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Thread: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

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    Default 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    Hello everyone

    The Hartlepool Mail of Saturday May 31st 1941 reported the following:

    OVER THE ATLANTIC
    A member of the crew which flew the first “Flying Fortress” from America to England is a West Hartlepool airman. Mr. Albert Buckton (22), eldest son of Mrs. E. Buckton, of 177, Oxford Road. Mr. Buckton, who joined the R.A.F.V.R. in May, 1939, and was called up at the outbreak of war, served as a sergeant wireless operator with the R.A.F. until recently, when he was transferred to the service for bringing planes from America. Mrs. Buckton has a collection of typical American novelties, etc. which her son has received from well-known Americans, and her “souvenirs” include an album of photographs taken at parties given in their honour in various parts of America by film stars*. Mr. Buckton was employed by Messrs. P. F. Perry and co., Ltd., before being called up. He is an old boy of St. Cuthbert’s School, and was a well-known local sportsman.

    *See: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/i...ject/205014816

    'One photograph album containing prints of the RAF aircrew assigned to bring the first Boeing B17 Flying Fortress from Seattle across the Atlantic in 1941 being toured around several Hollywood studios in Burbank, California.'

    'Buckton was a member of the aircrew, and other members are listed as A. Buckton, C.C Taylor, E L Hider, A M McCune and W W Brown. There is one group photograph of the aircrews of 93rd Bombing Squadron, at March Field, California.'

    and https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/i...ect/1030015705

    'Collection of papers relating to his service as Flight Sergeant (Wireless Operator / Air Gunner) on bombers with No. 269 Squadron (June - December 1940), No. 614 Squadron (November 1941 - March 1942 and April - May 1942), No. 271 Squadron (March - April 1942), and No. 297 Squadron (May - November 1942), including his flying log book, newspaper and picture journals concerning his posting to the first British aircrew to fly Flying Fortresses from the US and the celebrity they achieved at Hollywood (1941).'

    Buckton was killed in November 1942 in Halifax W7801 'B' of 297 Squadron on Operation Freshman in Norway.

    Presumably Buckton was serving with Ferry Command at the time of the newspaper article in April/May 1941? He doesn't seem to be on the list of crew that flew the first Fortress 1s from Gander to Prestwick in April 1941. Would Ferry Command have been involved in ferrying the Fortresses from the west coast of the US across to Gander ready to cross the Atlantic?

    Regards

    Simon
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    Hi Simon,

    That is odd - he doesn’t appear in any of the Fortress I delivery crew lists. I’ll see if DHH has his Ferry Command aircrew assignment cards.

    The crews for the Fortress Is were formed up prior to the aircraft leaving the West Coast. At least some members were Coastal Command off their first tours and typically only did one or two transatlantic deliveries before going back to squadrons.

    Will let you know how the card quest goes.

    Robert
    Last edited by robstitt; 25th January 2021 at 15:56.

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    Default Re: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    I think I can partly answer my own question.

    In 'Ocean Bridge' by Carl A. Christie, page 77, he mentions the 'Fortress party,' an unofficial name coined by Air Commodore 'Taffy' Powell in his book 'Ferryman.'

    Powell's book has a section about the Fortress collection on pages 74-75. He recalls that 30 aircrew from various Coastal Command units were gathered together at Uxbridge in December 1940. On New Years Eve they arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia and reported to ATFERO at Montreal.

    Some members were attached to TWA HQ at Kansas City, to gain experience on the Stratoliner, which someone thought would give them experience of flying Boeing four-engined aircraft. He mentions that 'they were certainly both built by the Boeing company, but that was about the only thing they had in common.'

    They did get some flying done, but then went from there to Riverside, California, to join the other members of the Fortress Party who had been attached to the 93rd Heavy Bombardment Squadron for actual B-17 training. However, as the US was at that time officially neutral, they got very little flying. He calls them the 'Fortress party' as they got 'little training, some familiarisation, but lots of bonhomie'...!

    When the first batch of RAF Fortress 1s were ready at Seattle in March 1941, they were collected by the Fortress party at Portland, Oregon, to avoid California sales tax(!), these Fortresses being pre Lend-Lease cash orders. The Fortresses then crossed the US via Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, where they received their camouflage and markings, before heading off to Montreal. There was a slight hiccup, though. They got diverted to Floyd Bennett Field on Long Island, where they arrived unannounced and caused the local populace to report strange aircraft over the base to the police.

    I'm thinking that Buckton was one member of this 'Fortress party' - the details all fit.

    Regards

    Simon

    EDIT - Thanks Rob. I was just typing this out when you posted, so apologies. I tried to find him, and the others mentioned, in Appendix H of your excellent 'Boeing B-17 Fortress in RAF Coastal Command Service'.
    Last edited by wwrsimon; 25th January 2021 at 16:14.
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    Hi Simon,

    Right, none of those listed participated in a Fortress I delivery flight - looks like the sources you quoted have their wires crossed. Shame the images don't show on the IWM pages.

    I'll still try to secure Buckton's card out of curiosity but, not being part of Fortress delivery, perhaps he was never considered assigned to Ferry Command. However, never know where these things may lead.

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Robert
    Last edited by robstitt; 25th January 2021 at 17:00. Reason: Edit

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    Default Re: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    Thank you Rob.

