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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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330 Crest Norwegian

04.11.1942 Norwegian Anti-Submarine Convoy Protection Crew Lost

Operation: Anti-submarine patrol

Date: 04 November 1942

Unit: 330 Squadron (Norwegian)

Type: Northrop N-3PB

Serial: 313

Code: GS-L

Base: Reykjavik Iceland

Location: 20km North of Skagatá

Pilot: Kvm. Arne Johannes Taarnesvik. Born 1915-04-01

2nd Pilot: Fnr. Einar Thorleif Angell Gjertsen. Born 1915-10-21

W/Op: Kvm. Torolf Magdalon Osland. Born 1921-12-22


Floatplane 313 was on convoy escort, about 20 km. N of Skagatá. The crew of a convoy ship reported 'Floatplane observed entering spin and exploded when hitting the water'. Mechanical failure could be the cause, or icing or a combination of both. Pilot error is unlikely given Taarnesvik's experience, though that is always possible given the possibility the plane might have been circling very slowly over something suspicious in the water which had caught the crew's attention.

N-3PB 313 crash site

Site of Loss of Floatplane 313

The Northrop N-3PB Nomad was a single-engined American floatplane of the 1940s. Northrop developed the N-3PB as an export model based on the earlier Northrop A-17 design. A total of 24 were purchased by Norway, but were not delivered until after the Fall of Norway during the Second World War. Exiled Norwegian forces used them from 1941, operating from Iceland, for convoy escort, anti-submarine patrols, and training purposes from 'Little Norway' in Canada. Within two years of delivery, the design was effectively obsolete in its combat role, and the remaining N-3PBs were replaced by larger aircraft in 1943.

During testing the plane attained a speed of 414km/h and it was then claimed to be the world's fastest military seaplane. Because Norway was invaded by the Germans shortly after the contract had been awarded, the N-3PBs were delivered to a unit of the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Service, operating as an RAF unit from unimproved coastal sites in Iceland on anti-submarine patrol and convoy escort duties. All maintenance had to be performed in the open, often under extremely harsh environmental conditions, and during 19 months of 1941-42 several were lost during water landings in severe arctic weather, but there were no losses from enemy action.

Northrop n-3pb

arne tarnesvik

TAARNESVIK, ARNE JOHANNES, (Pilot): helmsman, quartermaster in the air force, Åfjord. Parents Johan E. Taarnesvik and Elise f. Graneng. Married 1942 in Toronto, Canada to Maureen. School ship course, helmsman school. Entered the Air Force in 1940 and was trained at Little Norway in Toronto. Passed the fighter school and came in 1942 to 330 Sqd as quartermaster. Died November 4, 1942 during patrol service for a convoy. Buried in Reykjavik. Brother Aasmund died in 1942.

einar gjertsenGJERTSEN, EINAR THORLEIF ANGELL (2nd Pilot), ensign in the Air Force, Sem. Parents Arnt Gjertsen and Gunborg b. Olsen Sjøvold. Married 1939 in Tønsberg to Karin Larssen. Styrmannsog radiotelegrafistskole, defence course for the merchant navy commander. Was at sea when the war came. Volunteered for the Air Force and was trained as a pilot in Canada. Went by plane on November 4, 1942 to escort a convoy outside Iceland, where he served but did not return.

torolf osland

OSLAND, TOROLF MAGDALON (Wireless Operator) flow graphist, Bergen. Parents master Torstein Osland and Margit b. Iversen. Middle school. Served in Horten when the war broke out in Norway, got over Voss to Gudvangen in Sogn where he boarded the guard vessel Bjerk. Came to England and joined the Norwegian Navy Air Force where he was trained as a radio telegraph operator. Served in Iceland, and died on November 4, 1942 during a North Atlantic convoy escort. Post-mortem War Medal.

