‘The waiting time’ - all the briefings are completed, targets, routes, weather, communications, flak-hot spots, formation structure, fuel and weapon load - all that remains is the interminable stretch of time to engine start. The pilot, navigator and engineer are on board priming the aircraft for start, the rest of the crew conduct their own private rituals, the tail gunner ‘christens’ the port main wheel (absolutely ensures a safe return!) and no-one mentions the old weather tale referring to ‘ red sky in the morning’. The ground weapons officer arrives to get the bomb load signed off.
Shortly - although it seems like hours - the jeep will pass round the peri-track flying the engine start flag. No radios are used at start-up or take off - as these can be monitored by the Luftwaffe listening posts. It takes up to two hours orbiting East Anglia after take-off for the hundreds of B17s to form up into the structured formation required for mutual defence in daylight raids before setting off for the day’s target area - knowledge of the take-off time, from airfield radio communications, would afford the Luftwaffe plenty of time to plan interception.
Typical of scenes all over East Anglia in 1943 - the image depicts a B17 and crew waiting for mission start. Multiple composite constructed from airshow images and sky-scapes from my archives.