A Fortress Appears

This is the third revision of this page, with thanks to a Canadian researcher who brought new details on the second incident presented here. Without his help it may still have been a missing link in the Moose Squadron history of what exactly happened to KB762.

The first of these unusual combats occurred on the night of July4/5 1944 to the crew of Lancaster KB727.
In his report filed after his release as prisoner of war, P/O W.R Gibson. While rear gunner on KB727 tells of his encounter with a Fortress.

There was a full moon at 13 minutes to target a Ju-88 attacked from dead astern. At 600 yards I gave the order to corkscrew, opening fire at 300 yards. Mid-upper (Sgt. J. T. Pett) also opened fire. Tracer appeared to enter nose and port wing of fighter.
Continued firing until Junkers broke away on port quarter down.
About three minutes later I saw a Fortress II on our starboard quarter at 800 yards. I noticed that it had a black nose and no turret. As it edged over to a position dead astern at 700 yards, I gave the order to corkscrew and the Fortress followed us through all combat manoeuvres. When I opened fire at 500 yards, tracer entered the nose of the Fortress, which banked at 90 degrees and fell away to the starboard quarter down.

The crew of KB727 was shot down minutes later by a Ju88. The crew all survived the attack, but needed to bail out of the badly damaged Lancaster.
They were all captured and were sentenced to death at the infamous Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Their story is told at KB727.

The capture of the crew made it impossible for anyone at Bomber Command to know about the existence or activities of the night flying Fortress.
Their having encountered the Fortress and knowing about it's actions that night may have been why F/O Stevenson's crew was sent to the Concentration Camp. Although that seems unlikely as there were over another 160 Allied airmen sent there for execution.

A Second Encounter

The second of these odd attacks carried out on one of 419's crews and aircraft occurred on the night of December 15th 1944.
KB762 flown by S/L Black DFC, later Wing Commander, after leaving the target area of Ludwigshafen, S/L Black and his crew would be fired on by a Boeing Fortress. As mentioned above up until November 2016 I had nothing but theory as the who and why of the attack with caused one Mooseman his foot.
The mysterious Fortress was first sighted by the pilot S/L Black, it was seen on the port bow and above. Black took no immediate action. The big American made four engine aircraft turned to starboard appearing to be in no great hurry. Perhaps not having seen the Lancaster up until that time.

S/L Clifford Black's Memory of the Night, As Told Many Years Later

My bomb aimer, McKinnon, had done his job and always sat on the bench with the navigator who was seated just behind me. He stood up to stretch his legs and asked if he could look out the cockpit window to see this B17.
After a while, we finally decided that had to be one of ours that really got screwed up so we figured that they might want to follow me home in case their instruments were out, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. As the old Lancaster is faster than a Fortress, I figured I would just decrease speed a little bit to give him a break. As I slowed down, the B17 increased speed and went up 75 yards ahead of me then suddenly dipped down and went under my nose and opened fire from its rear gun. Flight Lieutenant Black immediately climbed hard to port as the tracers came up but was unable to avoid some of the 0.50 calibre bullets that slammed into the Lancaster's nose, one shell injuring one of the Lancaster crew! Bomb aimer McKinnon didn't say a word or yell he had been hit. My navigator said Mac had been hit and was down. In the meantime, the B17 had vanished. We had to get to an emergency hospital because Mac's foot was almost shot off and he might bleed to death. We carried these big shock things [crash pads] in the aircraft you could pull down off the wall.
We put the pad around his foot and pulled these long strings to create pressure to stop the bleeding. There was an emergency base at Woodbridge so I opened up the old Lancaster and fifteen miles out from the base, I radioed the tower, told them I had an emergency with a wounded crew man who needed emergency treatment. As soon as the wheels touched down and the aircraft came to a stop, an ambulance and a crash truck were already standing by. It was amazing how fast they whisked Mac off for treatment. We bedded down that night at Woodbridge which was about an hour from our base and in the morning we visited Mac. He was asleep and minus his right foot. Really sad but at least he survived. That was the last time I saw Mac.

Facts Laid Out in Combat Report For KB762

These are the details relative to the attack reported to F/L A.W. Jennings the squadron Gunnery Leader by F/S Cromwell gunner on S/L Black's crew.
It is the information, namely the time and the attacking aircraft's position which prove the link to where the Fortress was from.

Date: 15/16 December'44
Target: Ludwigshafen
Time: 1845
Height: 17,00'
Heading 262 degrees (T)
Homeward- on track
First Visual range: 200 yds.
Position: Port Bow just above, against Light Sky
Which member of crew obtained first visual: Pilot
Type of E/A: Fortress II, Number: One What Lights on E/A: None
Direction of attack or approach: Port Bow Slightly above
Direction of breakaway of E/A: Stbd Bow Down Range: 100 yds
What Combat manoeuvre was taken: Steep climbing turn to Port
Did Fighter fire: Yes Opening Range: 100 yds. Closing Range: 100yds.
Who opened fire first: Fortress

The accompanying narrative for the Combat Report states:
"Shortly after leaving target area, Pilot sighted Fortress II on Port Bow slightly above. No immediate action was taken. Fortress made a slow turn to starboard and just as it became dead ahead Pilot pulled nose up just as Fortress opened fire from Stbd waist gun and Rear turret, with short burst, after which Fortress corkscrewed. Pilot did a steep climb to Port and Fortress was last seen breaking away under Stbd wing. Bomb Aimer was wounded in right foot. A/C landed at Woodbridge and B/A taken off to hospital. A/C proceeded to Base following day."

The Connection

Many Thanks to D. Lauffbacher for his invaluable assistance on into what up to this time was the unknown source of the Fortress and located positive proof on the encounter.
The RAF's special duties No. 100 Group, part of Bomber Command, responsible for electronic warfare and counter-measures. They flew not only the Fortress but also the larger B-24 Liberator. While testing new jamming equipment pilots of No. 100 Group would fly with bomber streams.
The radio operators on board also spoke German and gave false information to night fighters seeking out the bomber streams. 214 Squadron were a part of these airborne electronic counter measures. And on December 15th. one of their Fortress crews reported the same details as those found in the Combat Report filed by 419 Squadron's gunner F/S Cromwell.

The question remains as to why did the RAF fortress fire on a Lancaster. The crew of the Lancaster had a long enough look to determine that the aircraft above them and only 100 yards away was a Fortress. Did the gunners on the Fortress not see the Lancaster then open fire because of the closeness of the Lancaster and they were caught of guard.
One other point which I did not mention was during an other older interview S/L Black mentions he had a funny feeling about this Fortress ahead of him and had his upper gunner train his guns on the Fortress. No way of knowing what happened.
Although another incident approximately three weeks later may help. On January 5th. 1945, KB722 known as "Hecklin Hare" was shot down by the gunner on a Lancaster in the same bomber stream. The crew of KB722 survived the incident but it does show that it is not impossible to be shot at by another aircraft which is "friendly".

No. 100 Group RAF Was a Suspect

In the original article I presented on these two incidents, No.100 Group aircraft was one of my suspects involved with the firing on KB762, S/L Black's aircraft.
So now what about the Fortress which P/O Gibson described in his report. In this case the Fortress and Ju88s were all in close vicinity to KB727. Let's wait and see what information can be found regarding this.
The whole incident did happen and is documented, some focus groups say no hard facts of one of these phantom bombers actually exists. Well the reports given by two of 419 airmen shows that something did happen to KB762, which turned out to be too secret to have the truth told. And as for KB727, another question.