Little Norway – Part One (Text Version)

Research by Clarence Simonsen

Little Norway
Toronto and Muskoka, Canada
Part One

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1942 poster created for “Wings for Norway” campaign.

The text of the now famous “King’s Speech” was published in Canadian Maclean’s Magazine on the 1 October 1939 issue. It was broadcast by His Majesty the King to his subjects on 3 September 1939, the day war was declared on Germany by Great Britain. Canada formally declares war on Germany on 10 September 1939. Canadians had no idea [Bertie] King George VI, had a Royal stutter which caused profound embarrassment to his Royal family. An excellent historical film in 2010 reveals the truth, preserving our hidden past.

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In Norway another King had much bigger problems to worry about. During the ‘Phoney War’ [September 1939 to April 1940] Hitler made plans for the invasion of Norway and Denmark, with the code word of “Weserubung.” Orders were issued by Hitler on 1 March 1940, and the invasion of Norway began in the early hours of 9 April 1940. The Norwegian campaign gave the British their first bitter lesson on German air superiority. The complete operation was run by thoroughly trained German officers who knew their men and equipment.

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H.M. King Haakon VII [with ear muffs] runs from the German bombers at Elverum and escapes.

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LIFE 13 May 1940, the raid killed U. S. Air attaché Capt. Robert Losey, first American killed by Germans in WWII.

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LIFE 13 May 1940 – German troops advance into Oslo, Norway, 9 April 1940.

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Eight new American fighters still in packing crates were recovered by the Germans.

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The invasion of Norway and occupation of Denmark marked the start of the Western Front and the end to the “Phoney War” of WWII. The battle for Norway also introduced a new word for traitor to the free world. In 1945, Quisling was found guilty of treason and hanged.

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Just three and one half months earlier, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan had been created as the result of an agreement signed by the United Kingdom and Canada, dated 17 December 1939.

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Survey work and construction of new airfields began at once and by 24 January 1940 the sites for all planned schools had been selected. Over 120 new airfields were needed which included main aerodromes and relief emergency landings fields. Twenty-four present airfields needed new buildings and hangars, while over eighty were totally new construction.
On 29 April 1940, the first [All-Canadian] class of 164 BCATP recruits began training with six drop-outs, twenty-five wireless air operator/gunners, forty-one air observers, and ninety-two pilots. These pupils had just begun training when World War Two entered a critical phase after Denmark and Norway were conquered by the Nazis. At this period of time the BCATP was still little more than a collection of airfields on paper and partly constructed training fields. After Norway the German “Blitzkrieg” continued into May and June 1940, Holland, Belgium, and then France fell to the Nazis onslaught with England the next country under siege.

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On 13 July 1940, the United Kingdom urgently asks the Canadian government if they could move four complete Service Flying Training Schools to Canada. The sudden fall of Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and France placed much more operational pressure on British airfields and this greatly affected training activities. No. 7 Service Flying Training School from Peterborough, England, sailed for Canada on 29 August 1940. The Battle of Britain delayed the movement of further RAF schools to Canada until October 1940, when four schools were transferred. In total 26 RAF schools would be relocated or formed in Canada during World War Two. The western prairie provinces trained the most RAF students, with seven schools located in Saskatchewan, six in Alberta and two in Manitoba. When you consider that 47,406 British aircrews were trained in Canada, the RAF presence in the west was huge. Small Prairie forgotten graveyards contain the remains of these lads who crashed during training. Another very large percentage of these young British students would be killed in Bomber Command during the first three years of WWII, and three-quarters have no known grave.

Before the Nazi invasion, Norway had two separate branches of the air forces, the Navy Air Force and the Army Air Force.

In the early morning of 9 April 1940, six Norwegian pilots flying obsolete British Gloster Gladiator aircraft attacked the German invasion. The six brave pilots were named – Arve Braathen, Rolf Torbjorn, Per Waaler, Dag Krohn, Finn Thorsagar, and Kristain Fredrik Schye. While the fight proved worthless and the aircraft were destroyed, the six pilots survived to escape and fight again. Five pilots would escape to Canada and become flight instructors at Little Norway. Beginning in June 1940, the gallant remains of the two air forces choose to carry on the fight against Hitler from the United Kingdom. The King and key members of the government had left Norway in early June on the HMS Devonshire and became the new government-in-exile based in London. Due to limited air space and the increasing attacks from Germany on air fields in England, the RAF began [29 August 1940] sending their aircrew for training in Canada. The Norwegian Government approached Canada requesting the approval to move and train their aircrew on Canadian soil. Bernt Balchen, a famous Norwegian aviator negotiated directly with the Canadian government to obtain an agreement to set up the training camp. The simple fact the Norwegian government-in-exile had ready money to establish their own training centre and purchase American training aircraft, [twenty million American] allowed negotiations to move rather quickly. The deal was approved in principle on 19 June 1940, and officially construction began at Toronto Island Airport in early July. On 21 July 1940, 120 Norwegian Officers and men sailed to Canada in two Norwegian vessels “Iris” and “Lyra.” They arrived in Toronto harbour on 4 August 1940.

