WRITTEN BY PAUL HENNESSEY
RESEARCH AND IDENTIFICATION BY MANDY FRARY AND PAUL HENNESSEY
TEAM LEADERS – PAUL HENNESSEY AND MANDY FRARY
SURFACE SUPPORT, BOAT HANDLING AND SAFETY COORDINATOR – STEVE FRARY
TEAM MEMBERS – PAUL HENNESSEY, MANDY FRARY, STEVE FRARY, RICK AND KYLE MIDDLETON, LOUISE DE LISLE, PETE MARRA AND MARK HAYNES.
POSITION ….. WITHHELD
DEPTH… 20 MTRS
TYPE … B17F
BUILDER … BOEING
BLOCK NUMBER …B17F-70-BO
C/N NUMBER 4866
DATE OF LOSS … 13th May 1943
CAUSE … ACCIDENTAL
EN ROUTE … GRAFTON UNDERWOOD, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE TO ST OMER, FRANCE
LIVES LOST … 1 (CAPTAIN DERROL ROGERS) BURIED AT THE CAMBRIDGE AMERICAN CEMETERY… AWARDS (DISTINGUISHED FLYING MEDAL, PURPLE HEART, AMERICAN CAMPAIGN MEDAL, WORLD WAR 2 VICTORY MEDAL)
CREW… DERROL ROGERS (CAPTAIN), NORVILLE GORSE (CO-PILOT), JOE HUDSON, NAVIGATOR, GEORGE RAWLINGS (BOMBARDIER), BASIL MAXWELL (FLIGHT ENGINEER / TOP TURRET GUNNER, BOB BENNET (RADIO OPERATOR), ALF MILES (BALL TURRET GUNNER), BOB DOMINICK (WAIST GUNNER), EDWIN WOLFKUHLE (WAIST GUNNER), ED YOUNGERS (TAIL GUNNER).
On the 13/5/43, 42-29752 took off from Grafton underwood. Whilst en route to her target in St Omer, one of her waist gunners accidentally discharged his 50 cal machine gun, this resulting in one of the aircraft’s stabilisers being shot off .The damage was so severe, she was only able to fly in circles. The path of the aircraft took her over the wash, where the armament was jettisoned. All the crew with the exception of the pilot and co-pilot bailed out over land, the pilot and co-pilot bailing out over the sea.
BAILOUT REPORT BY NORVILLE GORSE (COURTESY OF JOHN GORSE, NEPHEW OF NORVILLE GORSE)
SERVICE … 1937-1960
NICKNAME… AIRMANS LIFEBOAT
At 4.45pm approx, information was received that an aircraft had come down in the sea off Blakeney. At 5.30pm, Foresters Centenary put to sea guided by a smoke float dropped by a Stirling search aircraft, she found an unconscious Captain Rogers, despite the efforts of the lifeboat crew to revive him, Captain Rogers died of exposure. Co-pilot, Norville Gorse was picked up by an RAF rescue launch from Wells, though suffering from exposure, he made a full recovery.
In the summer of 2012, North Norfolk Divers training officer, Roy Brewer led a team of divers to investigate a mark he had been given by a local fisherman. On diving the site, it was deemed that the wreckage they had discovered was that of an aircraft, thought at the time to be that of a Lightning jet. Visibility on the dive was very poor, in turn, very little in the way of formal identification was possible. In the early spring of 2015, spurred on by a discovery made during the previous year, Mandy Frary and Paul Hennessey set about trying to locate and identify downed aircraft in the area. In their investigations they discovered a B17F had ditched off Blakeney, further investigation revealed it to be that of 42-29752.
In August 2015, a team of divers including Paul Hennessey, Mandy Frary, Steve Frary, Mark Haynes, Louise de Lisle, Rick Middleton and Kyle Middleton revisited the site first dived by Roy Brewer and his team in 2012. At this point our investigations had led us to believe this could well be the site of the downed Lightning jet, XG334 that had ditched off Wells on the 5th March 1960. Our intention being to confirm our site as that of the lightning, in turn eliminating it from our list of possible B17 sites.
Once on site, the team proceeded to make their way down the shot line, at 20mtrs, laying on a sand and shingle seabed, is what appeared to be the air frame of a small aircraft, this fitting in with the lightning theory. There were no engines to be seen and very little in the way of evidential material to identify the site. As with many sites of this nature, it is often wise to capture images of the site with the view to analysing them at a later stage once top side. One of the pictures taken by our team photographer, Mandy Frary, showed a vented cylindrical object, with what appeared to be numerous inlet and outlet ports, the vented section giving thought to some sort of radiator or cooling device, the question being, from what type of aircraft?
On our arrival back at shore, Mandy Frary made mention to one of the local fisherman as to our findings, his response being that he recalled engines from a B17 being salvaged and brought into Wells many years ago (late 60’s / early 70’s. With this in mind, our thoughts started to turn to the possibility that our site could well be that of the B17 the fisherman had made mention of. We had found no engines on the site, what we had seen were what appeared to be numerous large rubber fuel tanks, maybe too many for a small aircraft, one very large wheel with undercarriage, various valves, rubber pipe work and of course the cylindrical vented object.
Our investigations earlier in the year had led us to many informative websites, primarily ones relating to B17’s, this taking us through their construction, design and service records. In order to try and identify our site, we needed to identify our cylindrical object. After a brief revisit to some of our previous research, the cylindrical object was found to be that of an oil cooler, as would have been fitted in a heavy bomber. After further research, there were found to be no further reported losses of heavy bombers in the area, therefore, along with site evidential wreckage, historical records and local information, it would appear, that this is in part of what little now remains of the ill fated B17, 42-29752.
The site makes for an interesting dive, at only 20mtrs there is plenty of bottom time to explore what now remains of 42-29752. Due to the lack of wreckage to be found , it is now believed she is well spread out over a larger area and well broken and sanded over, in turn it can be concluded that the wreckage can only be considered to be representative of a small sectional part of the aircraft (wing section), this conclusion being drawn from the presence of the oil cooler, intercooler and wheel, this all being located in the wing section of the B17’s.