Restoring the Last Surviving RAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator – 2018 Update

It has been over a year since I previously visited the long-term restoration of the last surviving World War Two era Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Consolidated B-24M Liberator bomber at the B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria. This particular aircraft, RAAF serial number A72-176 was delivered from the United States in late 1944 (USAAF Serial Number 44-41956) and was later modified with the addition of a target tracking search radar in the lower fuselage and redesignated as a B-24R. Apart from seeing RAAF history preserved, the beauty of visiting this restoration project is the incredible access you have to get up close and with certain limitations, even take a look inside the big Liberator!

B-24M Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
B-24M Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018

The Liberator restoration is taking place within 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. Only two of these hangars remain at the old base – the other is nearby and is planned to be relocated and repaired to further develop the restoration site as a fully fledged aviation museum.

B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018

Consolidated B-24M Liberator

It is hard to imagine today that this is the last of the RAAF Liberator bombers given they operated 287 B-24D, B-24J, B-24L and B-24M models from 1944 to 1948 (33 aircraft and more than 200 personnel were lost in combat and accidents during that time). The Liberator was the only heavy bomber used in the Pacific by the RAAF and they operated from the Northern Territory,Western Australia, Morotai in the Netherlands East Indies and Palawan in the Philippines on long-range bombing missions against Imperial Japanese targets in the South West Pacific theatre. Liberator bombers were also used for training back in Australia with units such as RAAF No. 7 Operational Training Unit (7OTU) at RAAF Tocumwal, NSW where A72-176 was once based (see the end of this blog for some photos of the memorials and remnants of RAAF Tocumwal).

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)

At war’s end the A72-176 airframe luckily avoided the scrap yard and continued to be operated as a transport and miscellaneous roles including geographic surveys, until retired from flying on March 26th, 1946 to become Instructional Airframe No. 5 for ground training at RAAF East Sale. Sold to a farmer for scrap in 1948 minus its wings and tail that had already been scrapped, it ended up being used as a temporary home while the owner built his house on a farm near Moe, Victoria. The airframe then just sat out in the open from the 1950’s to early 1990’s. The restoration fund was established in 1989 and after a period of time in negotiation, the Werribee team obtained the fuselage in 1995 and began the long restoration process in 1996.

Given there were none in Australia, the B-24 wings were recovered in 1991 from a World War Two USAAF B-24D Liberator (serial number 42-41091) crash site in Papua New Guinea. The wings were imported into Australia in 1992.

B-24M restoration progress 2013 to 2018 - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
B-24M restoration progress 2013 to 2018 – B-24M Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee (the main noticeable changes in these photos are the nose and upper turrets)
B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria – November 2018
B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria - November 2018
B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria – November 2018
4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp 14 cylinder radial engines powered the B-24M bomber - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria - November 2018
4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp 14 cylinder radial engines powered the B-24M bomber – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria – November 2018
Consolidated B-24 cockpit instrument panel and flight controls - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Consolidated B-24 cockpit instrument panel and flight controls – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Consolidated B-24 cockpit instrument panel and flight controls - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Consolidated B-24 cockpit instrument panel and flight controls – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Consolidated B-24 flight deck - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Consolidated B-24 flight deck – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Consolidated B-24 bomb bay - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Consolidated B-24 bomb bay – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Consolidated B-24 rear fuselage interior - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Consolidated B-24 rear fuselage interior – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018 – the yellow tanks were for oxygen
B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018
Nose and dorsal turrets, and nose turret bullet proof glass - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
Nose and dorsal turrets, and nose turret bullet proof glass – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018
B-24M nose turrets - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
B-24M nose turrets – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018
B-24M ball turrets - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
B-24M ball turrets – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018
B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018
How B-24M A72-176 will one day look again - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
How B-24M A72-176 will one day look again – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018

Externally not much has visibly changed on the Liberator from 2017 but much has been completed on the interior and on the various parts, wiring, components, equipment etc. Other projects within the hangar are also steadily progressing.