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This last battle for Norway appeared as a painted wall mural when Little Norway [Toronto, Canada] opened on 10 November 1940.

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American artist [war correspondent] Tom Lea drawing of Bernt Balchen at Iceland in 1944, the man who negotiated directly with the Canadian Government for the training site at Little Norway, Toronto Island Airport, in summer of 1940.

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Norwegian officials negotiated with the Toronto Harbour Commission and obtained the use of the Toronto Island Airport and a piece of property next to the Toronto “Maple Leaf” Baseball stadium. The site consisted of H-huts, a hospital, a reception depot, a radio school, technical school, and miscellaneous units for training. Known as “Little Norway” it became an elementary flying training school following the same training standards and syllabus as the [BCATP] British Commonwealth Air Training Plan schools. The school received little free help from the RCAF and no identification number like the schools in the BCATP. Some assistance was supplied from the Toronto Flying Club and minor flying training began in late September 1940, official inauguration on 10 November 1940. Personnel at the camp who had escaped Norway numbered just over 300, including technical trainees from the Merchant Marine section who formed the backbone of the new Norwegian Air Force.

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Air Commodore Brookes was the senior RCAF Officer in Command of No. 1 RCAF Training Command, Toronto, Ontario.

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On 5 April 1943, Little Norway was officially returned to the RCAF at a special event and it became RCAF Lakeside Camp “M” Depot, [Manning]. In 1954, the property and original buildings were returned to the City of Toronto, where this July 1953 real estate map was completed. For the next two years the poor of Toronto were housed in these WWII buildings. All camp buildings were demolished in 1956, returned to a baseball parking lot and later a public park area.

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Col. Oscar Klingenberg became the officer in charge of training and the first Army/Navy pilot training was taught as two individual courses. The Norwegian government in exile unified these two forces [unofficially 28 March 1941] and they became the Royal Norwegian Air Force, by Royal Decree, with a new badge, on 1 November 1944. The first Commanding Officer became Vice-Admiral Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, [Navy] 5 August 1940 to March 1941.

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Special RCAF Service Police Course No. 6, was given to Nine Norwegians 16 October 1940.

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The Norwegian Service Police Officers at Little Norway, Toronto Island, 1940

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English was the language of aviation instruction at all schools in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and the same rules applied to the Norwegians. A total of 3,325 Norwegian troops, pilots, aircrew, engineers, and other aviation ground crew trades were stationed at Little Norway, with 426 pilots trained to elementary flying qualifications. [The above poster created for a fundraising campaign was proposed for a Norwegian stamp in 1942, but not printed until 1946].

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This huge wall mural [painted at Toronto Little Norway] showed the route taken to reach England from Nazi occupied Norway in 1940. Six aircrew were killed by the Germans during the invasion.

12 April 1940 – A. Buraas,

15 April 40 – H.J. Skappel,

17 April 40 – R.H. Olsen,

17 April 40 – E.L. Pedersen,

20 April 40 – E.F. Johansen and

27 April 40 – O. Kireby.

On 30 April 40 – four aircrew were killed in a building bombed by Germans. E.J. Erlandsen, T. Hoivik, K. E. Mykland, and J. Tandsether. Killed between Norway and Shetland –

1 May 40 – H.S. Dosen,

2 May 40 – O.S. Braenne and J.D.S. Ravn.

15 May 40 – killed on Polish troop carrier Czrobry, F. Aandahl.

30 November 1941 – B.M. Havardson went down with ship between Norway and U.K.

16 March 42 – O. Anderson captured while escaping to U.K. shot by Germans.

At least 16 aircrew members were killed attempting to escape to England.

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This huge mural in Little Norway displayed the sea route from England to Toronto, Canada.

1 May 40 – torpedoed and killed between UK and Canada, S. Kristoffersen and O. R. Stenli.

28 Feb. 1942 – A. Hansen, torpedoed in Atlantic in route to Canada.

26 September 1942 – O.N. Berg torpedoed in Iceland on way to Canada.

26 September 1942 – P.E. A. Bergby, torpedoed on way to Canada.

26 September 1942, ex-Camp Commander of Little Norway, Ft.Lt. F.L. Vogt was returning to U.K. from Toronto when his ship was torpedoed.

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Like the BCATP schools all instruction was in English, with Norwegian sub-titles. If language training was required, the RCAF allowed the Norwegians to attend War Emergency Training Plan Schools which offered courses in English as well as science and mathematics. The Fairchild-built M-62A [above] #149 in photo was delivered between 23 November 1940 and November 1941.

