59 History
- The Battle of the Bay - B-17 Flying Fortress I-II-IIA - No. 59 Squadron Service History -
B-17E FK209 at Dorval, on its way to 59 Squadron (photo provided by Rob Stitt). This aircraft was lost on the 23/03/1943 when it failed to return from an A/S patrol. It has since been reported that it was shot down by a Ju88.
------ Coastal Command - The B-17 Flying Fortress Interlude ------

The Boeing B-17C - RAF Flying Fortress I: In Spring of 1941, twenty B-17C's were allocated to the RAF under the agreement that full combat records of the aircrafts performance would be supplied in return. These aircraft were essentially the same as the USAAC B-17Cs, but they had all but the single nose gun replaced by 0.5-inch Browning machine guns, and self-sealing fuel tanks were installed at Wright Field before the Fortress Is were flown to Britain. They were known as Model 299T by the manufacturer, and as Fortress I by the RAF. Serial numbers AN518 through AN537 were assigned to these planes, although they were initially painted with the incorrect series letters AM rather than AN. By the time these aircraft saw service with Coastal Command, there were only 11 of them left and some were also designated for service in North Africa.

The Fortress I - Coastal Command: Between Feb and April of 1942, 5 of the remaining Fortress Is in Europe were transferred to RAF Coastal Command. No 220 Squadron operated two of them on convoy escort duties in advance of the arrival of the new Fortress IIA. No. 206 Squadron used Fortress Is briefly for crew training in advance of receiving its first Fortress IIAs. No 59 Squadron is recorded as having one Fortress I for the same purposes.

Fortress I - AN519 - V/59 - According to the flight log of Hervey Longmuir, 59 was assigned AN519 "V" and in Sept of 1943 it was still being used for training purposes. Robert Stitt

The Boeing B-17E - RAF Flying Fortress IIA: In December 1942, the RAF took delivery of its first lot of USAAF B-17E Flying Fortress (RAF Flying Fortress IIA) and it was originally expected that these aircraft would join Bomber Command but it was decided that they were unsuitable for high level long range bombing at the time (due to their lack of range and low bomb load capacity), so they were re-routed to Coastal, as Bomber Command decided they could make better use of Coastal's Liberators in the interim period, unit suitable B-17's became available. Shortly after, 59 received and converted to the IIA's.

------ The Fortress ------

59's Fleet of Flying Fortress II and IIA's: Once 59 had converted to the Flying Fortress they began training for further U-boat operations. As had been the case with conversion to the Liberator, in order to speed up the process of aircrew familiarization with aircraft and procedures, all training was done "in-squadron" rather than crews being sent away to specialised training units, "on the job training" to put it in a more domesticated way... After about a month training period, 59 were recalled for duty and three a/c & crews posted to RAF Chivenor between the 21st & 23rd January 1943, to begin operating once again in the Bay of Biscay (as they had previously operated there in late 1942 with the Liberator Mk.III).

59 Squadron Fortress Aircraft
B-17C - Flying Fortress I
Serial Number
Squadron Code
Service Details
Used for training purposes
B-17E - Flying Fortress IIA
Serial Number
Squadron Code
Service Details
Hit by aircraft on runway before operational
"B then P"
Lost with all crew - 23/03/1943
Recorded incorrectly as a Fortress in ORB
B-17F - Flying Fortress II
Serial Number
Squadron Code
Service Details
Crashed - 26/03/1943 - Loss of three crew.


Why the Change in aircraft? In the book "Boeing B-17 Fortress - in RAF Coastal Command", Robert Stitt states the following...

"The Air Ministry recognised that promised deliveries of Liberators and Fortresses would not be met and in August 1942 revised its New Expansion Plan... It was now hoped that three Liberator squadrons would be formed (on Coastal Command) but this failed to happen due to allocation of aircraft elswhere by American authoirities... To address this critical shortage, the Air Ministry contracted Scottish Aviation in November 1942 to modify all 33 Liberator IIIA's to Long Range configuration... a program that would take three months to complete..."

