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

Canadian Military Aircraft of the Second World War, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Data current to 16 Jan 2019.

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 Halifaxes, Avro Lancasters and Short Stirlings, as well as B-24 Liberators and 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.

 

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. II in RCAF service.  None are preserved in Canada.  (RCAF Photo)

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.  (RCAF Photo)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 9206) cockpit view.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583531)

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

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

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. 3583262)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. IIA, RCAF (Serial No. 9203), 18 Jul 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3232310)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Mk. IIA, RCAF (Serial No. 9204), ca 1944.  (Comox Air Force Museum Photo)

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