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The first official introductory pilot training began on 21 September 1940, with eleven RNAF student pilots in the course. The next course contained twenty student pilots, and began in early December 1940. This image was taken by the old Toronto Telegram Newspaper and records the second class of twenty RNAF students in training at Little Norway, Toronto Island Airport, December 1940. These five elementary trainers are de Havilland Tiger Moths possibly loaned from RCAF Camp Borden.

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In early 1940, the Norwegian Government purchased 24 American Curtiss Hawk 75-A-6 aircraft and nineteen had been delivered at the time of the German invasion. Only four of the twin Wasp-powered Hawk fighters had been assembled and none were ready for combat. These four were bombed and destroyed by the invading Germans. Some of the crated aircraft were disabled by the Norwegians, however thirteen would be captured by the Germans and repaired to flying condition. At least eight of these would be sold by Germany to Finland and used against the Russians during WWII. The remaining five aircraft [75-A-6] were on a freighter in the middle of the Atlantic, which was then diverted to France. The Norwegian government was planning to establish a Norwegian training base in France, but when France was invaded, the American fighters were shipped to England and became “Mohawks” flying in the RAF.

Norway had also ordered 36 Cyclone-powered Hawk 75-A-8 fighters but none were delivered before the German invasion. At least 30 of these aircraft were ferried to the new “Little Norway” base established in Toronto Island, Canada. Shown [above] are three of these advanced trainers in Norwegian colors, flying over Little Norway, 1940.

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The American Cyclone engines at Little Norway 1940

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In February 1940, the Norwegian Government initially ordered 36 Douglas DB-8A-5/A33 aircraft with company construction numbers 715 to 750. After the German invasion, 9 April 1940, the Norwegian aircraft order was taken over by the U.S. Government, then later they delivered the aircraft to Little Norway, Toronto Island, between October 1940 and January 1941. The Curtis and Douglas aircraft were both powered by the Wright Cyclone engine, which was ideal for training technicians and ordering spare parts.

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These images were taken during the first visit to “Little Norway” by Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha in October 1940. Princesses Ragnhild, Astrid, and five-year-old future King of Norway Prince Harald had a number of photos taken in front of and in the cockpit of the American Douglas DB-8A-5 aircraft.

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Little Norway in October 1940, Princess Ragnhild, future King Harald and Princess Astrid with Norwegian pilots in training.

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One of the Norwegian pilots in cockpit of Douglas DB-8A-5
at Little Norway, October 1940

The first official complaint of low flying over the City of Toronto was received on 24 March 1941. Two days later the student pilots were ordered that flying over the city was restricted to 2,500 feet and no dives or turns could be performed, only straight flying from one point to the other.

On 5 July 1941, Fl./Lt. J. A. Anderson and Ft./Lt. H. Bjornstad were killed when their Douglas-8A-5 crashed at Port Credit, Ontario. In August 1941, 31 Douglas-8A-5 aircraft were returned to the United States, which became reclassified as Douglas-A-33-DE. The Norwegian Air Force retained four of the original Douglas-8A-5 aircraft and used them for training at Muskoka, two would be lost in flying training accidents.

On 20 January 1942, Ft./Lt. P. C. Ring was killed when his 8A-5 crashed at Oakville, Ontario. One year later, 24 January 1943, the last crash of an DB-8A-5 occurred at Snelgrove, Ontario, killing pilot Fl./Lt. O. H. M. Backer.

In August 1940, Georg Unger Vetlesen and Thor Solberg placed orders for 36 Fairchild M-62A aircraft, which began arriving by American ferry pilots on 23 November 1940. A new era was beginning and Little Norway became an elementary flying training school, following the same standards as the RAF and RCAF British Commonwealth Air Training Plan schools.

The original Fairchild Model 62 was designed in 1938 as a two seat, open cockpit, monoplane trainer for both military and civil flying schools. In September 1939, the U.S. Army Air Corps ordered two hundred and seventy with the designation PT-19. All the other civil and export trainers were designated M-62A.

In August 1940, the exiled Norwegian Government purchased 36 Fairchild M-62A trainers from the plant in Maryland, and these began arriving at Little Norway on 23 November 1940. These aircraft were never assigned to the U.S. Army Air Corps and therefore contained no U.S.A.A.C serial numbers or designation PT-19. The thirty-six M-62A were delivered to Little Norway between 23 November 1940 and November 1941. The aircraft were identified by Norwegian assigned serial numbers painted in large white numbers on the fuselages sides. The odd numbers were staggered in a ranged from 101 to 171. The above photos [top right and bottom left], probably taken in spring of 1941, shows ten Norwegian Fairchild M-62As at Little Norway and flying over Lake Ontario. The serial numbers are – 101, 103, 109, 113, 121, 127, 129, 131, 135, and 137.
Note – #129, #135 and #31 have 1941 PT-26 canopy.

