Now It Can Be Told! - 'Ghost' Forts Sent to Crash on Heligoland

The War Illustrated, Volume 9, No. 219, Page 436, November 9, 1945.

While the flying-bombs and rockets were crashing on London we were using an 11-ton V-weapon against the Germans. And the Germans who survived this weapon never knew how it worked. I can now reveal (writes D. Gould, in the London Evening News) that “ghost” bombers, piloted by radio control and loaded with eleven tons of bombs, were being aimed across the North Sea to crash on the heavily defended German island of Heligoland.

The Germans were mystified by the fact that they flew through the heaviest flak and crashed without anybody baling out first. The planes were old Flying Fortresses. One of them caused a scare right across England from the Wash to Liverpool when it got off course and headed west instead of east. Because the Germans were “in the dark” about it when Flying Fortress Melancholy Baby went the wrong way in September 1944 everybody in the know had to tell a story which would not give the secret away.

So the explanation was offered that “George”, the automatic pilot, had become awkward, that Gremlins had taken over the control of the plane after the crew had baled out, and had piloted it safely if a little erratically across England and Eire and out over the Atlantic! Because of the death load it carried, sirens were sounded in every town and village along the plane's course.

It went from the King's Lynn area, south of the Wash, in a north-westerly direction to Derby, over Spalding and Melton Mowbray, then to Merseyside, passing over Congleton, Middlewich, Northwich and Runcorn.

It gave Liverpool its first air raid warning for 18 months, and R.A.F. officials who knew the danger were appalled to see it circle the city twice before setting off in a westerly direction again, causing an alert in Bangor as it went.

Fighters went up to pursue “Baby”, who was flying perfectly at more than 250 m.p.h., and they were ready to shoot it down into the sea. At one time it looked as if it would outstrip its pursuers, and a warning was flashed to America that the bomber was heading on a course which might carry it right across the Atlantic. But finally R.A.F. fighters caught it and shot it down into the Atlantic. These “ghost” bombers were taken into the air and set on their course by two pilots who baled out while still over land.

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