448th Bomb Group

Seething Airfield was home to the 448th during the 2nd World War and to is to who this museum is dedicated.

The Aircraft

The 448th bomb group left for England in 64 B24’s carrying the 10 man crew and 4 passengers, 3 aircraft were lost en route, another crashed in Cornwall. A total of 28 men lost and another badly injured even before conflict began.

The first B24 landed at Seething on Nov 25th 1943, they then started the training needed to prepare for their missions.

B24 Stats

With over 18,000 aircraft built the Consolidated B-24 Liberator was produced in even greater numbers than the other famous Second World War US bomber, the B-17 Flying Fortress.

B24 LIBERATOR 

  • Production: 18,000 built. 
  • Dimensions: Over 67 feet long 110ft across
  • Empty Weight: 36,500lbs
  • Max Loaded Weight: 67,800lbs
  • Max Speed: 290 MPH. It was faster than the B17 and could carry a heavier load.
  • Cruising Altitude: 18-22000 FT with minus 30, 40 to 50 degrees below zero.
  • Range: 2,100miles. 
  • Fuel Load: 3, 576 US Gallons.
  • Engines: 4 Pratt and Whitney Engines.  Each engine has 26gallons of oil and 28 spark plugs!
  • Power: 1200 horse power each.
  • Armament: 10 Browning 50 cal. guns.
  • Bomb Load: Could carry max. load of 8,000lbs of bombs
  • Crew: 10 MEN, 13 for lead aircraft

The Liberator gained a distinguished war record with its operations in the European, Pacific, African and Middle Eastern theaters. One of its main virtues was a long operating range, which led to it being used also for other duties including maritime patrol, antisubmarine work, reconnaissance, tanker, cargo and personnel transport. Winston Churchill used one as his own transport aircraft.

Different Versions

Liberator 11 (LB-30). Had no B-24 counterpart (LT3-30 designation signifies Liberator built to British specifications). Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4G engines with two speed superchargers and driving Curtiss Electric full-feathering propellers. Armed with eleven .303 in. guns, eight in two Boulton Paul power turrets, one dorsal and one tail, one in the nose and two in waist positions.

XB-24B. The first B-24 to be fitted with turbo-supercharged engines, self-sealing tanks, armour, and other modern refinements.

B-24C. Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-41 engines with exhaust-driven turbo-superchargers. Armament augmented to include two power-driven turrets, one dorsal and one tail, each fitted with two .50-cal. guns. In addition, there was one .50-cal. nose gun and two similar guns in waist positions.

B-24D (PB4Y-l and Liberator B.III and G.R.V.). Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 engines. Armament further increased by the addition of two further nose guns and one tunnel gun, making a total of ten .50-cal. guns. Fuel capacity increased by the addition of auxiliary self-sealing fuel cells in the outer wings and there was provision for long-range tanks in the bomb-bay. The first model to be equipped to carry two 4,000 lb. bombs on external racks, one under each inner wing. The Liberator G.R.V. was used as a long-range general reconnaissance type by RAF Coastal Command. Fuel capacity was increased at the expense of amour and tank protection. Armament consisted of one .303-in. or .50-cal. gun in the nose, two .50-cal. guns in the upper turret, four .303 -in. or two .50-cal. guns in waist positions and four .303-in. guns in a Boulton Paul tail turret. Bombs or depth charges 5,400 lbs.

B-24E (Liberator IV). Similar to B-24D except for minor equipment details. Built by Consolidated (Forth Worth), Ford (Willow Run) and Douglas (Tulsa).

B-24F. An experimental version of the B-24E fitted with exhaust-heated surface anti-icing equipment on wings and tail surfaces.

B-24G, B-24H and B-24J (PB4Y-l and Liberator B.VI and G.R.VI). Similar except for details of equipment and minor differences associated with different manufacturing methods. B-24J built by North American (Dallas). B-24H built by Consolidated (Forth Worth), Ford (Willow Run) andDouglas (Tulsa). B-24J built by Consolidated (San Diego and Fort Worth), Ford, Douglas and North American (Dallas). Four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 or 65 engines. Armament further improved to include four two-gun turrets, in nose and tail and above and below the fuselage (details below). Later models of the B-24J were fitted with exhaust-heated anti-icing equipment. The Liberator G.R.VI was used as a long-range general reconnaissance type by RAF Coastal Command. Armament consisted of six .50-cal. guns, two each in nose and dorsal turrets and in waist positions, and four .303-in. guns in a Boulton Paul tail turret. Bombs or depth charges 4,500 lbs. (2,045 kg.).

XB-24K. The first Liberator to be fitted with a single fin and rudder. An experimental model only.

B-24L. Similar to the B-24J but fitted with a new tail turret with two manually-operated .50-cal. guns. The two guns had a wider field of fire and the new turret, which was designed by the Consolidated Vultee Modification Center at Tucson permitted a saving of 200 lbs. (91 kg.) in weight.

B-24M. Same as the B-24L except fitted with a new Motor Products two-gun power-operated tail turret. A B-24M was the 6,725th and last Liberator built by Consolidated Vultee at San Diego.

B-24N. The first production single-tail Liberator. Fitted with new nose and tail gun mountings. Only a few were built before the Liberator was withdrawn from production on May 31,1945.

CB-24. Numbers of B-24 bombers withdrawn from operational flying in the European Theater of Operations were stripped of all armament and adapted to various duties, including utility transport, etc. Painted in distinctive colors and patterns, they were also used as Group Identity Aircraft to facilitate the assembly of large numbers of bombers into their battle formations through and above overcast weather. All these carried the designation CB-24.