CAC Boomerang

"Zoot!" original nose art of CAC CA-13 Boomerang A46-147 (Photo Source: Dick Hourigan via Warbirds Resource Group - Warbirdregistry.org)
“Zoot!” original nose art of CAC CA-13 Boomerang A46-147 (Photo Source: Dick Hourigan via Warbirds Resource Group – Warbirdregistry.org)

RAAF CAC CA-13 Boomerang A46-147 was built in 1943. Originally intended as an “Emergency Fighter” for the RAAF, during World War Two the Boomerang was used for tactical reconnaissance and army close support. This particular aircraft was flown by RAAF No. 83 Squadron and coded MH-5 during the war. It sported “Zoot!” nose art featuring a dapper looking, cigar smoking crow leaning on an open tin can, looking at a woman’s leg as she passes by! This nose art will be recreated for the restoration (a scale model of this aircraft is on display too).

Boomerang A46-147 was retired in 1946 and sold off in 1948. The remains of the airframe, minus its wings (likely scrapped for the metal alloy), changed hands a few of times over the years – firstly with the Camden Museum of Aviation (NSW) in the 1960’s, then Greg Batt in Queensland in the 1990’s (he is restoring a number of Boomerang aircraft), before becoming the property of Nick Knight and under long-term static restoration in Werribee. Nick has collected, swapped and manufactured many parts and components for the restoration since he first acquired an unidentifiable Boomerang frame in 1994 and then the cockpit section and rear airframe of A46-147 in 2003.

RAAF 1943 CAC CA-13 Boomerang (A46-147) "Zoot!"restoration project - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
RAAF 1943 CAC CA-13 Boomerang (A46-147) “Zoot!” restoration project – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018

Since 2016 various panels, parts of the engine cowling and the tailplane have been added and painted but parts have also been removed to facilitate the restoration. This is one of a number of CAC Boomerang restoration projects in Australia – it is great to see this Australian designed and built fighter coming back from the brink!

1943 RAAF CAC CA-13 Boomerang A46-147 "Zoot!" under restoration in Werribee
1943 RAAF CAC CA-13 Boomerang A46-147 “Zoot!” under restoration in Werribee
How RAAF 1943 CAC CA-13 Boomerang (A46-147) "Zoot!" will eventually look again - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
How RAAF 1943 CAC CA-13 Boomerang (A46-147) “Zoot!” will eventually look again – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018
CAC CA-13 Boomerang cockpit - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
CAC CA-13 Boomerang cockpit – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
CAC CA-13 Boomerang cockpit instrument panel - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
CAC CA-13 Boomerang cockpit instrument panel – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
CAC CA-13 Boomerang cockpit instrument panel - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
CAC CA-13 Boomerang cockpit instrument panel – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
CAC CA-13 Boomerang - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
CAC CA-13 Boomerang – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018
The CAC Boomerang is powered by a 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
The CAC CA-13 Boomerang is powered by a 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018
RAAF 1943 CAC CA-13 Boomerang (A46-147) "Zoot!" restoration project - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee - November 2018
RAAF 1943 CAC CA-13 Boomerang (A46-147) “Zoot!” restoration project – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration, Werribee – November 2018

Airspeed Oxford

Meticulous construction of an accurate twin-engine, three seat Airspeed Oxford replica continues at Werribee. Volunteers are building the monocoque airframe and wings which are mostly made of glued and tacked timber and plywood wooden wings (not many originals survived hence the rebuild and replica status). It is planned to fit the replica with two restored Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah 10 engines that will be in full operating condition.

Eventually the Airspeed Oxford replica will look something like this model - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Eventually the Airspeed Oxford replica will look something like this model – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Airspeed Oxford replica - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Like a giant balsa wood model! Airspeed Oxford replica – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Airspeed Oxford replica - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Airspeed Oxford replica – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Central wing section of the Airspeed Oxford replica - B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018
Central wing section of the Airspeed Oxford replica – B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration in Werribee, Victoria, November 2018

The RAAF used Oxford aircraft for initial multi-engine pilot and crew training during and after the war. 391 were sent to Australia between 1940 and 1944 as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS), with the last retired in 1953.

