by Brett Green
32 detail photographs follow the introductory text
The Royal Australian Air Force took delivery of 287 B-24 Liberators during 1944 and 1945.
The long-range RAAF B-24s, flying from their bases in Northern and Western Australia and on Morotai and the Philippines, were responsible for the bombing of Japanese resources, shipping and airfields in the Netherlands East Indies. This task was essential to deny supplies and reinforcements to Japanese forces stranded on islands by-passed by the main Allied invasion force.
A more aggressive strategy was adopted with preparations for the invasion of Borneo in April, 1945. RAAF B-24s formed the spearhead for offensive strikes and reconnaissance supporting Australian landings at Tarakan, Balikpapan and Labuan Island.
RAAF Liberators were also responsible for specialist operations. No 200 Flt undertook clandestine operations including dropping Commandos behind enemy lines. No 201 Flt flew radio and radar countermeasure missions, and 102 Sqn conducted radio research.
B-24s continued to serve in Australia in training roles for a few years after the end of World War Two.
Consolidated B-24M, Bu.No. 44-41956, was delivered to the RAAF in January 1945. This Liberator was allocated the RAAF serial A72-176 and attached to 82 Wing.
This Liberator was regularly flown by Air Commodore Deryck Kingwell while he was CO of 82 Wing in East Sale, Victoria. The machine was known locally as "Kingwell's Kite".
A72-176 was struck off charge in March 1948, and allocated to RAAF East Sale as an instructional airframe. The aircraft was rescued from the scrapheap when it was purchased by Mr George Toye of Moe, Victoria. The fuselage remained on his property until it was relocated, along with major components acquired over the years (including a full set of wings discovered in Alaska), to a temporary restoration facility at the old Werribee airfield near the Geelong Freeway of Melbourne.
Restoration is proceeding well. The exterior of the aircraft is almost complete, and work is underway on the interior.
The objective of the restoration is to return this last Australian Liberator to running condition. There are currently no plans to fly the aircraft, but it is hoped that the engines can be run-up and to taxi the B-24 on special occasions at a new permanent home.
Anyone with an interest in the history of the B-24, or in Australian Aviation history, may wish to help the restoration cause by joining the B24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund. Membership costs $22 AUD per annum, and proceeds go to the restoration and search for a permanent home for this significant aircraft.
Contact Colin Grey, PO Box 34, Cowes Victoria 3922, Australia, for further details. Telephone enquiries during eastern Australian business hours may be directed to (03) 5956 7952.
The following photographs were taken during March 2001 using my Kodak DC280 digital camera.
Text & Images Copyright © 2000 by Brett