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  #1  
Old 8th January 2019, 10:58
cz_raf cz_raf is offline
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Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

Hi all,

I have found in a Log Book of a RAF PR pilot serving in Tunisia a note of being flown to the UK as a passenger on aircraft he noted as „Fortress II 542“ during 23+24 Nov 1943. The route was: La Marsa – Maison Blanche – Gibraltar – St. Mawgan – Mount Farm
First I was thinking about B-17 delivered to the UK (Fortress II) but I was unable to find any B-17 RAF serial with such number... Then I was able to decode somehow the name of the pilots which I think are: Capt. Larsen + Lt. Jenkins - what made me think it was an USAAF B-17.

So some of my questions:

1) was it normal that a fully operation RAF pilot would be send back to the UK for some reason? As the final destination was the main USAAF PR base there was an idea he might travelled there for some briefing etc as in January 1944 when back with his Squadron relocated to Italy he was frequently used for the recce flights requested by the 5th US Army Intelligence (according to the ORB). The other possibility is that his real destination was RAF Station Benson, the main RAF PR base for some reason...

2) was it normal that an RAF pilot would travel in B-17 belonging to the USAAF?

3) would it be a normal operational aircraft or there were B-17 modified for transport purposes?

4) would it be able to identify the aircraft + unit + pilots from just a short info?

TIA

Pavel
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  #2  
Old 8th January 2019, 12:09
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Re: Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

At this time of the war, US heavy bombers flown to England will rather take the South Atlantic path (via Brazil - Africa - Morocco - England) rather than the North Atlantic path, from what I have read. So my first idea was that it could be such an aircraft, your man just being picked up as a passenger.

But it is unlikely that a crew on such a transfer flight went as far east as La Marsa, or even Algers-Maison Blanche.

If the 542 are the last digits of the US bomber, there are not so much possibilities:
B-17E 41-2542 (apparently never left the USA)
B-17F 41-24542 (survived the war)
B-17F 42-3542 (survived the war, was apparently in England at the time)
B-17F 42-29542 (apparently never left the USA)
B-17F 42-30542 (lost in August 1943)
B-17G 42-31542 (left the US on 25 November 1943 or later, arrived UK on 7 December 1943)
B-17G 42-97542 (delivered to USAAF in December 1943)
B-17G 42-102542 (delivered to USAAF in March 1944)
B-17G 43-37542 (delivered to USAAF in April 1944)
B-17G 43-38542 (delivered to USAAF in August 1944)

So three possibilities to search:
B-17F 41-24542
B-17F 42-3542
B-17G 42-31542: I will investigate this first, as it was in transit from US to UK roughly in the same time. But if you have confirmation that your man arrived in UK on 24 November, you can exclude it.
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  #3  
Old 8th January 2019, 14:20
cz_raf cz_raf is offline
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Re: Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

Hi Laurent, thank you for your analyze.

As the trip took only two days and the route seems to me is exact I think they flew directly from Gibralatar to St. Mawgan.

As for dates the flight are recorded as follows:
23 Nov 1943 La Marsa – Maison Blanche
24 Nov 1943 Maison Blanche – Gibraltar – St. Mawgan – Mount Farm

So I will try to investigate the other two possibilities:

B-17F 41-24542
B-17F 42-3542

Pavel
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Old 8th January 2019, 14:29
cz_raf cz_raf is offline
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Re: Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

Laurent, one of them like really like a possible candidate, I will try to research it more in detail:



B-17F "Shady Lady II “ - #42-3542
Originally assigned 351st Bomb Group/509BS, transferred to 487th 16-Jul-44. It was used as a ‘station hack’ to ferry men and equipment between bases.

https://ww1ww2photosfilms.tumblr.com...542-originally


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Old 8th January 2019, 15:47
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

Thinking a little out of the box, the 15th PRS (Heavy) flew F-9s (converted B-17s) and was based at La Marsa around this time.

From this link: http://paul.rutgers.edu/~mcgrew/wwii...ml/Nov.43.html

"During Nov, the 15th Photographic Squadron (Heavy), 3d Photographic
Reconnaissance and Mapping Group, transfers from La Marsa, Tunisia to
Grottaglie, Italy with B-17, B-25 and F-5."

The 15th PRS was part of the the 3rd PRG.

In a master's thesis written about Photo Recon in the Med and discussing operations during 1943 there is this statement.