These Norwegian M-62As were flown open cockpit, with a small dual vacuum supply attachment on the left hand side under the pilot front windscreen. [Below same photo shoot] These original aircraft were all converted to the standard PT-26 designed with 1941 canopy, winter heating, and modern instruments. Note below – #109 and #121 have open cockpit while #129, #135, and #131 has a modern PT-26 canopy.

These aircraft were powered by a 175 h.p. Ranger engine and the starting handle hole could be seen on the left-hand side of the engine cowling. It is reported the Norwegians upgraded these aircraft with an engine driven generator, electric engine starters, and engine driven vacuum pumps to power the new gyro-stabilised instruments.

This mural in Little Norway [Toronto] showed the bombing of Berlin by Norwegian Hawk 75-A-8 aircraft and the anger of Hitler.

This mural displayed the fact many Norwegian aircrews married Canadian ladies and raised a family during their training period at Little Norway in Toronto.

The attractive blonde haired Norwegian pilots caught the eye of many Toronto Canadian girls with many marriages taking place during training. Unfortunate flying training accidents also took place and a number of children lost their birth father. I would guess most of these young widows remained in Canada and possibly remarried Canadians.

During WWII a 20-year old Canadian was in the same physical condition as a 50-year old Norwegian. Maybe that’s why they attracted the Canadian girls.

The Royal visit to “Little Norway” in October 1941

On 13 January 1941, Air Commodore G.E. Brooks OBE, held a special luncheon with His Royal Highness Crown Prince Olav of Norway. During this man-to-man meeting future RCAF training plans for the RNAF were discussed.

On 24 March 1941, the cost of training one Norwegian Air Observer is estimated at $17,000 per student for eighteen weeks training. I’m sure the cost of training a Norwegian pilot for eighteen weeks at an RCAF Service Flying Training School was around $20,000. It is estimated the RCAF charged Norwegians $1,000 per week for training in BCATP schools in Canada.

The first 80 Norwegian students [35 pilots] and other trades are nearing the end of their training at Little Norway and the Canadian request for ship transport to Iceland is made for 20 April 1941.

This first official flying complaint [24 March 41] is directed to the Norwegian Air for low flying over the heart of downtown Toronto. On 26 March 1941, the RCAF No. 1 Training Command issues strict new orders to the Norwegians at Little Norway. “All future Norwegians pilots and student pilots are not to fly at less than 2,500 feet over the City of Toronto, and it must be a straight flying course, no turning or diving.” A senior RCAF staff officer gave specific reference to a Douglas aircraft which flew low over Casa Loma, and a Curtis P-26 which flew low over the downtown Toronto celebration for American visitor Wendall Wikkie.

In total 23 Norwegian pilots would be killed while training in Canada, plus seven died from disease, drowning and car accidents. Ten other ground crew ranks lost their lives while training, from 251 aircrew members. Three of six new powerful Northrop N-3PB patrol seaplanes would crash during early Canadian training and take six Norwegian aircrew lives.

In early 1940, the Norwegian government went looking for a modern seaplane of American manufacture, powered by an American Wright Cyclone engine. They decided on a model offered by a newly incorporated Northrop Aircraft Inc. at Hawthorne, California. The contract for 24 aircraft was signed on 12 March 1940, and production began on a new N-3PB patrol-bomber seaplane constructed with two single pedestal float mounts, which was a new advanced feature, suited for the sea coastal area of Norway. On 9 April 1940, Norway was invaded by Germany and the Norwegian government in exile moved to London, England. The first N-3PB seaplane rolled off the production line in California on 22 December 1940, and was given Norwegian serial number 301. American test trials took place the same day [22 Dec.] at Lake Elsinore, California, and the flight was perfect. In total 25 seaplanes were constructed and only one remains in the world today.

N-3PB serial 301 at Lake Elsinore, California, 22 December 1940, after Northrop’s test pilot Vance Breese completed his first flight.

Back in Little Norway, [Toronto] the harsh Canadian winter had caused Lake Ontario to freeze over and seaplane training was impossible. The Royal Norwegian Air Force appealed to the RCAF for a warm weather training base where the new N-3PB aircraft could be delivered and used for training. RCAF Station Vancouver [Jericho Beach] was picked as the site and six new N-3PB seaplanes were ferried from the factory in California to Portland, Oregon, then north to RCAF Station Jericho Beach, arriving between 19 February and 5 March 1941. The six new seaplanes were flown in pairs with serial numbers 302 to 307. On 21 February 1941, training began in Northrop seaplane Norwegian #303, [below] with student pilot Erling Jorgensen and instructor Sub/Lt. Harold Kruse. On take-off from Jericho Beach the aircraft climbed to over 1,000 feet, rolled over and entered a dive, crashing at Point Atkinson into 400 feet of water. Both occupants were killed instantly and their N3-PB sea aircraft was never salvaged.


