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The Airmen's Stories - P/O W P Olesen

Wilfred Pallasen Olesen was born on 27th January 1914 in Anshan Guizhou Province, China, the son of Peter Olaf Olesen and Lily Cunningham Olesen (nee Guest). His parents were Missionaries with the China Inland Mission. His father was Danish.

He spent his childhood in Guizhou Province (SW China) then went to school at the China Inland Mission school at Chefoo in Shandong Province.

His education there followed the syllabus for attaining the Oxford School Certificate, this qualified him to attend Edinburgh University.



He then joined the RAF on a short service commission in June 1939. After completing his training he was posted to No. 1 Air Armament School Manby, possibly as a staff pilot.



He joined 607 Squadron at Usworth on 18th June 1940. Olesen returned to No. 1 AAS Manby on 23rd September, for temporary flying duties, pending commencement of a Specialist Armament Course.

He served with the squadron throughout the Battle of Britain before the course began. Following this he was posted away in early 1941 to the A&AEE Boscombe Down as Experimental Gunnery Officer. Olesen had three accidents between 3rd October and 26th December 1941.

He recorded:

My particular responsibility was the trial of the gunnery installation of the new fighter aircraft coming into service, among the aircraft which I reported on were the Hurricane IIc, Tornado, Typhoon, Airacobra, Kittyhawk and Spitfire IIc. During my time at Boscombe Down the problem of providing an effective means of attacking tanks was being examined and one of the first solutions was the fitting of two Vickers 40mm guns to the Hurricane.

As a result of this I was sent to the Middle East to 6 Squadron of 211 Group of the Western Desert Air Force, which was being equipped with Hurricane IId aircraft, which carried a pair of 40mm guns.

My first job was the assembly and harmonisation of the aircraft and the guns as they arrived across Africa from Takoradi in the Gold Coast and to train the new pilots posted to the Squadron, but I was eventually able to undertake some sorties with the Squadron when they were operating in support of the 8th Army at El Alamein.

After El Alamein the tank-busting role was over and the Hurricanes were converted back to fighter aircraft.

Olesen was posted to HQ Middle East Command where he held the appointment of Armament 2 for nearly two years. He attended the Teheran conference in 1943 and then returned to the Desert Air Force as Senior Armaments Officer where he remained just over a year.



In October 1945 he returned to the UK.

Olesen was then given a permanent commission and was posted to Boscombe Down as Senior Bombing Technical Officer for five months before being sent to Manby on the Armaments Staff Course.

His next appointment was to the Directorate of Armament Research and Development where he was initially in charge of the section concerned with the Research and Development of underwater warfare. Subsequently he moved to the planning section.

He was then posted to Germany as Command Armaments Officer Stationed at RAF Buckeberg, west of Hanover.


The images below are undated and uncaptioned, they almost certainly are connected with the Armament Courses that he attended, one is clearly Berlin in the immediate postwar period.








On 6th July 1950, now a Wing Commander, Olesen was flying in Anson C Mk12 PH597 of the RAF Horsham St Faith Station Flight. It collided with Spitfire PR Mk19 PM616 of 2 Squadron on the approach to RAF Buckeburg.

Olesen and F/Lt. RA Crone in the Anson and F/O BC Bernard-Smith in the Spitfire were all killed.

Olesen is buried in Limmer Cemetery, Hannover.


Above; he married Alison Gifford Harvey in October 1946 in Hampstead.


He left a widow and a daughter aged two and a half, three months after his death twin sons were born.



Additional research and all images courtesy of Penny Olesen (daughter).



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