Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Canadian Warplanes 4: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress,

Boeing Fortress Mk. IIA

Data current to 9 April 2021.

 (RCAF Photo)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 9202), No. 168 (HT) Squadron, Rockcliffe, Ontario, in 1945.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber developed for the the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) in the 1930s.  The B-17 was primarily employed by the USAAC in the daylight strategic bombing campaign of the Second World War against German industrial and military targets.

According to an article by Dave O’Malley, the RCAF purchased six used Boeing B-17E and B-17F Flying Fortresses from the USAAC and ferried them to Rockcliffe, with five flying in over three weeks in December and the sixth in February of 1944.  The Rockcliffe Flying Fortresses were the only B-17s ever in the direct employ of the RCAF, and they were given the standard RCAF four-digit serial numbers common in the Second World War, using a block of numbers from Serial No. 9202 to Serial No. 9207.  Although the RCAF had never operated Flying Fortresses before, Canadians were no strangers to four-engine bomber operation.  Canadians serving in RAF Bomber Command served as aircrews on Handley Page Halifax, Avro Lancaster and Short Stirling heavy bombers, as well as Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers and Short Sunderland flying boats with Coastal Command, and many were flying in all B-17 crew positions, attached to Fortress units of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber and Coastal Commands.

When the first of these former training Fortresses arrived at Rockcliffe in the first week of December 1943, they were somewhat clapped out and still carried their defensive weapons, American markings and serial numbers.  They underwent immediate changes that saw the removal of the features that earned them the name Flying Fortress, specifically, their machine guns.  Flying across the Atlantic Ocean to places like Morocco, England, Cairo and Italy meant that the chance of being attacked over open water by a German marauder was negligible, and now, with North Africa secured by the Allies, the only enemy aircraft with the range to find them were also four-engined patrol bombers like the FW200 Condor.  Subtracting the weight of the machine guns, their turrets and the gunners meant more mail or additional fuel could be carried, thus increasing the effectiveness of each mission.  

For more details on the RCAF B-17s have a look at Dave's article here:

http://www.vintagewings.ca/VintageNews/Stories/tabid/116/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/469/Letters-From-Home-The-B-17-in-the-RCAF.aspx

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. II (3), (Serial Nos. 9205-9207), and Mk. IIA (9202-9204), (3) for a total of 6 aircraft.

 (DND Archives Photo, PL-11069)

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, USAAF (Serial No. 41-9203), being delivered to the RAF as Fortress Mk. IIA, RAF (Serial No. FK209), during a stop at Dorval Airport, Quebec.  Note the ASV radar antennae under the wings and on the nose.  This aircraft served with RAF Coastal Command, until it was shot down on 23 March 1943 by a German Junkers Ju 88C over the Bay of Biscay, 350 km southwest of Oussant, by Oblt Hermann Horstmann of 13/KG40.  FK209 had an all Canadian crew.

(CFJIC-DND Photo, PL-1170 via Don Smith)

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, USAAF (Serial No. 41-9203), being delivered to the RAF as Fortress Mk. IIA, RAF (Serial No. FK209), during a stop at Dorval Airport, Quebec.  Note the ASV radar antennae under the wings and on the nose.  This aircraft served with RAF Coastal Command, until it was shot down on 23 March 1943 by a German Junkers Ju 88C over the Bay of Biscay, 350 km southwest of Oussant, by Oblt Hermann Horstmann of 13/KG40.  FK209 had an all Canadian crew.

"While flying on a routine anti-submarine patrol over the Bay of Biscay (the bay which lies between Spain and France), Arnold’s aircraft, Fortress Aircraft #209 went missing. It is presumed that enemy action was involved. The other crewmembers on the plane with Arnold, were also reported missing. These include F/O Weatherhead, F/O Zapfe, Sgt. Copping, F/Sgt. Cojocar, Sgt. Spino, Sgt, Montgomery, one other crew member, whose name is not recorded.

Arnold was officially declared dead two months after the incident. His plane and body were never recovered. Not much is recorded about this incident.

However, it is known that the Bay of Biscay was a “hot spot” for German U-Boats, and it was common for Allied pilots to fly anti- submarine patrol missions. The Bay was also heavily patrolled by Coastal Commands. German submarines frequently sailed through the Bay of Biscay from four of the French ports they controlled".

 (DND Archives Photo, PL-23235)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. IIA, RCAF (Serial No. 9204), cn 8305, No. 168 Heavy Transport Squadron, Rockcliffe, ex USAAF B-17F-50-DL (Serial No. 42-3369).  This aircraft flew the first scheduled trans-Atlantic mail flight on 15 Dec 1943.

 (RCAF Photo)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. IIA, RCAF (Serial No. 9204), cn 8305, No. 168 Heavy Transport Squadron, Rockcliffe.  Mail for Canadian airmen and soldiers pours out of the Flying Fortress as the new RCAF Air Mail Transport Squadron goes into action with a regular service between Canada, the UK and the East.  Weeks will be cut off the former time schedule as the fleet of Flying Fortresses do their bit in making sure that the mail gets through. 23 Dec 1943.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583531)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 9206) cockpit view. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583263)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. IIA, RCAF (Serial No. 9202). No. 168 (HT) Squadron.  Leading Aircraftman Freemantle painting a mailbag symbol to indicate another overseas mail flight completed, Rockcliffe, Ontario, 9 May 1944. 

 (DND Archives Photo, RE64-957)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. IIA, RCAF (Serial No. 9202). No. 168 (HT) Squadron.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583262)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. IIA, RCAF (Serial No. 9203), 168 (HT) Squadron, ground crew, Rockcliffe, 9 May 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3232310)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. IIA, RCAF (Serial No. 9203), No. 168 (HT) Squadron, 18 Jul 1944.

  (Comox Air Force Museum Photo)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. IIA, RCAF (Serial No. 9204),  No. 168 (Heavy Transport) Squadron, Rockcliffe, Ottawa, Ontario, c1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3643725)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 9205), 168 (HT) Sqn, 8 Aug 1944. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3643726)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 9205), 168 (HT) Squadron, 8 Aug 1944.