On 17 March the remaining five N-3PBs were flown to RAF No. 32 Operational Training Unit at Patricia Bay, B.C., to continue the pilot training. On 18 March, the second day of the training syllabus, seaplane #305 stalled on take-off and crashed killing instructor Ft/Lt. Kaare S. Kjos and student pilot Jens E. Riiser. [Lt. E. Bjorneby a passenger survived the crash and was saved by two RCAF, LAC Philip P. Conlin and Cecil R. James.]

Training came to a halt, as it was determined the new aircraft was too powerful with a much larger aircraft weight for the new inexperienced Norwegian student pilots. It was powered by a single Wright ‘cyclone’ GR-1820 radial engine, which produced 950 h.p. at sea level. The remaining four aircraft were flown to Jericho Beach, dismantled and shipped by rail back to Little Norway in Toronto. Aircraft #302, #304, #306, and #307 left Jericho Beach in the first week of April 1941, and arrived at Little Norway five days later.

The four aircraft were reassembled at Toronto Island Airport [Little Norway] where this image was taken, [possibly around 20 June 1941] showing #2, aircraft serial #302 in background. This aircraft was shipped to Reykjavik, Iceland, in March 1942, coded GS-N, and lost on 17 September 1942. It is believed the other two seaplanes are serial # 304 [foreground] and #306 behind the soldier on Norwegian guard duty.

In May 1941, pilot training in the Northrop Seaplane N-3PB resumed at Little Norway in Toronto Island airport. On 20 June 1941, seaplane #307 was taking off from Lake Ontario surface and when it failed to gain enough height it collided with the smoke stack on the Toronto Island ferry “Sam McBride”. Killed were instructor Fl./Lt. Finn Strand Kjos and student pilot Ft./Lt. Trond Harsvik.

Photo Image from the Toronto Star Newspaper,
Port Race, Toronto Harbour, 21 June 1941

This crash made Toronto newspaper headlines, which declared it was only a matter of time before a plane crashed into the city itself. This growing political fear and the impractical flight training on the same airport used by civil aviation aircraft caused the immediate search for another Norwegian airport location. The new Little Norway would be constructed 80 miles north of Toronto, in the beautiful lake region of Muskoka, opening on 18 January 1942. July 1941 marked the end of training in the N-3PB seaplanes in Canada, with the three surviving aircraft placed into storage at Toronto Island Airport. Arrangements were already in place for all future advanced training of Norwegian pilots to be carried out in RAF No. 32 S.F.T.S., Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and RAF No. 34 S.F.T.S. at Medicine Hat, Alberta, in western Canada. The first class of 18 Norwegian pilots began advanced training at No. 32 Moose Jaw, Sask. on 16 April 1941. All elementary training of Norwegian pilots, aircrew, and other categories was carried out at Little Norway Toronto Island Airport until end of April 1942, then one year later it officially closed on 5 April 1943, when it was turned over to the RCAF and became “Lakeside” No. 1 Manning Depot.
The other eighteen new N-3PB seaplanes were dismantled, crated, and shipped on board the Norwegian steamer “Fjordheimn”, the voyage from New York to Reykjavik, Iceland, took thirteen days. They arrived on 19 May 1941, and twelve were placed into service with the new formed No. 330 Norwegian Squadron.

The first Norwegian Naval No. 330 RAF Squadron was established at Reykjavik, Iceland, on 25 April 1941, equipped with 21 Northrop N-3PB seaplanes. The first 18 new N-3PB aircraft were shipped by rail to New York City, crated, and placed on the Norwegian steamer “Fjorheim” which arrived at Reykjavik, Iceland, on 19 May 1941. Twelve seaplanes were assembled and divided into three flights. No. “A” flight was based at Reykjavik, with four aircraft, “B” flight was based at Akureiry in Northern Iceland, [four aircraft] and “C” flight was based at Budareiry in Eastern Iceland, [four aircraft].

In March 1942, the three surviving Canadian N-3PBs [302, 304, and 306] were taken out of storage at Little Norway [Toronto] crated and placed on the steamer “Delta” for delivery to Reykjavik, Iceland. The above photo shows Northrop N-3PB serial number 304, which arrived at Jericho Beach, Canada, after 19 February 1941, survived at Little Norway, Toronto, and arrived at Reykjavik, Iceland. The seaplane was given code letters GS-V, lost on 24 November 1942.