" Aside from the other problems faced, the 3d Group required unique supplies and equipment not readily available from local sources. The demand for supplies became so great the group enlisted at least two B-17s from the 15th Photo Mapping Squadron for the sole purpose of resupply. The aircraft made weekly runs to England to obtain the needed materials, especially print paper, to continue operations. " I think the 15th Photo Mapping Squadron is another name for the 15th Photographic Squadron (Heavy).

It does not appear that any of the B-17s identified so far were in the 15th PRS, so perhaps that "connection" is not correct but I thought I would put this out for consideration.

Link to the Master's Thesis "Seeing the Enemy" (see pdf page 73) https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a501753.pdf

Or:
https://docplayer.net/58654877-Seein...ld-war-ii.html

Last edited by RSwank; 9th January 2019 at 18:36.
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Old 8th January 2019, 16:39
Col Bruggy Col Bruggy is offline
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Re: Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

Hello,

Apparently, 15PRS/3PRG operated 4 B-17s:

41-24433
https://b17flyingfortress.de/en/b17/41-24433/

41-24434
https://b17flyingfortress.de/en/b17/...34-the-mudhen/

41-24438
https://b17flyingfortress.de/en/b17/41-24438/

Notice the RAF personnel.

41-24440
https://b17flyingfortress.de/en/b17/...0-i-got-spurs/

Col.
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Old 8th January 2019, 19:20
cz_raf cz_raf is offline
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Re: Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

Many thanks to RsWank and Colin for interesting additional info which I was not aware and I will take it for consideration for sure!


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Old 31st January 2019, 20:00
cz_raf cz_raf is offline
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Re: Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

Hi all,

I have re-valued my original statement today:

Then I was able to decode somehow the name of the pilots which I think are: Capt. Larsen + Lt. Jenkins - what made me think it was an USAAF B-17.

Ranks of Capt. and Lt. were used by the USAAF but as this was in the Mediterranean those pilots could be also members of the SAAF?

As I have very little knowledge of the SAAF, would be anyone able to help me with answers of following questions:
1. does SAAF units A) have any "own" aircraft or B) they were just using those with RAF serials?
2. if the anwer to question 1. would be A) does they have any B-17s and one of the may be „Fortress II 542“?
3. is there avaiable any list of SAAF personnel during WWII where I can search for possible candidates of Capt. Larsen + Lt. Jenkins
4. so far I was bale to find only roll of honour of SAAF personnel (http://www.saafa.co.za/images/roll_of_honour.pdf) and I have found there following person:

Jenkins B.P. Lt 05/08/44

With help of cwgc.org I have indetified him correctly as:
Lieutenant JENKINS, B D 27172V
Died 05/08/1944
Aged 22
4 Sqdn.

But 4 Sq SAAF was a figher squadron so I am afriad it is not "my man" - but there might be another who survived the WWII.

So any help regading the SAAF connection to this "mysterious B-17" would be much appreciated.

Pavel
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Old 31st January 2019, 20:55
Stig Jarlevik Stig Jarlevik is offline
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Re: Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

Pavel

1) Yes, SAAF had/has its own serial number system, but most of the aircraft used during WW 2 remained with their RAF serials. Most likely to do with "who paid for what".

2) No SAAF units ever operated any B-17s, either with their own s/n system or RAF/USAAF system.

3) The book 85 years of SAAF by Winston Brent does have a "complete" Roll of Honour for South Africans 1920-2005 and also for those serving with RAF 1940-1947. Winston is presently updating his book where additions and corrections will be published, hopefully in 2020.

4) Lt B.P. Jenkins was killed flying Spitfire IX MH537 during attacking shipping on the River Po, Italy 5.8.1944 (so not "your Guy")

Large numbers of aircrew from the Dominions served with RAF/RCAF/RAAF/SAAF etc and if needed they were cross mixed, ie a South African did not necessarily end up in England with a 100% SA crew.

There was nothing unusual in hitching a ride from let's say North Africa back to England. I have not studied that subject, but I would find it hard to believe if USAAF would put spanners in the wheel for Dominion/RAF personal who needed to get back to UK, or vice versa.

Cheers
Stig
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  #10  
Old 31st January 2019, 21:05
cz_raf cz_raf is offline
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Re: Unidentified B-17 transport flight from Tunisia to the UK in Nov 1943

Stig, thank you very much for prompt and infromtive reply.
I was expecting that this is "deadlock" but wanted to have confirmation as SAAF is not "my cup of tea".


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