Biplane fighter aces


Luutnantti Carl Knut Kalmberg

12 January 1913 – 13 February 1940

Knut Kalmberg was born on 12 January 1913 in Vladivostock, Russia.

Knut Kalmberg joined the Danish Navy as a Cadet in 1933.

On 25 September 1937, he was appointed Søløjtnant af 2den Grad.

He was trained as an observer in the Naval Air Service from October to December 1937.

Between January and March 1938, he was onboard the inspection shop Absalon, but he soon returned to aerial service.

Between March to November 1938, he was trained as a pilot (pilot's certificate 88/38).

He was prompted to Søløjtnant af 1ste Grad, Royal Danish Navy, on 1 June 1938.

From 5 November 1938 to 4 January 1940, he was posted at the 2den Luftflotille (2nd air flotilla) as a pilot.

He served at Marinens Flyvestation (Navy Air Station) at Avnø. During this time he served together with Jörn Ulrich flying Hawker Nimrods.

They together decided to volunteer for service in Finland when the Soviet-Finnish Winter War started on 30 November 1939. They tried to resign from the Navy but this was rejected.
On 1 January 1940, they became AWOL and took the ferry from Copenhagen to Malmö, Sweden. They travelled by train up through Sweden to Torneå.

He and Ulrich joined the Finnish Air Force on 6 January 1940 as luutnanttis (Lieutenants). They were first posted to training squadron 29 (Täydennyslentolaivue 29) at Paola but as both were qualified pilots, they were posted to LeLv26 based at Utti on 12 January. LeLv 26 was at the time tasked to protect the important railway junction in Kouvola from aerial attacks.
Kalmberg were assigned Gladiator number 2.

Kalmberg flew his first Gladiator-sortie on 28 January, but because of icing weather the mission was interrupted. However Kalmberg did not receive the interrupt order, and tried to fulfilled the mission task, and arrived at the base 10 minutes after “dead-line” with his aircraft ice-covered (2 cm ice on the wings), much to the surprise of all personnel, who already thought that he had crashed!

Oiva Tuominen, Ilmari Joensuu, Lauri Lautamäki, Pentti Tevä, Jörn Ulrich, Knut Kalmberg and Lentomestari Artola were attached to the nine-plane detachment Kivinen, led by luutnantti Ensio Kivinen. They transferred first on 5 February 1940 to Mensunkangas and from there to Värtsilä on 9 February 1940. There their mission was to protect the troop movements by IV corps and group Talvela from Russian aerial attacks.

First combat occurred on 11 February, when Lautamäki claimed one Polikarpov I-16 out of a formation of fifteen over Jalovaara.

Around midday on 12 February, a Gladiator pair led by luutnantti Kalmberg (GL-261) intercepted a formation of eight SB bombers from 18 SBAP north of Lake Ladoga. Alikersantti Ilmari Joensuu (GL-256) shot down one over Jänisjärvi at 11:45 while Kalmberg claimed a second over Loimolanjärvi at 12:15.
It seems that only one SB was lost. This was an aircraft from 18 SBAP, 8 VA, flown by Leytenant Shapovalov.

Detachment Kivinen encountered various enemy formations north of Ladoga on 13 February. One of the formations they encountered during the day was I-16s from 49 IAP, 8 VA (neither side sustained any losses).
In the afternoon on 13 February, lentomestari Lauri Lautamäki (GL-253) and ylikersantti Oiva Tuominen (GL-255) were first scrambled at 14:00 and sent to Matkaselkä. After this there was an alarm - a large Russian bomber formation was approaching! Luutnantti Kalmberg (GL-260) and Kivinen took off first as they were in readiness with running engines. Five others followed so all nine Gladiators of Kivinen's unit were airborne. They met nine I-15bis fighters and engaged them. Six Russians tried to form a "Spanish ring"-defensive circle. Kalmberg attacked these Russians, but as he started shooting, three other Russians attacked him and hit his Gladiator. He tried to disengage by diving, but his plane went into a spin and dived into the ground at Havuvaara, killing him. Meanwhile, Kivinen’s Gladiator was hit in the engine. He disengaged with a steep dive and landed at Värtsilä. The rest of the Gladiators were now dogfighting with the Russians. In the dogfight Jörn Ulrich was hit and wounded. He made a forced landing with the last of his strength between Kuhilasvaara and Havuvaara. His Gladiator GL-257 was badly damaged and not repaired anymore. In this fight, Ilmari Joensuu (GL-256) claimed one I-15bis at 14:40 while Ulrich was credited for the destruction of two between 14:15 and 15:05. Other Finnish pilots in this engagement were Pentti Tevä and lentomestari Niilo ‘Arpinaama’ Artola. Artola was not a pilot of LLv 26 but a Blackburn Ripon pilot of LLv 16. He was on a familiarization flight with a Gladiator when the Soviet fighters appeared. He joined the battle although he was not sure how to operate the guns! However, he managed to fire a bust on an I-15 chasing a Finnish Gladiator. It seems that the I-15bis fighters were from 49 IAP, which lost Starshii Politruk M. A. Kochmala (I-15bis), who was KIA after claiming two Gladiators. 49 IAP also claimed a Fokker during the day when Leitenant Yakov Filippovity Mikhin of Aviagruppa Tkachenko claimed one in a ”taran” ramming attack at Värtsilä. Mikhin managed to return to his airfield with his damaged I-16.
As Lautamäki and Tuominen were returning from their uneventful flight, they met nine enemy bombers from 39 SBAP, 8 VA, which had taken off from Lotinanpelto (at River Svir) at 13:00, with the task of bombing fortifications north of Pyhäjärvi (hill 108,8) and dropping leaflets. In the ensuing dogfight Tuominen claimed 3 and 1 shared SBs in seven minutes and 1 I-152 while Lautamäki claimed the second half in the shared SB (this aircraft was claimed at Jänisjärvi). Ylikersantti Tuominen reported:

