The B17 Galley Uncle

During World War 11 large numbers of American air craft were ferried across the Atlantic Ocean to be allocated to Squadrons based in England. This is the story of Boeing Flying Fortress B17 number 42-31468 – code named ‘Galley Uncle’. The plane left its base – North Atlantic Wing, Air Transport Command, Dow Field, Bangor, Maine, U.S.A. on 2nd December 1943. Its destination flying via Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada was to Prestwick, Scotland. On board were the crew Lt. Joseph R. Rudolph, Lt. Aloysius J. Rodeo, Lt. Melvin Skerpon, Sgt. Edward J. Mankowski, Sgt. Earl L. Bir, Sgt. John H. Morton, Sgt. Myril E. Youngs, Lt. Robert M. Phillips, Lt. Earl W. Simpson, Sgt. Willaim C. Simpson and Sgt. Stanley A. Thomas.


            On 8th December at 23-30 hours the pilot started the engines, at 23-50 Pilot contacted ‘Bird Tower’, at 23-55 he was instructed to taxi to runway, at 00-15 he was told, ‘You are cleared for take off’. Cruise at 9000 feet and Good Luck. At 00-20 pilot informed Bird Tower that Flourecent Lights have gone out – Will not take off. 00-23.

Bird Tower to pilot – ‘Rodger – Taxi down runway and turn left to parking space.

00-25 Taxied back to parking space for repair to instrument panel lights. 01-45 Pilot calls tower for instructions. 01-48 –Ship taxies out to runway.  02-00 tower to Galley Uncle ‘You are cleared for take off, cruise at 9000 feet, have a good trip’. 02-05 – Take off.


            At approximately 10-00 hours word was received that B17 No. 42- 31468 was proceeding on course and gave an estimated time of arrival at Dernacross as 13-30 hours. At 10-49 first call from ship was heard, but the signal was so weak that nothing was heard other than call sign and 11,000 feet. A message advising it to call when over the coast was passed, but no acknowledgement was received. At 12-52 the following message was received, “ MAY Day-MAY DAY”, one half hour fuel, got to have QDM. A first class QDM of 100 degrees was passed. At 12-58 another QDM was requested and a third class QDM of 110 degrees was passed. The aircraft was next heard at 13-29 advising that he had 15 minutes of gas and requesting a place to land on the beam. His position was given as 15 miles from the coast, at 1500 feet. We immediately called St. Angelo and requested then to contact the aircraft on VHF/DF and work the aircraft in. The aircraft was advised to continue in on the beam and QSY to VHF channel “A” and work “Wood Pecker” Acknowledgement was received. VHF received a “MAYDAY” call and remark that the aircraft was on two engines at 13-40 hours. Courses and altitude was given to the aircraft and all were received and complied with. As he approached St. Angelo he lost a third engine and also apparently lost 500 feet as he broke through the cloud directly over the field. Reliable witnesses (Pilots) state that at that time #2 engine was feathered and #4 was operating at full power. The other two engines were backfiring and spluttering. Mortars and rockets were being fired and it is assumed the Pilot saw them as he made a right turn and shortly after transmitted, “I can see you, don’t know if I can make it “. This was the last radio contact. The aircraft crashed in a path headed directly toward the airdrome and resulted either from the loss of the fourth engine out of gas or inability to maintain flight on one engine. Survivors of the crash state that all excess baggage and other material was thrown over board in order to maintain altitude when #2 was lost. The aircraft struck a tree which tore off the left wing at the inboard end of the aileron. The aircraft continued in a straight pass, turning over and hitting on its back, sliding about 50 yards before hitting a large tree, which completely demolished  the nose back to the bomb-bay.

     Numbers 1, 2, & 3 tanks were found completely drained of gas and just several gallons were found in number 4 tank. Fire broke out in#4 engine but prompt arrival and action in using extinguisher, by persons arriving on the scene immediately after the crash, prevented spreading of the fire.


“. Findings:

a.       Cause: Undetermined failure of Power Plant, Weather, and running out of gas.

b.      Nature: Emergency forced landing out of gas.

c.       Result to personnel: Seven (7) fatal. Four (4) Major injury.

d.       D. Damage to Material: Complete wreck.


Accident Report. Pilot’s Name. 2nd Lt. Joseph Rudolph.

Forced landing.  Ran out of gas.  Cause undetermined .  Reason for running out of gas unknown.  Could be -1. Unpredicted head winds. 2- engines consumed to much for mechanical reasons.  3 – In correct mixture used.  4 – Got lost and roamed around for a while.   5 – Insufficient supply to begin with.


A call sign for Langford lodge was given as  ‘Harpcord’. 


Extract of log from duty flying control officers log book. RAF station St.Angelo.

9th December 1943  Times in BST.


11-25 Transit Galley uncle – engine trouble. ETA. 13-30.

13030 On watch at Kirkwood. P/O

14-35 Nutts corner informed Galley uncle short of fuel.

14-39 In formed Nutts corner that A/C had still not answered our call & would they instruct A/C to call “Wodpecker”.

14-40 VHF/DF Inform us in contact with A/C.

14-45 VHF/DF. A/C reports. “  This is a MAYDAY call, only two engines left.

14-51 VHF/DF To A/C “ Hold Course”. A/C replying – flying at 2200 feet.

14-54 A/C flew over airfield breaking cloud with No. 2 engine feathered, & other engine spluttering. Height 5?600 feet. (Fired 14 Mortar & rockets.

14-59 VHF/DF Based course 015o when sudden bang heard, A/C presumed to have crashed.

!5-03  Reported to F.C.L.C. that A/C engines had died away, & that we believed it to have crashed.(F.C.L.C.)

15-03. R.U.C. reports that an A/C crashed 3 ½ miles from Enniskillen on Derrygonnelly Road. Fire tender & ambulance with M/O dispatched, also Killadeas ambulance.

16-11 M.O. reports they have reached crash, reports 5 alive, 3 dead, 2 still in nose of A/C. Unable to extract them until crane & tractor arrives. Crane sent out from Killadeas & tractor being arranged.

        Signed as a true copy of the log. At Kirkwood. P/C.

                 Duty Flying Control Officer. Norman F. Timber.     RESTRICTED