    Just to add a little more gen:

    There is a photo of them, but I can't seem to get it to load:

    https://webcache.googleusercontent.c...&ct=clnk&gl=uk

    'The crew of British airmen designated to fly the first of 22 four-motored long-range bombers from McChord Field, Wash., consider the first lap of their trail blazing flight to England, a lark. They are, left to right are: A. Buckton, C.C. Taylor (front, on floor), E.L. Hider, (rear) A.M. McCune and W.W. Brown, shown March 19, 1941. They are inside of the bomber after flying from McChord Field to Portland, Oregon. (AP Photo)'

    It's also on here, but you need a subscription: https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/104623315/

    There's a thumbnail of the page here: https://img.newspapers.com/img/thumb..._5319_7339.jpg

    Text reads:

    'They'll Blaze Air Route
    These British airmen take it easy in a giant American-made bomber they were to fly from McChord Field. Wash., to England. It was on of 22 fully armed bombers being turned over to the British. The airmen (left to right), A. Buckton, C. C. Taylor (on floor in front)) E. L. Hilder (rear); A. M. McCune and W. W. Brown.'


    A.M. McCune could be 1027282 Albert Markham McCune?

    There's another article here with more details of the trips, and crew members: https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/96000608/

    text:

    The Capital Journal, Salem; Oregon Tuesday, March 18, 1941
    Bad Weather Halts Flights Of Bombers McChord Field, Wash., March 18th. Overcast weather prevented the departure today of the first of 22 four-motored, long-range bombers destined for Britain. One of the ships and its British crew waited at Seattle after being turned back by weather conditions yesterday while en route to Dayton. Ohio, via Portland, Ore. Another plane was scheduled to leave here today but Captain Boyd Homewood, public relations officer, said none of the Britlsh-marked planes had left the field. He said a British crew was ready to take the second plane over and that Captain Hanford W. Pennington of McChord Field would accompany the second ship east. The 22 planes were scheduled to leave at one day intervals, bristling with armaments and conspicuously marked with Royal Air Force Insignia, the bombers have been parked on McChord Field aprons for the past two months, awaiting passage of the lease-lend bill. "The army is sending one officer eastward on each ship with the British crews," Homewood said. "After the bombers drop the American pilot, they continue under sealed orders and we do not know the itinerary for the remainder of their flight. Our officer returns here by rail."

    British Study Ships They'll Fly
    Motor adjustments on one of the bombers destined for Britain are explained to British airmen by an unidentified mechanic at the Boeing plant at Seattle, Wash, The pilots, left to right, are: William Brown, Alex Sherwood, Albert Buckton and Bert Unwln. Associated Press Photo.

    EDIT - this photo is also here: https://img.newspapers.com/img/thumb..._3726_4912.jpg

    and another here: https://img.newspapers.com/img/thumb..._6089_8211.jpg

    'VISITING R. A. F. PILOTS INSPECT NEW BOMBERS BEFORE HOPPING OFF
    On an inspection tour of the Boeing plant but with the British insignia already painted on...left to right are William Brown, Alex Sherwood, Bert Unwin and Albert Buckton.'


    I'm not sure how or if that all fits in with what's already known...?

    Regards

    Simon
    Last edited by wwrsimon; 25th January 2021 at 17:35. Reason: added two new links
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    Default Re: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    Hi Simon:

    Thanks for those. Screen shot of first link showing crew inside a Fortress I emailed.

    Interesting reference to an American pilot being included on each aircraft for the transcontinental phase of the delivery.

    Expectations were high for these 20 (rather than '22') aircraft but of course the Fortress Is proved to be vulnerable and ineffective in their intended role as high-level bombers. Under any circumstances, the Air Ministry considered the Fortress to be inefficient in terms of load carried versus the size of the crew while the glowing turbo-superchargers and exhausts on the undersides of the engine nacelles made them unsuitable for night-time operations, Bomber Command's preferred operating environment.

    The good news was that the improved B-17Es allocated to Britain under Lend-Lease could be reassigned to Coastal Command where they made an invaluable contribution to escorting convoys.

    Robert
    Last edited by robstitt; 25th January 2021 at 21:22.

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    Default Re: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    Returning to F/Sgt Albert Buckton, I found the following, rather harrowing description of Operation Freshman and its aftermath on Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Freshman

    The Halifax crew’s graves and an OPERATION FRESHMAN memorial plaque are shown here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/...albert-buckton

    Robert
    Last edited by robstitt; 26th January 2021 at 15:02. Reason: Plaque reference added

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    Default Re: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    Many thanks for the photo Robert - glad you could get it to work!

    I did find several articles on the US Newspaper archive on FindMyPast from March and April 1941, and signed up for some 'Pay as You Go' credits but unfortunately the articles are not accessible at the moment using the credits for some reason. Apparently their technical teams are 'investigating' at the moment...

    I'd consider asking the IWM if they could digitise some of the files they have, but at £30 a pop, maybe not!

    Operation Freshman turned out to be a truly sorry, and indeed sordid, tale.

    Regards

    Simon
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    Checking the Gander Watch Logs, the first reference to the surname Buckton is on 12 May 1941 (no given name cited; just says "Sgt Buckton"). He was a crewman aboard Liberator AM919 that arrived at Gander from New York. Pilot Capt Garden and remaining crew Mellor and House. Flew to Prestwick the following day.

    Darrell

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    Default Re: 751516 Albert BUCKTON - Ferry Command and the Fortress 1

    Interesting Darrell, many thanks indeed.

    As I mentioned in post #5 he's in several US newspapers in March 1941 pictured at the Boeing plant in Seattle with Fortress 1s. They're available to view on the Associated Press website:

    http://www.apimages.com/Search?query...aType=allmedia

    I think 'Alex Sherwood' may possibly be Alec Richmond Sherwood, who survived the loss of Hudson P5131 in June 1940 while with 269 Sqn. I can't identify the others: William Brown and Bert Unwin.

    Regards

    Simon
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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