This predicament stretched the resources of 120 Sqn very thin, so 59's Lib's were reallocated to 120, to bolster their ranks... So from Dec. 13th 1942 till end of March 1943, 59 Sqn operated the B-17 Fortress. According to Robert, the original plan had been to re-equip 59 with new Halifaxes but enough Fortresses had become available to equip three squadrons. 59 were the third to operate the Fortress... 59 Sqn's C/O, W/C Bartlett A.F.C was not happy at all with the situation, having trained up on the Liberator Mk.III's only to have them realloacted very soon after and being forced back into training again on a new aircraft, this would have been very frustrating. He was visited by Air Chief Marshal Ludlow-Hewitt, who later wrote to Air Marshal Slessor stating...

"Ulimately of course, we shall have to re-equip one of the Fortress squadrons to Liberators again, it is all a little bit of a mess..."

Fortress IIA

(above) The aircraft is Fortress IIA FL462 W/220. This plane also flew with 59 Squadron as C/59 and was flown during an attack on U-441 by F/O HD Kelvin and crew. So far I have managed to find sources that state that not only did FL462 fly with 59, but also FL463 and FL464, this information is supported by research done by Rob Stitt. (below) As an interesting side note... FL461 was also intended for service with the RAF (and possibly 59 Sqn) but was diverted to the USAAF and saw action in the PTO (Pacific Theatre of Operations).

Fortress Mk.IIA (B-17E) 'Mystery Ship'
Unit: Coastal Command, RAF
Serial: FL461 (41-9234)

This aircraft was intended to be a Lend-Lease Fortress Mk.IIA for RAF Coastal Command and the plane has RAF serial number of FL461 and RAF roundels painted over with USAAF insignia for service in the Pacific. It was accepted and delivered to USAAF on 26th July 1942, passed through Cheyenne Mod.Center, Wyoming; thence to Hamilton Field, California, for Project SUMAC, the delivery of aircraft to the 5th AF. It was crash-landed (both pilots surviving) near Wau, Papua New Guinea January 8th, 1943 (65th BS, 43rd BG) after being after hit by AAA while bombing a convoy escort off Lae. Wreck still intact. The USAAF insignia have worn off by exposure to the elements over the years, exposing the RAF insignia underneath.

(above) Fortress FK190 - J/206 - 206 Sqn, like 59, flew with the code "1" when stationed in the Azores. Fk190 was used as a training and ferry aircraft. (Robert M Stitt - via Bryan Yates.


------ U-boat War - Back to the Bay of Biscay ------
B-17 Fortress IIA - FK198 - M/59 : Arrives at RAF Chivenor
(far left) P/O Lees smokes a cigarette as F/O Longmuir (centre) plays with one of the dogs that's come to welcome them to Chivenor. The white dog in the middle of the group is "Stinker"... Sgt Bailey is pictured far right next to FK198. Dated 23/01/1943 (Photo album of Hervey Longmuir).

Detached - RAF Chivenor: Although 59 only operated the B-17 for a few months, they did have a couple of notable attacks on U-boats during this period. Based at RAF Chivenor, they flew patrols over the Bay of Biscay, which in early 1943, was considerably "quiet" on the U-boat detection front, due to the lack of suitable radar technology (especially on the Liberators). From January of 1943, the USAAF had agreed that all aircraft supplied to the UK destined for Coastal Command service would be fitted out with Mk.V radar. This was after they had refused Coastal Command the immediate supply of suitable aircraft in the latter half of 1942. There were three U-boat attacks during this period, that of U-223 (minor damages) which is also the first attack in which the U-boat involved has been confirmed and with recorded damages. U-441 (minor damages) and one unknown U-boat, that the aircraft and crew dropped 5 D/C's on track, ahead of the swirl after the boat had submerged (no further details known). Aircraft attack protocol stated that within 30secs of a U-boat submerging was the time limit in which D/C's would be effective (after which the boat would be beyond the 50ft lethal detonation range of the Amotol D/C... The 59 ORB records that the D/C's were dropped on 30secs, so perhaps just a tad too late to cause damages. It also notes that the aircraft (for the unknown U-boat) was carrying a mixture of both Amatol (x12) and Torpex (x2) D/C's. Also during this time, HAL Moran and crew were attacked by a Ju88 but no damage was reported. For a much more detailed account of 59's involvement in the U-Boat war, select this link.