TB-24 (formerly AT-22). A conversion of the B-24D for specialized advanced training duties. All bombing equipment and armament removed and six stations provided in the fuselage for the instruction of air engineers in powerplant operation, essentially for such aircraft as the Boeing B-29 and the Consolidated Vultee B-32, which are the first large combat aircraft in the USAAF to have separate completely equipped engineer's stations.

C-109. A conversion of the B-24 into a fuel-carrying aircraft. The first version, modified by the USAAF had metal tanks in the nose, above the bomb-bay and in the bomb-bay holding a total of 2,900 US gallons. Standard fuel transfer system for loading and unloading through single hose union in side of fuselage. Inert gas injected into tanks as fuel pumped out to eliminate danger of explosion. Developed for transporting fuel from India to China to supply the needs of the B-29s operating therefrom. Later version modified by the Glenn L. Martin Company, fitted with collapsible Mareng fuel cells.

SPIRIT OF NOTRE DAME

Below is a story about a B24 aeroplane named " Spirit of Notre Dame" Originally assigned to the 453rd BG at Old Buckenham, flew 119 missions and survived a mid air collision over Carleton Rode, Norfolk. It was built by Ford at Willow Run and designated B24H – 20 H-25 FO Serial No; 42-95102. The 453rd BG completed their missions around 8th April 1945 before WW2 finished and the aircraft sent to other groups.

What is the link with the 448th BG

In search of "Spirit of Notre Dame"

While the 448th Bomb Group was at Seething airfield many aircraft were based there or just passed through. Below is the story of one such aircraft and how we at Station 146 Seething Control Tower Association came to discover its story. Our story began when two of our members were  discussing a photograph of an aircraft "Spirit of Notre Dame", when it was on final approach prior to landing back at its home base, Station 144, at Old Buckenham, the home of the 453rd Bomb Group. Shortly after the photograph was taken it was in collision with another B24 called "Worry Bird". The conversation continued into wondering what happened after it survived the crash and when and how it came to be based at Seething airfield.

It appears that the 453rd Bomb Group flew their final mission on 11th April 1945, this was the 259th mission for the Bomb Group and "Spirit's" 93rd, and it is most probable that seven to ten days later the aircraft came to Seething airfield. Horace Rigel, pilot and Louis Ladas, radio operator were flown to Old Buckenham to bring it back and to prepare it for its redeployment back to the States. "Spirit's" crew chief and his assistant, John Shaner and Roger Wallace came with the aircraft. This action appears to be what happened with other aircraft and crews who were dispersed to other units in England.

John Shaner came to England in December 1943 as a passenger with one of the original 453rd Bomb Group's crew – No 51. The pilot of this crew was Captain John W Banks. We understand that John Shaner is no longer with us. He married a Gwendoline Gray at St John the Baptist Church, Norwich in January 1945. Of Roger Wallace we have no information.

We also discovered another mystery on one of our photographs of "Spirit" which shows the nose art in which 117 mission symbols are shown. In a table of missions which we were given it records 93 missions for "Spirit" so what of the missing 24. To date no actual evidence has been found, however, one explanation could be that these related to the missions which the original "Notre Dame" carried out and these were transferred over to the new aircraft. This aircraft was B24H 5CF-29257 which was salvaged at Station 365, Halesworth after landing damaged there on 30th May 1944 with one engine burnt out and severe operational damage after a mission to Oldenburg airfield. The new aircraft later named "Spirit of Notre Dame" was delivered to the United States Army Air Force by Ford from Willow Run, Michigan on 22nd March 1944, and then sent to the Eighth Air Force on 30th April 1944. It left the United States of America shortly after and was assigned in May 1944 as a replacement aircraft to 453rd Bomb Group. It flew its first mission on 19th May 1944, the target was the marshalling yards at Brunswick and the pilot was Ray L Sears. The ending of "Spirit" began when they left Seething, England for the Azores; from there it flew to Gander, Newfoundland, finally arriving on 18th June 1945 at Bradley Falls, Winsorlocks, Connecticut. It was then placed in storage at Ypsilanti Army Air Force base MI until 24th September 1945. On 22nd October 1945 at
Altus Army Air Force base, Oklahoma it was scrapped. If you have any further information on this aircraft we would love to hear from you.


B 17 - Design & Development

The aircraft was originally designed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, and the prototype first flew on December 29,1939. Meanwhile, orders for production aircraft had also been received from Great Britain and France, who had tried desperately to build up and modernize their air forces for the war which had been inevitable. However, the Liberator was not available to France by the time of its capitulation, and French-ordered aircraft were diverted to Britain.

Among the first Liberators to go into British service were six used as transatlantic airliners with BOAC, while others went to Coastal Command as patrol aircraft.

As production in the States continued to expand, taking in other manufacturers to help build the type, versions appeared with varying armament and other differences.

Liberators also found their way into the United States Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the armed forces of other countries. In Europe, Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force concentrated mainly on night bombing, while the United States Army Air Force operated mainly as a day bombing force.

On December 4,1942 US Liberators of the 9th Air Force attacked Naples, recording their first raid on Italy, followed on July 19,1943 by the
first raid on Rome by 270 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses of the USAAF casualties among the US day bombing forces were high, until the perfection of formation flying and the support of long-range escort fighters. This was well illustrated on August 17,1943 when 59 bombers
were shot down while attacking German ball-bearing factories, followed by 60 losses in a similar raid in October. In March 1944 a large force
of US Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses attacked Berlin in daylight, the first of several such raids.

Incredibly, Liberators are recorded as having dropped over 630,000 tons of bombs, while several thousand enemy aircraft fell to their guns. Some were converted to carry the first US air-to-surface, radar-guided missile, the Bat, and in April 1945 a Bat sank a Japanese naval destroyer.

After the war the Liberator continued to serve with the United States forces, notably as an air rescue and weather reconnaissance aircraft with the Coast Guard in the 1950s.