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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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331 crest norwegian

Highly Decorated Norwegian Wing Leader

Erik Haabjørn (also spelled Håbjørn, Haabjoern) was born in 1919 in Lillehammer. He was a talented student and a good athlete, and attended college in Darmstadt, Germany, where he studied mechanical engineering.

erik habjoorn at 56 sqd

After returning to Norway, he joined the Air Force and in April 1940 began pilot training. However, it was interrupted by a German attack after nine days. Erik was slightly injured during the Luftwaffe attack on Oslo-Kjeller Airport, where Flygeskolen, equipped with Fokker C.Vd and Tiger Moth aircraft, was stationed. The school subsequently evacuated to the north, and when it did not gain contact with Norwegian troops, its commander issued Capt. Normann the order to fly to Sweden, where all personnel were interned.

However, on May 20, Haabjørn managed to escape and cross the border back to Norway, where he joined the troops who were still fighting. However, their situation began to deteriorate and Erik was evacuated to Britain on June 7 aboard HMS Devonshire, on which King Haakon and the Norwegian Government were sailing to the UK.

Here he was accepted into the RAF and subsequently sent to Canada, where he was to undergo flight training. Here at Toronto, from November 1940, first under the command of the Norwegian aviation pioneer Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen and from 1941 under Ole Reistad, the Norwegian Air Force training camp called 'Little Norway', which almost all new Norwegian pilots went through. Erik successfully completed basic pilot training here and in April 1941 returned to Britain with the rank of Fenrik (Lieutenant).

Here he was first sent to operational training to the 52 OTU and on August 2, 1941 he was sent to Norwegian 331 Sqd. It was the first Norwegian fighter unit in Britain and was established a month before his arrival. They received Hurricanes Mk.I and Mk.IIB, which in November 1941 were replaced by the newer Spitfires Mk.IIA. 331 performed mainly defensive tasks and carried out patrols over the convoys.

erik haabjorn buckles on parachute while 332 sqd mechanic warms up spitfire

Haabjørn buckles up while 332 Sqd mechanic warms up his Spitfire

Erik was with 331 until March 1942, when he was sent to the sister Norwegian 332 Sqd, which was established in January of that year at Catterick Airport. However, he stayed with 332 only briefly, because he soon moved to 56 Sqd, which had just retrained as Hawker Typhoon fighters.

During one of the squadron's first combat missions, he almost paid for the fact that the new Typhoons were similar to the German Fw 190 and were not well known to the Allied pilots. On July 30, 1942, his Typhoon Mk.IB R7853 / US-X was accidentally shot down by a Spitfire at Dungeness, but fortunately, nothing happened to Erik.

However, even with 56 Sqd Haabjørn did not have too much activity, because he was soon sent to 609 Squadron, where he became Squadron Commander and where he achieved his greatest success. On March 9, 1943, he led a two-man patrol over the Channel when he saw a pair of enemy Fw 190s at around 19:20. Both pilots immediately attacked them. The Fw 190, which the young Norwegian chose as his target, tried to disappear with all sorts of manoeuvres, but Erik caught up with him and shot him down with several bursts. His victim was Fw 190 A-5 (W. Nr. 7290, black 12) from 10./JG 54, killing the pilot Lt. Otto-August Beckhaus, who was looking for a pilot who had been missing from the event earlier that day. The second German plane escaped.

On June 1, 1943, however, Erik had a problem. During a Roadstead mission near the Dutch island of Walcheren, his Typhoon DN630 / PR-A was hit by flak and he crashed with it at RAF Manston.

He scored his second victory on July 30, 1943, when six Typhoon units escorted Boston bombers, which were to bomb Schiphol Airport. Over the Dutch coast, the Typhoons became the target of Spitfire attacks, which, however, this time recognized their mistake in time. However, a Bf 109 formation used the Allied confusion to attack, and a fight ensued, after which Haabjørn and the Belgian Van Lierde claimed Bf109s destroyed.

In August 1943, Erik became CO of 247 Sqd and on the 10th of the same month he received the DFC award.

Haabjørn remained at the head of the 247 Sqd until January 1944, when he became Wing Commander of 124 Wing formed entirely of Typhoon squadrons 181, 182 and 247.

Erik thus became one of probably only three fighter pilots from the countries of occupied Europe, who were entrusted with the command of a Wing in which there was no British squadron. The second pilot was also a Norwegian, W/Cdr Werner Christie, who commanded 150 Wing on Mustangs from February 1945. The third was the great Norwegian Rolf Arne Berg who led 132 Wing (Norwegian) into the Continent until his death in February 1945 .

St. Olav's Medal with Oak Branch, DSO, DFC, Krigsmedaljen, Krigskorset (War Cross)

At the head of 124 Wing, Haabjørn won his last air victory. On January 29, 1944, he flew in the lead of his Wing on Ramrod 495. East of Châteaudun, the pilots encountered a lone Fw 200. Erik gave the order to attack and, along with three other fighters, shot it down.

May of 1944 was quite dramatic for him. First, the engine of his MN406 / EH quit and Erik had to parachute 40 miles east of North Foreland, and on the 22nd of the month, his new NM542 / EH at Dieppe was hit by flak and Erik had to parachute again. In both cases, he was rescued from the waters of the Channel by an amphibious Walrus.

In August 1944, Haabjørn was sent for rest and did not return to active duty during the fighting.

After the war, he remained with the Norwegian Air Force, but the office work to which he was assigned did not suit him and he left the Air Force. He then flew for several airlines and then established his own aircraft ferry company. He was lost during a flight from Goose Bay, Canada to Bluie West One, Greenland.

SY 2022-02-22

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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