Recently I visited the restoration team at the B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund who are rebuilding the only Consolidated B-24 Liberator in the Southern Hemisphere, B-24M (RAAF serial number A72-176).
The aircraft is being restored in one of the original WW2 hangars on the former Werribee Satellite Aerodrome, near Point Cook, Victoria.
The project got underway in about 1988 with the intention of locating and rebuilding a B-24 as a memorial to the types service in the RAAF. In 1995 a fuselage was located in Moe, Victoria from B24M A72-176, built by Consolidated at San Diego as a B-24M-10-CO Liberator. U. S. Army serial number 44-41956. Modified into a B-24R with search radar it was ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia. Issued to RAAF 7 Operational Training Unit (OUT) East Sale Victoria, the aircraft was the personal mount of the 7 OTU CO G/Capt Kingwell. A72-176 had a fairly uneventful service career as a training aircraft and transport. The aircrafts last recorded flight was Sale-Dubbo-Sale, 25 March 1946 by F/Lt Rex Malcolm Whitburn, DFC, MID.
Later a suitable wing was located in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and retrieved by the Australian Military as a memorial to all who served in Liberators, both flight & ground crew, during WW2.
Over the years, parts have been found in Australia and from all over the world and the project has steadily progressed to the stage where the aircraft is now largely structurally complete and sitting proudly on her undercarriage.
Although much of the internal fit out has been completed there is still much to be done and it will still be some time before the aircraft is finished. This is a very large and complex aircraft and the scale of the project can only truly be appreciated by sitting in the bomb bay and looking fore and aft at the miles of wiring and hydraulic pipe systems and components being restored throughout the aircraft.
The aircraft will not fly, however it is intended that it will be operational and able to taxi out of the hangar. To that end all four (plus a spare) Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engines have been restored to running condition and are rotated through a monthly engine run program for visitors to watch for a donation toward the restoration.
A lot of parts have been duplicated throughout the restoration to exchange and sell to raise funds. It is a testament to the dedication of the restoration group that the organization exists largely through donations and supports itself without Governmental funding.
Several extra turrets and other items have been rebuilt to serve as display items. As the turrets in the aircraft are largely hidden from view when fitted it is desirable to be able to view externally displayed units to observe all the hidden plumbing and mechanism. The internal and external turrets will all be fully operational. This is a large task in its own right.
On any given day up to 30 volunteers can be seen working on the aircraft and they are very enthusiastic about their tasks, taking great pride in their achievements. As the Liberator becomes more complete, work has started to turn to the commencement of several other training aircraft which the group hopes to restore and display alongside the B-24 Liberator.
On the day of my visit work was well underway on an Airspeed Oxford with the wing structure being fabricated virtually from scratch as very little of the wooden structure of the aircraft has survived in a state suitable for restoration. Fortunately, the remains of the aircraft along with existing blueprints and plans will enable the complete aircraft to be accurately rebuilt. The group is urgently seeking leads on any Armstrong Siddley Cheetah engines suitable for this aircraft, as they are in very short supply.
Other restorations to join the B-24 Liberator will eventually include an Avro Anson, Airspeed Oxford and CAC Boomerang, as well as several other aircraft in the planning stages.
I can highly recommend a visit to see the B-24 Liberator and urge all Warbird enthusiasts to contribute to the fund raising for this great Warbird restoration. The restoration group has achieved so much with so little and truly deserves to be supported.
To assist the B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund contact them through their website which also has details about their opening hours and directions.
I would like to thank the B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund Secretary, Judith Gilbert and her husband John for showing me around the aircraft and speaking with me on the day of my visit.
© John Parker 2014