RAAF Tocumwal – Gone but not forgotten

The former RAAF Tocumwal base on New South Wales was the biggest in the southern hemisphere when originally built for the USAAF in 1942 as MacIntyre Field. As the war had progressed rapidly, the Americans had moved further north and RAAF No. 7 Operational Training Unit (7OTU) took over the base, flying 54 Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers and numerous other aircraft types during the war. My Great Uncle Ron served there during that time.

RAAF Tocumwal info at the entrance to the town and at the tourist information centre - October 2018
RAAF Tocumwal info at the entrance to the town and at the tourist information centre – October 2018

There is a great 1/4 scale replica memorial to this B-24M A72-176 and 7OTU at the front entrance to the Tocumwal Golf Course. The old RAAF Tocumwal base gates and guardhouse can be found at a secondary entrance to the golf course.

1/4 scale replica memorial of B-24M A72-176 and 7OTU at the front entrance to the Tocumwal Golf Course - October 2018
1/4 scale replica memorial of B-24M A72-176 and 7OTU at the front entrance to the Tocumwal Golf Course – October 2018
1/4 scale replica memorial of B-24M A72-176 and 7OTU at the front entrance to the Tocumwal Golf Course - October 2018
1/4 scale replica memorial of B-24M A72-176 and 7OTU at the front entrance to the Tocumwal Golf Course – October 2018
The old RAAF Tocumwal base gates and guardhouse at an entrance to the Tocumwal Golf Course - October 2018
The old RAAF Tocumwal base gates and guardhouse at an entrance to the Tocumwal Golf Course – October 2018

The base was in operation until 1960 but by 1947 it had become No. 7 Aircraft Depot & No. 7 Central Recovery Depot. Post war some 700 surplus RAAF aircraft were stored and scrapped there, to melt them down to aluminium ingots and parts… (sheds a tear). Today a few hangars can be found on and near the current airport that was part of the base which once had over 600 buildings (300 of which were on todays golf course site).

Old RAAF Tocumwal hangars can be found at the Tocumwal Airport - October 2018
Old RAAF Tocumwal hangars can be found at the Tocumwal Airport which ion the old base site – October 2018
Old RAAF Tocumwal hangars near the current airport that would have once housed Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers operated by 7OTU (the hangars are today on private property and are strictyly no entrance) - October 2018
Old RAAF Tocumwal hangars near the current airport that would have once housed Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers operated by 7OTU (the hangars are today on private property and are strictyly no entrance) – October 2018

Operating a large RAAF training base at Tocumwal during World War Two was not without tragedy. The nearby town cemetery has a respectful Commonwealth War Graves section. 18 personnel were buried there – one USAAF airman’s remains were later sent to America. Lest We Forget.

Commonwealth War Graves section of the Tocumwal Cemetery - October 2018
Commonwealth War Graves section of the Tocumwal Cemetery – October 2018

Past Werribee B-24 Restoration Updates:

2013

2016

2017

Boomerang Restoration References:

Warbirds Online – CAC Boomerang Restoration – Nick Knight’s A46-147

Warbird Registry – CAC Boomerang A46-147

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4 thoughts on “Restoring the Last Surviving RAAF Consolidated B-24 Liberator – 2018 Update

  1. Hi Deano,

    The RAAF No 200 flight also operated Liberators and deserves an honourable and special mention. Their operation from a base in Queensland is briefly described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._200_Flight_RAAF

    Although they operated for a very short period their loss rate was 50% of squadron aircraft establishment. The names of the crew members lost is listed on the Wall of Remembrance at the Australia War Memorial under their unit name. The nature of the operation possibly denied any other public recognition of the unit’s achievements.

    Plok

    Liked by 1 person

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