Wing Commander Robert Fumerton of the RCAF was Canada’s highest scoring night fighter pilot of the Second World War.
Moose was born on the 21st March 1913 at Fort Coulonge, Quebec. Pre-war, he started as a bush and timber worker and then became a mining engineer and prospector in the North West Teritories and the Yukon. In 1938, he obtained a licence as a bush pilot.
Moose enlisted in Ottawa on the 6th November 1939 and graduated from No.1 SFTS on the 13th July 1940. He embarked for England and arrived in August 1940 with the first RCAF Squadron, No.112, which flew Lysanders. However, Fighter Command was so desperate for pilots that he volunteered to join 32 Squadron RAF, flying Hurricanes. From the moment his bulky figure was seen in a cockpit, he was nicknamed “Moose”.
After the Battle of Britain ended, Moose moved to No.1 RCAF Squadron. Then in June 1941, he transferred to night fighting duties and joined the newly formed 406 RCAF Squadron, based in Northumberland. Flying Bristol Beaufighters Mk 11, he teamed up with Sergeant L.P.S “Pat” Bing, who was to become his inseparable radar operator and friend.
On the 1st September 1941, Moose and Bing were on a practice flight when they were sent to intercept a raider approaching the coast. In the bright moonlight they identified a Junkers 88, and Fumerton closed to 50 yards and opened fire, setting the starboard engine of the enemy bomber ablaze. After a second attack, the aircraft broke up and crashed near Morpeth. It was the RCAF’s first night success.The duo spent most of the next day with wire cutters, hacking out the big Iron Cross from the wing of their victim. It was then hung in the Squadron’s crewroom. Six days later, they intercepted another enemy bomber, and Moose fired two bursts, scoring hits, but the Heinkel 111 escaped into cloud.
Shortly afterwards, the two men were posted to Egypt to join 89 Squadron in the defence of the Suez Canal and Nile delta. He was with the Squadron from October 1941 to December 1942, during which time he (and Pat as well) received his DFC.
Moose’s DFC was effective the 16th March 1942 as per the London Gazette, dated 27 March 1942 and AFRO 611/42 dated 24 April 1942:
One night in March 1942, this officer engaged a Heinkel 111 during an enemy air raid over the Suez Canal Zone. Observing the enemy aircraft in the moonlight, Flying Officer Fumerton delivered a good burst and although he was wounded and his aircraft damaged by the enemy’s return fire, he continued the attack and set the bomber on fire. Although the undercarriage of his aircraft had been put out of action, Flying Officer Fumerton made a safe landing. The raiding aircraft descended on to the sea, its crew being captured.
The original recommendation for the DFC, communicated by RAFHQ Middle East to Air Ministry by a telegram dated 16 March 1942 is given in Public Records Office Air 2/4782. It gives more details than the final foregoing text:
On the night of 2/3 March, Flying Officer Fumerton was sent off to intercept a hostile raider and eventually came within sight of the enemy, a Heinkel 111. After a very skilful pursuit in the moonlight, Flying Officer Fumerton closed in to 100 yards and opened fire, scoring hits. Thereupon, the enemy aircraft opened accurate return fire, which wounded the pilot in the right leg and put the starboard motor and the reflector sight out of action. In spite of this, Flying Officer Fumerton pressed home a second attack aiming by tracer effect and set the enemy aircraft on fire. His own port motor cut out as well and he was obliged to drop away. He was preparing for a landing in the Nile delta when one motor picked up again, the other still being out of action. During the course of the next hour, Flying Officer Fumerton was able, by skilful flying and intelligent use of wireless and of signal light, to make a homing at another aerodrome and a safe landing with wheels up, the undercarriage mechanism having also been put out of action. The enemy aircraft was afterwards forced to land in the sea, the crew being captured. The offensive spirit, skill and endurance shown by Flying Officer Fumerton were of the highest order. This pilot already has two previous victories to his credit.
Four weeks after this success, and after he had recovered in hospital, Moose and Bing shot down two Heinkel bombers over Alexandria in the space of 15 minutes. Both men then left for Malta at the height of the German onslaught in June 1942. By the end of 1942, Moose had been promoted to Squadron Leader and had left for Canada to take up training duties. After arriving back in Canada in January 1943, he returned to England in July as a Wing Commander to assume command of 406 Squadron, which was now equipped with the Mosquitos. He led the Squadron for almost a year before returning to Canada again in July 1944.
To further understand Moose’s skill as a pilot, the following is also courtesy of The Telegraph, UK:
Flying a Beaufighter with 89 Squadron, he gained his first success over Malta on the night of the 24th June 24, when he shot down an Italian bomber before returning to refuel and rearm. He was soon airborne again, and just before dawn destroyed another bomber. Four nights later, he accounted for two more Junkers 88 bombers. On the 1st July, he downed another Junkers 88, and the following night he sent a sixth crashing into the sea near Gozo. On the 28th July, he shot down a further Junkers 88.
Then, on the night of the 10th August, Fumerton was scrambled to attack a force of incoming bombers but, shortly after take-off, both his engines failed, and he and Bing were forced to bale out. They spent a few hours in their dinghies 10 miles north of the island before being rescued the next morning by one of Malta’s air-sea rescue launches.
During Operation Pedestal on August 14, Fumerton destroyed one of a force of 15 Italian bombers heading for Malta. A few days later he was flying over Sicily, seeking out enemy aircraft landing at night, when he caught one approaching an airfield and shot it down, his final success from Malta before returning to Egypt. (Web Master: Operation Pedestal was a British operation to get desperately needed supplies to the island of Malta in August 1942. Malta was the base from which surface ships, submarines and aircraft attacked Axis convoys carrying essential supplies to the Italian and German armies in North Africa. In 1941 to 1942, Malta was effectively under siege.)
For his remarkable achievements in such a short time, he was awarded a Bar to his DFC. The citation described him as “a most tenacious and skilful pilot, whose determination to destroy the enemy is outstanding”.
Moose’s final score was 14 destroyed and one damaged.
On returning to Canada in August 1944, he took command of a Mosquito training unit and for his “exemplary efficiency” he was awarded the AFC. He was released from the RCAF in July 1945.
Wing Commander Robert Fumerton died on the 10th July 2006.
With thanks to Wikipedia, acesofww2 and The Telegraph (UK)
The Spitfire Association