Little Norway

When Nazi Germany attacked Norway on 9 April 1940, with only a small number of modern aircraft, the Norwegian Army Air Service and Royal Norwegian Navy Air Service were unable to mount a sustained defence. Following the defeat of the Norwegian forces, the King, key members of the government and military left Norway in June 1940 aboard HMS Devonshire.

After arriving in England, the Norwegian government-in-exile began the process of setting up a new base of operations. A decision was swiftly made to keep the existing Norwegian pilots that had escaped to England as an independent unit. Consequently, none were allowed to participate in the Battle of Britain. Arrangements were made to transfer Norwegian pilots to a North American headquarters. Various locations were considered, and a base around the Toronto Island Airport in Toronto was chosen. Once the base was established, young Norwegians migrated to the site to enroll in the Royal Norwegian Air Forces (RNoAF).

In 1939, Bernt Balchen, a Norwegian aviator enlisted with the Royal Norwegian Navy Air Service, made his way to the United States on a crucial mission to negotiate 'matters pertaining to aircraft ordnance and ammunition with the question of the Norwegian Government's possible purchase of such materials in the United States of America.' With his status of holding dual Norwegian and US citizenship and his extensive contacts in the aviation industry, his instruction from the Norwegian Government-in-exile in London changed to a new directive: to set up a training camp and school for expatriate Norwegian airmen and soldiers in Canada. Balchen negotiated directly with Canadian government officials to obtain an agreement to use available airport facilities at the Toronto Island airport on Lake Ontario known as 'Little Norway'.

Life before death for Uncle Arne - one of the 11,724 Norwegians who lost their lives during the war

A descendant of Arne Taarnesvik published a story in the Norwegian media about her Uncle. This is Arne's story.

Such was life before the death of Uncle Arne - one of the 11,724 who lost their lives during the war Exactly what happened in the minutes before Taarnesvik lost control of his Northrop plane, got into a spin and hit the water with deadly force, we do not know. But most likely it was technical problems with the plane that caused Arne Taarnesvik together with the crew members Einar T. A. Gjertsen and Torolf Osland to end their lives this day.

arne taarnesvik and maureen

But for me, Arne Taarnesvik is not just one in the crowd. For Uncle Arne was Grandma's little brother and the family hero. Everywhere hung the picture of Arne. Just like with my grandmother. In the place of honor directly above the desk in the living room, where it was impossible not to see him no matter where in the room you were, he looked with an enigmatic and a little curious look at the photographer who took the picture over 70 years ago. With a mixture of sorrow and pride, the siblings showed the picture of Arne and his brother Aasmund, who died in Egypt a few months before their brother, to anyone who wanted to see. The two became symbols of everything my family had sacrificed for Norway and the Allies to win the war.

Slektsgården Eidem is beautifully situated where the Norwegian farmland meets the sea in Åfjord municipality furthest north in Sør-Trøndelag. Here, Arne Taarnesvik was born on April 1, 1915. He was number ten in a sibling group of thirteen, a sibling group that despite the age differences and the number of children was characterized by great closeness and camaraderie. The farm was large by the standards of the time, but all the bankruptcies in agriculture in the 20s and a large farm fire made life difficult for Arne's parents, my great-grandparents. Nevertheless, there was food on the table for everyone and a great degree of security in the upbringing of the siblings.

But if the farm was large, it was not big enough to be a permanent place for a young boy who had no hope of a share and who wanted to go out and see the world. A natural career choice for many on the Trøndelag coast was the sea, and it was also Arne's choice.

In a letter home to the siblings, Arne told about life at sea, but there are also clear signs of dissatisfaction with the hard-boiled sailor life. He probably already considered before the war to apply for a military career, but when the Germans invaded Norway on April 9, 1940, he was still at sea, as helmsman on board the 'M / S Braganza'.

Quickly, however, Arne decided that he wanted to make a military effort for Norway and in October 1940 he went ashore in the United States and mustered out for good. Shortly afterwards, he enlisted i'Little Norway' in Canada.

