At the outbreak of war, Aksel Svendsen volunteered for Royal Air Force service aged 17 but it was not until the beginning of 1941 that he was accepted for flying training together with two other Danish pilots: Jørgen Thalbitzer and Jens Ipsen.
On 11 July 1941 Svendsen was awarded his wings and commissioned in the rank of Pilot Officer. In company with Jørgen Thalbitzer and Jens Ipsen he completed initial training in December 1941 and the three of them were posted to No.32 Squadron to convert to Hurricanes.
On 1 April 1942, Svendsen and Thalbitzer were posted to 234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron at lbsley (30 km west of Southampton). The Squadron was converting to Spitfire VBs at the time when three Danish presentation Spitfires were donated to the RAF each named after a medieval Danish King. These aircrafts were received at the Squadron on the 5th, and "officially" by Winston Churchill at Number 10, Downing Street on the 9th April.
Fifteen days later, on 24 April 1942, Axel Svendsen was shot down and killed by a Focke Wulf 190 over Berck-sur-Mer on the Channel Coast. He was flying Spitfire VB BL924 'AZ-G 'Valdemar Atterdag', the first of the presentation aircraft. He had logging 30 operational sorties and 26 hours on the Spitfire before his death.
On the day in question, the RAF carried out a circus operation (Circus No. 133) over Northern France while six Bostons of 88 Squadron attacked Abbeville and twelve Bostons of 107 Squadron were tasked to bomb oil installations at Vlissingen on Walcheren, Holland. Fighters of 234, 501, and 118 squadrons were sent across the Channel to divert German fighters of Jagdgeschwader 26.
The main bomber force was out of range of the German fignters but three Gruppen of JG26 were directed towards the three RAF squadrons. At 14.22, II./JG26 was scrambled from Abbeville/Durat and headed the 30 km south to Bercksur-Mer. The Gruppe had the time and height to get into an advantageous position to bounce the RAF fighters. Crossing the French coast near Cap Griz Nez, FW190A-2s from II./JG26 shot down four of 234 Squadron's Spitfire VBs. Nine Spitfires were lost that day but all the bombers returned safely.
Pilot Officer Aksel Andreas Svendsen, 110596, RAFVR aged 19 was killed three days before his 20th birthday.
The Svendsen family commissioned a replica of BL924 in the 1960s and presented it to the Tangmere Military and Aviation Museum as a memorial to Aksel. Sadly the museum has now lost touch with the family and when, on 3rd August 2012, the museum reported that an inspection of the replica had revealed age-related structural problems. An assessment of the necessary restoration work indicated damage beyond the Museum's ability to repair. At about the same time, they heard that the Spitfire Society was planning a Spitfire replica for mobile display purposes as part of the schools curriculum support program. Knowing that we possessed the required facilities and expertise fully to restore "BL924", they suggested we might take her on and retain her existing livery as a memorial to Aksel. The change of ownership was agreed and she was collected by the Society on 25th April.
The first task was to dismantle and strengthen the fuselage replacing the decayed wooden structure with glass-reinforced plastics. The tail had suffered very badly having parted from the fuselage and deformed. A particular challenge was that the aircraft had been designed to be displayed in a flying attitude with the simulated undercarriage retracted. To adapt it for ease of handling it was necessary to fit an undercarriage. The nose was removed as far as the firewall bulkhead which is the main structural element supporting the wing's main spar and transferring the undercarriage loads into the fuselage. This was removed and replaced by a more substantial structure which incorporates the jacks that operate the wing-fold mechanism.
In order to make the promised deadline of an appearance at the Spitfire Society's headquarters at the Welsh Spitfire Museum's open day in mid May; a team of four, occasionally five, members of the Cornish Roundel worked flat out for a month. We made the deadline - but with half an eye on navigators - with only one wing deployed! In her partially restored state "BL924" looked complete from the starboard side and but was particularly interesting and educational "behind the scenes".
By the end of June the wings had been opened, stiffened and strengthened with major structural modifications to take the new wing-fold mechanism. The major restoration is about half complete but much of the low-relief detail on the fuselage is in need of improvement to withstand close inspection. The cockpit is not currently fitted out and this would be a worthwhile addition and a project for another roundel perhaps? At the time of writing the team are off on their summer holidays and due to resume work in the autumn, all being well.
On its trailer "BL924" weighs about as much as a large caravan and can be towed without difficulty by a medium size car. This was an important consideration since it is intended that our Roundel members should have easy access to it to promote the Society and its activities wherever possible.
We owe it to Aksel - and the many young men like him: not only those who were lost, but also those who survived and were changed by war - to carry forwards the story of the momentous events of the mid 20th Century. The Spitfire Society is doing this by looking to the future and making learning relevant and recreational. David Spencer Evans, 2013
Since February 2016 she has been on static display at Beale Park
Our campaign now is to complete the restoration process and weather proofing for the long term protection of the replica and enable her to continue to be displayed for all to visit and view.
Please donate towards this memorial to Aksel Andreas Svendsen, the young Danish RAF pilot by clicking here