“When I was patrolling with lentomestari Lautamäki in Jänisjärvi station area, I noticed nine SBs arriving east of Suojärvi and heading west. I signalled lentomestari Lautamäki and turned towards the enemy planes. The enemy formation banked to east and east of Soanjoki I caught them and shot the port wing aircraft into fire. It crashed in the woods. So did the next one after a minute. And the third crashed into a small pond.
Then nine more bombers arrived from Loimola direction joining the others. At first I thought they were fighters as the distance grew a little, but I caught them over Kivijärvi and shot at the starboard wing aircraft. When I fired a second burst, it crashed in flames to the north bank of Kivijärvi Lake.
At the same time an I-15 took off from the ice, I shot it immediately down at the edge of the forest, where it crashed in fire. My fighter had two bullet holes in the wings fired from the ground.
Own aircraft GL-255.”
39 SBAP lost three SBs, all of them from the 5th eskadrilya. They had taken off at 13:00 from Lodejnoye pole to bomb hill 108,8 east of Pyhäjärvi and to drop leflets when they become involved in air combat over Suistamo. The first lost was c/n 14/217, which crashed at Jänisjärvi with crew-members Mladshii Leitenant N. M. Parshikov, Kapitan S. N. Pitek and Starshina A. A. Baranov killed. The second was c/n 16/115, which crashed at Kivijärvi with crew-members Leitenant I. A Tarasenko, Starshii Leitenant N. V. Begichev and Starshina I. Ye. Dunayev killed. The third was c/n 11/219, which crashed at Roikonkoski after having been hit in both fuel tanks and catching fire with crew-members Leitenant A. G. Lazarykov, Starshina V.Grudinin and Starshina Sibirkulin killed while Leitenant I. S. Kramtsov parachuted at 14:50 (Moscow time) and was taken POW the following day. This was the second operational mission by the 5th eskadrilya; the first one was made the day before.
Lautamäki and Tuominen landed again at 15:30.

At the time of his death, Kalmberg was credited with one victory, scored while flying Gloster Gladiators.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 12/02/40 12:15 1 SB (a) Destroyed Gladiator II GL-261 Loimolanjärvi LLv 26

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with SBs from 18 SBAP, 8 VA. LeLv 26 claimed two SBs in this combat but it seems that only one was lost. This was an aircraft flown by Leytenant Shapovalov.

Danish WW2 Pilots
Døden har vinger - Jörn Ulrich, 1941 Det Schønbergske Forlag
Englantilaiset Hävittäjät - Keskinen, Stenman, Niska kindly provided via Tuomo Lukkari
Kohtalokkaat lennot 1939-1944 - Jaakko Hyvönen kindly provided via Tuomo Lukkari
Ilmavoimat talvisodassa - Keskinen, Stenman kindly provided via Tuomo Lukkari
Ilmavoitot, osa 1 - Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, ISBN 952-99432-8-8
J11 Fiat CR 42 - Mikael Forslund, 2001 Mikael Forslund Produktion, Falun, ISBN 91-631-1669-3
Red Stars 7 - Talvisota Ilmassa - The Winter War In the Air - Carl-Fredrik Geust, 2011 Apali Oy, Tampere, ISBN 978-952-5877-04-5
Suomen Ilmailuhistoriallinen Lehti nr. 1/1996 kindly provided via Tuomo Lukkari
Suomen Ilmavoimat part II – 1928-40 – Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, 2006, ISBN 952-99743-0-2
Additional information and images kindly provided via Alexey Andreev, Carl-Fredrik Geust and Tuomo Lukkari

Last modified 18 August 2016