officer Commanding RAF Far East, inspects trainees of the Malayan Volunteer Air Force at Sembawang, Singapore. (© IWM CF 1269)
Air Vice Marshal C. V. H. Pulford, Air Officer Commanding RAF Far East, inspects trainees of the Malayan Volunteer Air Force at Sembawang, Singapore. (© IWM CF 1269)

At the beginning of December 1941, MVAF was organised into five separate flights. The air force operated a very varied inventory of aircraft, including a number of Moth Majors, Tiger Moths, and Dragon Rapides. In the course of the fighting in South-East Asia, MVAF pilots would carry out a large number of operations in support of the Allied troops, including reconnaissance flights, search missions, sea patrols and bombing sorties.[4] In his post-war report on the air operations during the campaign from December 1941 to March 1942, Air Vice-Marshal P. C. Maltby recognised the contribution of the MVAF.[5]

Because of the loss of the original records of the MVAF, a brief record was compiled during the war from the memory of some of the volunteers. Frederiksen was among the contributors; therefore, his story is the most well-documented among the Danish volunteers.

'C' Flight

Henrichsen volunteered for MVAF in late 1940, logging his first flight as part of the air force on 8 January 1941. He qualified for his wings during the year, and was promoted to sergeant (597, MVAF).[6] Frederiksen was part of ‘C’ Flight, based at Kuala Lumpur under Plt Off. Thomas’ command.

On 1 December 1941, Frederiksen and other members of the flight were warned to stand by for mobilisation, although some members of the flight were allowed to return to their civil occupation after reporting. Following the Japanese invasion, nearly all members of the flight were mobilised, and the aircraft were camouflaged. On 9 December, the RAF airfields in the northern part of Malaya, including ‘E’ flight at Panang, were heavily attacked by the Japanese, and all serviceable aircraft of ‘C’, ‘D’, and ‘E’ flights were ordered to proceed to Kahang in Johore, creating a composite flight designated ‘The Detached Flight’. The remaining aircraft and personnel of the ‘C’ Flight at Kuala Lumpur proceeded to Singapore on 30 December 1941.[7] Frederiksen carried out his first operational mission on 17 December 1941: a reconnaissance mission in 31/MVAF. Frederiksen’s logbook does not indicate from which airfield he took off—it is uncertain, therefore, whether he had proceeded to Kahang at this point, or still remained at Kuala Lumpur.[8]

2 Detachment Flight

Towards the end of December 1941, Frederiksen volunteered to serve in 2 Detachment Flight, flying under the authority of Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force (NEI). Among the volunteers was also Sgt R. L. Grut, who was another of the flying enthusiasts from Ula Bernam. The first pilots arrived to the 2 Det. Flt at Pakan Baroe in the middle of Sumatra on 9 January, and the flight was more or less operational three days later. Roughly every other day, routine flights were carried out from Parak Baroe to and from Singapore, carrying passengers and mail. In addition to this, a considerable amount of reconnaissance operations were carried out, covering mainly the Siak and Kampar rivers. If not hampered by shortage of aircraft—which could be damaged or destroyed by enemy bombing—the flight attempted to operate over each river every day. In the narrative of the flight’s operation, Frederiksen estimated that the flight carried out between 200–250 hours of reconnaissance and ferrying work. The Dutch forces left Parak Baroe in mid-January 1942, but the RAF took over the airfield, using it as a landing ground for the refuelling of reinforcement aircraft coming through. From then on, the flight was responsible for the general running and improvement of the rather primitive facilities at the airfield, as directed by the RAF. Pakan Baroe was attacked several times while the flight was operating from the airfield. On 17 January, thirty-two Ki 21s of the 12th Sentai arrived over the airfield, escorted by fighters. They bombed the airfield and strafed aircraft and buildings with machine gun and cannon fire. An oil dump was set on fire, but otherwise the damage was not great, and casualties were light: numbering a dozen killed, and about twice that number wounded. Two RAF doctors, who had landed only five minutes before the raid commenced, were among the victims.


In mid-February 1942, the situation at Pakan Baroe became untenable, and the flight began preparation for the transfer to Palembang. The idea was to start a ferry service. which would gradually transfer the flight to Palembang via Djambi. On the morning of 14 February, Plt Off. Hammett and Frederiksen took off from Pakan Baroe in Miles Falcon 32/MVAF, but, on arriving at Djambi, they learned that Palembang had been taken by Japanese airborne troops. Two aircraft from the flight that should have followed the Falcon did not arrive, and they were unable to get in touch with Pakan Baroe. They continued to Lahat, without knowing if this airfield would be serviceable or in enemy hands. Luckily, they found the RAF there, but in the process of evacuating this airfield as well. The next morning, 16 February 1942 at 0625 hrs, Plt Off. Hammett and Frederiksen took off in the Miles Falcon on what was to be Frederiksen’s last operational flight. They set course for Batavia (Jakarta) on Java, arriving at 0920 hrs.

The Falcon was one of seven light aircraft arriving at Tonjong Priok in Batavia. More personnel had been evacuated to Java by ship. The aircraft—the Falcon, a Whitney-Straight, three Tiger Moths, and two Avro Cadets—were reformed into MVAF Flight, commanded by Flt Lt H. Dane, and from 16 February, this Flight carried out communications flights under orders from the RAF. For a while it was believed that the MVAF would be re-equipped with new aircraft, but this did not happen. In light of the shortage of aircraft, it was decided to send the main part of the MVAF personnel out of Java for discharge, only retaining enough men to equip the five aircraft that remaining serviceable. The majority of the MVAF personnel left Java on board the Kota Gede, accompanied by some 2,000 RAF personnel, on 27 February, reaching Colombo on 6 March.

Frederiksen reached Durban in South Africa in June 1942.[9]


[1] DNA: Parish register, Gentofte Sogn.

[2] Kraks Blå Bog, 1982.

[3] ‘Air Training Scheme opened to Aliens’ in The Straits Times, 18.11.40, p. 9.

[4] NA: AIR 23/4635.

[5] Maltby, Report on the air operations during the campaigns in Malaya and Netherland East Indies (1948).

[6] Frederiksen, ‘I Krig og Fred under "Ø.K." og "R.A.F."’ in Ordrupper Bladet (1945), pp. 77–78.

[7] NA: AIR 23/4635.

[8] Frederiksen’s logbook (the Frederiksen family).

[9] NA: AIR 23/4635.