Eleven of the 21 seaplane N-3PB aircraft based in Iceland would be lost on patrols or crashes from the first operation on 23 June 1941, until they were replaced by the Catalina Mk. III in mid-January 1943.

No. 323 – lost 24 July 1941,

No. 324 – [GS-G] lost 30 July 1941,

No. 311 – [GS-B] exploded 16 Sept. 1941,

No. 315 – [GS-L] lost 22 Oct. 1941,

No. 321 – [GS-E] lost 4 Feb. 1942,

No. 301 – [GS-A] lost 25 April 1942,

No. 310- – [GS-B] lost 16 August 1942,

No. 302 [GS-N] lost 17 Sept. 1942,

No. 313 – [GS-L] lost 4 November 1942,

No. 304 – [GS-V] lost 24 November 1942, and

No.320 – [GS-U] lost 21 April 1943.

On 21 April 1943, N-3PB No. 320 code GS-U, took off from Budareiry with pilot Wsewolod Bulukin and wireless operator Leif Rustad onboard. Due to heavy snow they were forced down on the glacier river Thjorsa and crash landed. The crew survived and the seaplane sank into the river mud. Thirty years later it was recovered and restored by Norwegian, British, and American volunteers. Today it is the only remaining example of the Northrop N-3PB in the world.

A proud example of the Royal Norwegian Air Force was Northrop N-3PB seaplane, which flew in British Columbia, Little Norway, Ontario, and Iceland during WWII. The insignia was created by the author and not based on any known design used during WWII.

Note – The No. 1 RCAF Training Command Daily Diary records the date as 5 April 1943.
At 14:00 Hrs., 5 April of 1943, “Little Norway” was officially relocated to a small airport located near Gravenhurst, in the summer recreation area of Muskoka, 80 miles north of Toronto. Four hundred and thirty acres of land were obtained from monies received from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, plus Norwegian, Finnish, Danish [Canadian], and construction began on the H.Q. log building in early spring 1941.


The Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Nygaardsvold was present for the official opening day on 4 May 1942, and he dedicated the log building “Little Skaugum” for Crown Prince Olav of the Royal Norwegian family.

This is the group photo of the Norwegian Staff at Headquarters “Little Norway” Toronto Island Airport, late 1941. They would remain in charge of elementary and advanced training until April 1943. The Air Officer Commanding was Lieutenant Colonel Ole Reistad and Chief of Staff, Commander Ole Remlapp. The Toronto Island training area was officially turned over to the RCAF on 5 April 1943, and became a Manning Depot for new Canadian recruits. The buildings were returned to the City of Toronto in July 1954, and demolished two years later.

The Norwegian Headquarters moved to Muskoka, also named “Little Norway” and now concentrated on elementary pilot training, as the flow of recruits began to slow down. Norwegians faced one unique problem, cut off from a guaranteed flow of new recruits, they began to find it impossible to keep existing squadrons up to strength. In early September 1943, a Royal Norway Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was created at Muskoka, and eleven airwomen began training on 29 September. In total three courses were completed and twenty-seven females graduated before it was disbanded in October 1944. I’m not clear on why the women’s Air Force was created but possibly to allow more male ground crew members to take pilot training. Muskoka was also turned into a Norwegian recreational center for skiing in winter and swimming, fishing, and camping in the summer months. All recruits spent time at the resort to rest, relax, and recuperate before they began training.


The Norwegian mascot at Muskoka, who drank beer.

With the opening of the new training school at Muskoka on 4 May 1942, the decision was made to standardize Norwegian training to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan type aircraft. Under Lend-Lease agreement, 50 additional Canadian built Fairchild PT-26, PT-26A, and PT-26B Cornels were delivered.

The founding father, Reuben Fleet, established Fleet Aircraft Ltd on 23 March 1930. In the first ten years it established a reputation of excellence in and out of Canada. In February 1942, an agreement was signed between the Canadian Government and Fairchild to construct PT-26 Cornell aircraft in the Fleet Aircraft at Fort, Erie, Ontario. The first 672 Cornell PT-26 RCAF aircraft were built by the Fairchild Hagerstown, Maryland, plant until the production line commenced at the Fort Erie, Canadian plant in November 1942. [Below] is the first built U.S. serial 42-14299, production number T4-4000.

The new Norwegian training base at Muskoka received ten RCAF PT-26 Cornells between August – 1 October 1942, and these were given odd staggered Norwegian serial numbers from 173 to 191. [These RCAF aircraft Cornell Mk. Is were built at the Fairchild plant, Hagerstown, Maryland and received RAF serial numbers. The following were received by the Norwegian Air Force in August 1942.

