Birger Ek
Rolf Birger Ek was a Finnish pilot and Mannerheim Cross
Mannerheim Cross
The Mannerheim Cross of Liberty is the highest Finnish military decoration. The medal was introduced after the Winter War and named after Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim...


Birger Ek was born in 1911 to insurance inspector Arthur Ek and Elsa Lundequist and grew up in Loviisa
Loviisa is a municipality and town of inhabitants on the southern coast of Finland. About 43 per cent of the population is Swedish-speaking.The municipality covers an area of of which is water...

 in southern Finland. He married Tyyni Orvokki Puupponen and had two daughters. He began his military career in the early 1930s.

He participated in the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 and Continuation War
Continuation War
The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

 as a pilot and the commander of the second flight of bomber squadron 6 (2./LeLv
No. 6 Squadron (Finland)
No. 6 Squadron , renamed No. 6 Bomber Squadron was a maritime bomber squadron of the Finnish Air Force during World War II. The squadron was part of Flying Regiment 5....

). He was appointed the Mannerheim Cross (No. 106) and knighthood on 8 February 1943.

He flew 171 wartime missions, including 29 in the Winter War.

Captain Ek was the first Finnish "Suto" (sukellusveneentorjuntalentäjä), or submarine hunter pilot. He is credited with inventing and refining the method of dropping naval depth charge
Depth charge
A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon intended to destroy or cripple a target submarine by the shock of exploding near it. Most use explosives and a fuze set to go off at a preselected depth in the ocean. Depth charges can be dropped by either surface ships, patrol aircraft, or from...

s from aircraft. Immediately at the outbreak of the Winter War, Ek noticed that the small bombs used up to that time to combat submersibles were too weak against the Soviet submarines with their strong pressure hulls. They had to find another way of dealing with them. From a friend in the navy he learned about the depth charges that were in use and managed to get a hold of a few for his experiments. He then proceeded to find out at which heights the aircraft should fly to avoid deflecting depth charges from the surface and still drop the charge without breaking the detonation mechanism upon impact with the water.

The Finnish bombers were equipped with three depth charges, each one set to detonate at different depths. The bomber squadron became quite successful, sinking eight Soviet submarines. Captain Ek was involved in the sinking of four. The Soviets did not manage to device any effective countermeasure during the entire war.

Knowledge of the effective submarine huntung method soon spread around the world. Most navies, up to that point, had been using regular bombs. Upon learning about it, some members of the British House of Commons pressed for the introduction of similar weapons in their aerial submarine hunting forces. This was soon followed by the other allied forces.

British forces mostly used modified Vickers Wellington
Vickers Wellington
The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R. K. Pierson. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a...

 aircraft equipped with four depth charges and were used quite successfully against Italian and German submarines.

The most notable difference between the Finnish and Allied methods was that the Allies were able to set the detonation depth just prior the drop, while the Finnish ones were pre set on ground. This was partly due to the use of less advanced bombers in the naval bombing squadron, and partly due to the shallow depth of the Gulf of Finland where most of the missions were carried out.

Captain Ek flew all of his submarine hunting missions with notoriously unreliable Soviet Tupolev SB-2 war-booty aircraft, usually without escort. The aircraft had to rely on camouflage and also flew at altitudes of only some 100 meters above the sea to make them more difficult to spot, but in the same time made the use of parachutes, as the means of escape, impossible.

He was promoted to the rank of Major after the war, and pursued a career as a foreign military attaché at the Finnish embassy in Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...


In the 1960s he was taxed at an unreasonable high level, which he couldn't meet, and deceided to go into voluntary exile to the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...

. All his belongings and pension savings were confiscated by the Finnish state, and Ek was forced to loan from friends and relatives to make ends meet.

He returned to Finland just before his death. He is buried at the knight's grove at the Levo cemetery.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.