The first - P/O Neilson and crew (on the 21st), flying the first op on the 23rd Jan when B/59 FK205, piloted by F/O AR Neilson, F/S AW Sinclair (NAV), P/O J Tuckwood, F/Sgt LC Marriot and Sgt's J Dyer, HB Clarke and EH Whitney took off for an A/S patrol. Time up: 0452 Time Down: 1452 (with no notable enemy contact). The second crew to leave for Chivenor (on the 22nd) were F/O H.A.L Moran and crew (F/O R.D Stevenson -Nav, P/O L. Stalker and Sgt's L. Hadfield - K. Regan - J. Moorby and J.B. Jenkins) and flew there first mission also in B/59 on the 24th. They were attacked by a Ju.88. E/A fired long burst from 400 yards to 50 yards then passed under 'B'. Rear gunner 'B' fired 5 to 6 second burst expelling 160 rounds until the E/A entered cloud. 'B' took evasive action and E/A was not seen again. The last crew to leave for Chivenor in January (on the 23rd) were F/O N. Barson & crew (F/O C.E. Blair - co-pilot, P/O H.R. Longmuir - Nav, P/O W.S. Massina (WAG), Sgt's J. Lees, J.R. Pilon and A.J. Bailey) in M/59 - FK198. They flew their first sortie on the 26th in the same aircraft

59 were the third Coastal squadron to operate on the Fortress, after 220 and 206 Sqn's.

Lost Wings: As noted above FK209 was lost on the 23/03/1943 - failed to return (believed to have been shot down by a Ju88). This was the only Fortress IIA that 59 lost due to enemy contact but in the memoirs of Ernest Allen, he makes mention of an aircraft over shooting the runway at Chivenor (piloted by F/L Heron), killing two WAG's and causing fatal damage to the aircraft, DBR (damaged beyond repair). I have no information on this aircraft at this stage.

(above) The Canadain crew members of Fortress B-17E - FK209: Lost on the 23/03/1943 - The following list of crew was submitted by Robert Stitt (Boeing B-17 Fortress- In RAF Coastal Command Service). It appears that the 7 Canadians were posted to the Squadron together and that P/O Phillips (who was British) joined the crew for the first time on this day. Phillips first appears in the ORB crewed with F/O Murray Charlton & crew on the 21st, just a couple of days before. Both sorties were undertaken in FK209 so perhaps Phillips was a flight engineer and FK209 had been experiencing some mechanical or electrical problems.

Back (L-R): Sgt Arnold - W/O Montgomery - W/O Spino - F/Sgt Cojocar

Front (L-R): W/O Copping - F/O Weatherhead - F/O Zapfe



------ Details of a detached crew ------
(Back LR): P/O Massina, Sgt Bailey, Sgt Pilon, P/O Lees (Front LR): F/O Blair, F/O Barson, F/O Longmuir: made the first 59 Sqn attack (causing damages) for which the U-boat (U-223) has been confirmed, on 01/03/1943 in Flying Fortress FL463 - D/59. At this time the squadron were detached to RAF Chivenor for patrols in the Bay of Biscay.

Recalled For Duty: According to his Flight Book, HR Longmuir (RAAF- nav-b) flew in FK198 - M/59 captained by Neville Barson (RAAF) and co-piloted by CE Blair (RCAF) to Chivenor from Thorney Island on the 23rd Jan and on the 26th they flew their first mission (A/S patrol) which resulted in no notable contact. Take off time was 0550hrs and they landed again at 1530hrs. On the 29th they flew their second mission in FK202 - B/59 again an A/S patrol with no notable contact. Take off time was 0900hrs and they landed again at 1720hrs.