RAF serial EW341 production #T4-4400 [#173] RAF serial FH766 [#183]
RAF serial EW342 production # T4-4401 [#175] RAF serial FH767 [#185]
RAF serial EW343 production # T4-4402 [#177] RAF serial FH768 [#187]
RAF serial EW345 production # T4-4403 [#179] RAF serial FH769 [#189]
RAF serial EW348 production # T4-4404 [#181] RAF serial FH770 [#191]

Twenty PT-26B aircraft were delivered between 13 July and 3 September 1943, given staggered Norwegian odd serial numbers 193 to 231. These aircraft came with cockpit hood for blind flying training, and were all constructed at Fleet, Fort Erie, Ont. In total 250 were constructed and delivered to the RCAF as Cornell Mk. II aircraft, the first 157 had RCAF serial numbers 10751 to 10907. The first 15 with RCAF serial numbers 10751 [#193] to 10765 [#231] were delivered to the new airfield “Little Norway” at Muskoka.

Eleven PT-26 aircraft were delivered between June and August 1944, given staggered Norwegian odd serial numbers 233 to 253. These came from a batch of 251 Cornell Mk. II’s built at Fort Erie, Ontario, with RCAF serial numbers 10500 to 10750.

Seven PT-26B aircraft were delivered in June 1944, given staggered odd serial numbers 255 to 267. These were built at Fort Erie, Ontario, and delivered as Cornell Mk. II’s.

Two PT-26A were delivered in June 1944, Norwegian serial 269 and 271. These were produced in early 1944 at Fort Erie, Ontario, in a batch of 1,307 PT-26A aircraft.

From November 1942 until May 1945, 2,853 Cornell’s were built by Fleet Aircraft in Fort Erie, Ontario. The first fatal PT-26B flying accident at Muskoka took place on 26 August 1944, when Ft/Lt. R.G.N. Heise and Fl./Lt. B. Ottersen lost a wing and crashed at Germania, Ontario. The lost wing section was found but no large wreckage was recovered from the crash site.

A week later, another PT-26B lost a wing but the two Norwegians escaped death by parachute. This was a common fault with the early Fleet construction of the main wing spar, and many Canadian and RAF aircrews in training were killed across Canada. Norwegian training in the Canadian built PT-26 aircraft was temporarily suspended until the cause was determined and repaired.

Two original M-62A purchased in August 1940, still flying at Muskoka winter 1942.

This air and ground crew parade image taken at Muskoka in summer of 1942, shows the aircraft have received the serial number on tail, nose, and the normal large fuselage marking. The aircraft are all M-62As, with Norwegian serial numbers 119, 111, 131, 129, 141, and 157.

The “Wings for Norway” aircraft fundraising campaign toured the United States and Canada gathering over $400,000 in donations. Swedish-Americans donated $100,000, with the remainder received from Norwegian expatriates, plus Americans and Canadians. Norwegian aviators and sailors took part in a special fund-raising parade held on Fifth Ave. in New York City, which raised a large sum. The money was used to purchase many aircraft, which were painted in “Gift Squadron” colors with a ‘Wings for Norway’ map of north or South America on the fuselage with the name of donation country. The engine cowling received the nose art name of the main donator.


An “El Gaucho” mascot is presented to the representative to Canada for the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, General W. Steffens. Gauchos are the horsemen and ranch workers [Cowboys] of the South American Pampas [plains] with their own tough masculine identity which has no boundaries. This mascot came with the first “Wings for Norway” Gift aircraft #141 purchased and donated from Argentina and Uruguay.

Argentina and Uruguay would donate four aircraft all named “El Gaucho” #141, El Gaucho II #151, El Gaucho III #161 and El Gaucho IV #177.

Gift aircraft “Sweden I” and “Illinois” flying with skies
during winter training at Muskoka.

Special Norway Gift aircraft nose design

The Wings for Norway Gift aircraft “Spirit of Little Norway” received a special nose art design which was adapted from the large wall mural which was painted in the Airmen’s Mess, Little Norway, Toronto. The Norseman warrior is driving the Nazis from his homeland.

American Gift aircraft, and [below] Miss United States Navy even attended.

During a fund-raising benefit, a true story was told by one of the Norwegian student pilots [ex-boy scout] who escaped to train in Little Norway, and it was printed by the world press. This is the story that first appeared in “Boys Life” a scouting magazine, Vol. XXXII, No. 8, August 1942.

This article had a huge worldwide effect on the story of Norwegians training in Little Norway and attracted many famous people including Louis de Rochemont, the man who innovated and created the newsreel film “The March of Time.” The origin of the March of Time began on 6 March 1931, when CBS aired a 15-minute radio program in a dramatized news format. The program used live radio actors, a live orchestra, and elaborately staged sound effects to broadcast the world news. Radio pioneer Fred Smith and circulation manager Roy E. Larsen obtained permission to use material from Time magazine, which evolved into “The March of Time.” This highly successful radio formula gave birth to the idea movie-goers had a huge desire to see more. Producer Louis de Rochemont joined forces with Roy E. Larsen and The March of Time came to the big screen on 1 February 1935. From 1935 to 1951, the March of Time current news films were shown in over 9,000 Canadian and American movie theatres and educated 20 million people per month on the fast changing world at war.

