Restoring the Last Surviving RAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator – 2017 Update

The B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria was formed in 1989 by a dedicated group of volunteers with the purpose of restoring the last surviving Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in World War Two (remarkable given they operated 287 B-24D, B-24J, B-24L and B-24M models from 1944 to 1948). This particular aircraft is a B-24M model that was delivered from the United States in late 1944 (s/n 44-41956, RAAF serial number A72-176) and was later modified with the addition of a target tracking search radar in the lower fuselage and redesignated as a B-24R.

Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
Restoring the last surviving RAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator – 1944 B-24M A72-176 (June 2017)
A limited edition print by John Mollison (mine is 8/100) of B-24M A72-176 available at the Werribee B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration
A limited edition print by John Mollison (mine is 8/100) of B-24M A72-176 available at the Werribee B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration

B-24M A72-176 served with RAAF No. 7 Operational Training Unit at Tocumwal, NSW to train B-24 crews. At war’s end the airframe luckily survived the fate of many Liberators and avoided the scrap yard. It continued to be operated as a transport and for other roles, then following its final flight on March 26th, 1946 became Instructional Airframe No. 5 at RAAF East Sale until 1948 when it was sold to a farmer for scrap. The Werribee team obtained the fuselage in 1995 and began the long restoration process in 1996, in an old hangar at the former RAAF Werribee Aerodrome site that was built in 1940 for use by various RAAF units and used as a training field and storage/repair base. To read a more detailed history on the airframe and its restoration please take a look at my blog from my last visit in April 2016.

RAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator A72-176 post World War Two at Tocumwal
RAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator A72-176 post World War Two at Tocumwal (Photo – Bob Brown,
Tocumwal Historic Aerodrome Museum via ADF-Serials.com.au)

I love visiting this restoration and wandering around the old World War Two hangar. It is an active workshop and there is cool stuff all over the place from aircraft parts, to tools, memorabilia, artefacts, old photos, models, diagrams and so on. It is a fascinating place!

Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
The B-24 Liberator Memorial restoration hangar is a fascinating place! (June 2017)
Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
What a beauty! The last surviving RAAF B-24 (June 2017)
Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
The B-24 Liberator had a crew of 2 pilots, 1 engineer, 2 navigator-bombers, 2 radio operators and 4 turret gunners. 10 x Browning 0.50 calibre machine guns were fitted for defensive armament (June 2017)

The ultimate aim is to have a B-24 restoration that is capable of taxiing for demonstration purposes but it will not fly. Part of my most recent visit on June 25th, 2017 was to see the restoration team conduct an engine run on a test frame, of one of the 1,200 HP Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-65 radial engines that powered the B-24 into flight long ago. After a brief lull the mighty radial engine roared into life in all its loud glory! My Nephew and I were impressed with the sound (I took him along for his first visit to the B-24 restoration and he loved it, especially exploring inside the bomb bay and fuselage).

Firing up the 1,200 HP Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-65 radial engine of the B-24 Werribee Liberator Australia
Firing up the 1,200 HP Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-65 radial engine of the B-24 (June 2017)
Firing up the 1,200 HP Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-65 radial engine of the B-24 Werribee Liberator Australia
A closer inspection of the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-65 radial engine as it cools down – test prop fitted (June 2017)
Firing up the 1,200 HP Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-65 radial engine of the B-24 Werribee Liberator Australia
A closer inspection of the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-65 radial engine as it cools down (June 2017)

Since my last visit in February 2016 the external fuselage and wings do not look much different, but the internal fuselage restoration has come a long way. The bomb bay looks brand new and gives the impression you could be standing in there surrounded by bombs on a mission over Japanese held territory in 1944!

Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
Restored cockpit controls on external display and inside the B-24 cockpit (June 2017)
Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
Rear fuselage interior, cockpit and upper turret, bomb bay and inside the port wing (June 2017)
Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
My Nephew Nate and I exploring the bomb bay and interior of the B-24 fuselage – can you imagine an adult with full flight gear on moving along that narrow bomb bay walkway whilst in flight? Our smiles say it all on how good a day we were having! (June 2017)
Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
Inside the fuselage below the cockpit, looking through the bomb aimer/navigator nose window, inner starboard engine position and a restored undercarriage (June 2017)
Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
Starboard side gun position, upper turret, ball turret and starboard undercarriage (June 2017)
Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
B-24 ball turret – you had to be a special type to go in that thing in the heat of combat! (June 2017)
Werribee RAAF B-24 Liberator Restoration
Bomb bay, rear fuselage interior, cockpit canopy and upper turret and tail turret (June 2017)

Alas, although a site is secured they are still waiting on still waiting on a decision from Heritage Victoria in regards to a new hangar big enough to establish a museum precinct on the present location (the original plan was to relocate and use the larger RAAF Werribee Hangar that is nearby but there are some issues in regards to condition, relocation, maintaining heritage status, asbestos and so on)! Hopefully that will all be resolved in the near future (an on again, off again, stop, start process by the sounds of things)!

The larger hangar of the old 1940's RAAF Werribee Aerodrome is just past the current location of the Liberator
The larger hangar of the old 1940’s RAAF Werribee Aerodrome is just past the current location of the Liberator (June 2017)
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6 thoughts on “Restoring the Last Surviving RAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator – 2017 Update

  1. Very cool. The best thing about these sorts of restorations is that they always end up at a much higher standard of finish than they were when completed in the factory – where military need meant they had to be pushed out to schedule and standards that were technically robust, but which often didn’t asethetically reflect the qualities of the design and engineering. To my mind that makes the effort and love poured into restoring them a real tribute to the original design, hardware – and to the hard work and sacrifice of those who built aircraft such as this B-24 originally.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The picture of young Nate in the passageway reminds of the time I learned how small these aircraft were by modern standards. In 2009 I went inside the hulk of a B-17 with an interior pretty much stripped of inner obstructions, but it still was cramped for my slight sub 170 cm body. That machine is still undergoing restoration and now at least looks good, and plans are it will fly again. A picture is available at the Planes of Fame website.

    I have had the good fortune to have seen multiple flyovers of the local B-25, and at least one each of a B-24 and a B-17, all at fairly low altitude, over my neighborhood or local soccer fields due to my proximity to Chino California, which a second excellent aircraft museum call Yanks. March Field in Riverside has a large static display.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a good experience for Nate to learn history first hand. You are lucky living near Chino! I have been to POF and Yanks plus the air show a couple of times – fantastic! Although I once lived in LA, I unfortunately never got to the museum at Riverside. It’s on my list though! 😊

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