From the 5th of Feb it appears that this crew undertook as series of 10 x-country and training flights, which included fighter affiliation, bombing and air firing exercises (alternating between Thorney Island and Chivenor) until the 20th of Feb, when they flew their third sortie, a Convoy A/S patrol, which was met and afterwards they were diverted to RAF Predannack. Take off time was 1255hrs and they landed at 0110hrs. It was then back to training and the crew detached to RAF Talbenny for armament trials on the 24th. Two days later it was back to Chivenor for more fighter affiliation and air test flights till the 28th.


(above) far left - P/O Dick Massina (WAG -Barson crew), F/O Longmuir (Nav - Barson crew) - still wearing his flying boots - to his left is F/O Ron Stevenson (Nav - Moran crew) - Sgt Bailey in front of the "M" (WAG - Barson crew) - F/O H.A.L "Tim" Moran, stands with his hands on his hips smoking a cigarette. (photo - Hervey Longmuir)



Attack on U-223: On the 1st of March in FL463 - D/59, they took of from RAF Chivenor on an A/S Patrol. At 1246hrs, they sighted and attacked U-223 causing minor damages. As the aircraft approached the U-Boat gunners opened fire hitting the aircraft on its approach run. The following is an excerpt form the squadron ORB.

‘D’ sustained the following damage:-
Hydraulic system rendered U/S causing big spurt of oil in pilot’s and navigator’s compartments. Throttle control to No.4 engine was severed and automatic pilot rendered U/S. Aircraft filled with smoke. 5 D.C.'s were released from a height of 60-80 ft aimed to fall from port bow to starboard quarter. 3 explosions were seen, the nearest being 20 feet from starboard side of U/Boat’s hull, two thirds the distance from conning tower to bow.

At least six men were seen on U/Boat, 4 in conning tower and two on deck aft. Rear gunner raked deck of U/Boat, but no casualties were observed. After D.C.'s had exploded, U/Boat appeared to lose way and stop. Pilot flew out of range to investigate damage to aircraft, returning one minute later to scene of attack. U/Boat had then submerged. A patch of D.C. scum was observed merging into swirl. Baiting tactics were carried out for 17 minutes, but nothing further was seen on return and aircraft set course for base.

News from Canada
(above) This picture is of Fortress IIA - FK202 "B"of 59 Sqn whilst based at Chivenor. (Boeing B-17 Fortress in RAF Coastal Command Service - Robert M Stitt. Photo submitted by Andy Thomas)
News articles kept by Ace Bailey and his family..

Last Run Before Liberator Returns.. On the 21st they flew another convoy escort (met) in B/59 and on the 23rd they returned to Thorney Island in the squadron's only Fortress I, AN519 - V/59. On April 2nd they flew their last flight (non operational) in M/59 which is noted as "Experimental Periscope Bombing" at RAF Calshot. They then switched back to their new Liberator Mk.V's.

Fortress II-IIA's
According to the logbook of F/L Longmuir, Flying Fortress FK 209 - was in Jan-March of 1943 coded J/59. "J" was lost on the 23rd of March, when she failed to return with her all Canadian crew from an anti-sub patrol out of Chivenor. The aircraft pictured here is J/220 squadron. They also had an aircraft coded "J" which was FK197 circa 1942, when stationed at Ballykelly (Allied Bombers, Chris Chant, Zenith Press) and. 59 Squadron flew Fortress IIA FK198, which was coded M/59.
(left) This aircraft is noted as FA702 P/206. 59 Sqn flew FA703 'T' and 704 'R'. The ventral ball turret guns (bottom) had to be retracted before landing. Ernest Allen notes in his memoirs that he was about to land when he got a sudden radio message to pull up from the control tower... somebody had forgotten to retract the turret...



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------ Fortress Images from the photo album of Hervey Longmuir ------
(both of the above) Flying Fortress IIA - FK186 - S/220.
(above) This aircraft is coded 'J' but it is not known which squadron she belonged to.
(above) Airmen works on an unidentified Liberator. In the background Flying Fortress 1-U takes off. (below) enlarged section of the above picture, showing a Fortress coded 1-U. It is likely that this aircraft was assigned to 206 Sqn, as it appears that the "1" code was dropped temporarily for 59 Sqn whilst they operated the Fortress.
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This site was created by and information compiled by L.Del Mann - © 2008