The techniques and structure of these first news films were innovated by Louis de Rochemont which had a major influence on the future news documentaries to the present day. These 15 to 20-minute news films cost $25,000 to $75,000 each and produced a huge profit until the rise of television in 1951. The wisdom of Ted Turner took over [copied] where Louis de Rochemont left off, and today CNN rules the world using the very same dramatized news format.

In July 1941, Louis de Rochemont came to “Little Norway, Toronto Island, and filmed a [19 min. 45 second] history titled “Norway in Revolt” which was released in movie theatres in September 1941. The film earned him an Academy Award nomination. The “March of Time” film was also featured in the 6 October 1941 issue of LIFE magazine. After the filming was completed, Louis de Rochemont donated a large sum of money to the Norwegian Air Force. The second last Fairchild M-62A aircraft delivered to Little Norway in November 1940, #169 was selected for the ‘gift squadron’ painting and the nose art became “March of Time.”

This ‘gift squadron’ aircraft received a special fuselage painting for March of Time producer Louis de Rochemont. In a circle, a large radio microphone is imposed over a number of radio format sheet papers. In 1939, the original March of Time radio program was suspended; however the series was revived in 1941, with a new format of big name actors portraying leading world figures, such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

LIFE magazine 6 October 1941


In August 1942, Mr. Thor Solberg [insert] and Mr. P. Sivertsen donated two Interstate S.1A Cadet aircraft for liaison flight duties. [NC37358 and NC37360] Thor Solberg was born on a farm at Solberg, Norway, near Floro, 28 March 1893. Beginning on 17 July 1935, he flew from USA to Norway, arriving on 16 August, after 57 hours of flight time. He wanted to show the world that Norwegian Viking explorer “Leiv Eiriksson” had discovered America and flew the reverse route. In 1940, he formed his own airline company, then after the invasion of Norway, he returned to U.S. and began training of American pilots at his own “Solberg” airport at Readington, New Jersey. He had a very successful aviation career in Norway and the United States, and became a big supporter of the Norwegian training in Little Norway. He was placed in charge of ordering and purchasing the training aircraft used at Little Norway. Today he is honored in both Norway and the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame.

These two Interstate Cadet light planes were put to great use flying the 80 mile trip from Toronto Island Airport to the new training area in the Muskoka region. They also had on charge one RCAF Harvard trainer, which I’m sure was also painted in Norwegian colors, however I could never locate an image.

The Royal Norwegian Air Force hands over Little Norway to the RCAF, 14:00 hrs 5 April 1943. The new RCAF Camp was named “Lakeside Camp” No. 1 “M” [Manning Depot] and remained for the next ten years. I’m positive hundreds of Toronto youth joined the RCAF and received their manning training in the old original Little Norway buildings.

The Globe and Mail newspaper Toronto

Norwegian Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Ole Reistad presents a copy of Camp Little Norway to Air Commodore Frank S. McGill, Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Air Training Command, RCAF. This special gift photo publication was printed in Toronto in early 1943, containing 294 images of the training and life at Little Norway. Almost all of the images in this part one history were taken from my free domain publication copy. It was presented as a special gift to a few selected members of the RCAF. Today copies sell for $140 to $160 on the Internet, my research is free and may be used by anyone.

5 thoughts on “Little Norway – Part One (Text Version)

  1. Pingback: Little Norway – Update | Preserving the Past II

  2. LouisaOrford

    Trond Harsvik was my grandmother’s fiancé when he was killed in the collision with the Sam McBride. So often his name and the name of his instructor are left out of the narrative; thank you for including them!


    1. Pierre Lagacé Post author

      I will transfer your comment to Clarence Simonsen who is the author of Little Norway. He likes it when people find his research useful.


  3. Ragnar A. Brigg

    Reading with great interest as my father Ragnar Abelsted Brigg was one of those that served in the RNAF after training in Little Norway. In addition he is among the few who chose a long, risky and arduous escape route (Sweden, Finland Moscow, Gobi Desert, Chungking, Hong Kong, USA) out of Norway as mentioned in an article that’s copied above. He passed on to me quite a number of stories, etc. from the time. He, a great husband, father and person, passed away in 1998. I will always be indebted to him beyond what one can easily tell. Ragnar A. Brigg


    1. Pierre Lagacé Post author

      I will write you a personal email because your father’s story has to be told just like what Clarence Simonsen has written about Little Norway.



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