The Norwegian pilot school 'Little Norway' was located on Center Island just outside the port of Toronto. It was definitely established almost immediately after the campaign in Norway was over 1940. In November, shortly before Arne arrived, it was ready to train pilots, navigators and technicians to serve in the Norwegian Air Force.

arne taarnesvik training

Left: Arne Taarnesvik had a burning desire to contribute to the fight for Norway's freedom. He enlisted in the service of 'Little Norway' and trained there as a pilot.

Uncle Arne was to learn to fly, and he became a pilot. Over the next year, he completed recruiting school basic mechanical training and, of course, pilot training itself. Most of the time he stayed in Toronto, but the pilot training at 'Little Norway' also took place at bases in Medicine Hat in the far west of Canada and in Charlottetown and Debert in the far east. In May 1942, he was ready for his first trip across the North Sea.

But the story of Arne Taarnesvik's life in Toronto also has a private chapter. Once in 1941, he met dark-haired Maureen Benson (18), who was to become his wife. In a letter she wrote to Arne's mother after she became a widow, Maureen tells of a deep love that began as a friendship and ended in marriage. From Arne's diary we know that he was given leave in July 1942, and that he used his time well.

On Saturday 20 June 1942, he writes: 'Got time off until Thursday morning. (..) Arrived in Toronto at 21.45, traveled up to Bensons to visit Maureen.' And the next day he follows up with: 'Maureen and I agreed to get married. The wedding was decided to be held on Wednesday night.'

We do not know why such a hurry was necessary. But the pilots were far away, leave was rare and the business they were in was very risky. Maybe that's why they decided to get the case done in one go. Regardless: It was a wedding, and Little Norway friend Hallvard Vikholt was Arne's best man. Fortunately, none of them knew what was going to happen before the year was over. Arne briefly and precisely writes 'Wedding and great splendour' in his diary on 24 June 1942.

A few days later, they went on a honeymoon in the mountains north of Montreal. They found a small apartment in the city, and Maureen tells of a very happy time. Arne had begun his service efforts in earnest and constantly flew back and forth across the Atlantic between Great Britain and Canada. But still, it also meant that the couple had time together. They made plans for the future and looked forward to travelling to Norway together when the war was over.

But happiness came to an abrupt end.

In the autumn of 1942, Arne applied to be admitted to the upper division of the war school, but was refused because the Air Force Joint Command did not think it was justifiable to take a competent pilot out of active service. Instead, he was stationed in Iceland, where 330 Squadron with Northrop aircraft was located. Their main task was to provide air support to Allied convoys and attack German submarines, which was a great danger to the merchant navy. He divided the time between the bases in Reykjavik, Akureyri and Budareyri.

In the diary, Arne describes many technical problems: icing, minor fires, parts that smoke and emergency landings. Of 24 Northrop N-3PB aircraft, 11 were lost due to bad weather, technical problems or German attacks. But there was also room for other than worries in what he writes: In the days before he died, he tells about a pleasant reunion with old comrades and about how beautiful it is along the coast of Iceland.

November 4, 1942 probably began like many other days. It was Arne's job to provide air support to an Allied convoy. Actually, it was one of the other pilots who had the assignment that day, but Arne took over the extra duty to cover up for him. He should not have done that. A few minutes before 12 o'clock it went wrong.

Arne Taarnesvik was later found floating in the water by the crew of the American naval vessel 'USS Bibb', one of the fleet of vessels deployed in the treacherous North Atlantic on convoy protection and survivor rescue.

USS Bibb

He is buried in Iceland in the immaculately kept graveyard at Fossgovur. The other two crew were never found and were consigned like so many tens of thousands to the Atlantic Ocean. They, too, are honoured for their sacrifice and service.


arne taarnesvik grave

This account is based on the touching story first appearing in Norwegian:

We salute the brave Norwegians who made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting the honour of their nation.

SY 2022-03-08

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