Rise of the Phoenix - The Story Continues (Part 2)
Earlier this year, we brought you Part 1 of the story of the restoration of Australia's only surviving B-24 Liberator, one of only eight still in existence in the world. Part 2 continues the story of the Restoration and the group of dedicated people who banded together in a common cause: to find and restore the glorious B24 Liberator, as told by Tony Muller from our B24 Liberator Branch.
2018 is significant as it is 30 years since that August meeting in Wagga where the B24 Restoration began, and the worldwide search began for a complete or parts of a plane.
One wonders at the reasons people collect and hoard things especially parts of a Liberator. Over time and as the word spread, information began to surface on the whereabouts of various items and the sometimes erroneous or fabled stories of complete planes stored in hidden locations all of which had to be studiously followed up.
One significant outcome was the provision of an unused hangar at RAAF Williams Base at Laverton, where items that did turn up could be safely stored. Later on and following the closing of the Laverton base to the general public, the provision of two former WW2 hangars on the Pt Cook Satellite aerodrome in Werribee was also gratefully accepted.
In late 1989, the Memorial Restoration Fund (as it had come to be known) was advised of a B24 fuselage lying in the backyard of the home of George Toyne in Moe, Victoria. When this was confirmed, negations with him began and a signed and witnessed agreement that the unit would be sold to the fund for $35,000 was completed. However, when the time came for the removal, a disagreement on the amount to be paid caused a huge problem and finally a further offer of $5000 completed the deal. The fuselage was brought to Werribee through the efforts of the Korumburra Army Reserve unit in 1995.
Our next big find came in 1991 with a Rotary project to build a school in Papua New Guinea and which involved the son of a former B24 pilot. A chance discussion with a local led to the discovery of an abandoned American Liberator that had been damaged by enemy fighters. It had lain there forgotten since 1944! A huge effort over three years involving volunteers, the Royal Navy, the RAAF and the Australian Army eventually resulted in it and other pieces arriving at Werribee in 1995.
Space prevents from detailing every incredible find, but a brief overview will give readers an idea of the enthusiasm of people and other organisations to help wherever possible.
- Darwin Museum donated 3 rescued Sperry ball turrets on the understanding we rebuild one for them and one for ourselves.
- Another donation was of a rear turret by the RAAF Historic Flight Amberley and with the help of an American Member a front turret was found in an Arizona bone yard.
- A rescued upper gun turret being transported to a production facility on a truck which had caught fire and unceremoniously dumped into a roadside ravine which completed the set.
- A brand-new complete landing leg still in its box was found under a house in Elsternwick Victoria, another found cut in half for a wool press on a farm was welded back to a working condition by a South Melbourne firm.
- Brand new Fowler flaps found on a Queensland farm were in their original box. A hangar visitor noted “My father was a radar operator on a B24 and brought his unit home to the farm”. It is now restored and operational as are the myriad of other components that have also been “donated”.
- Every donated, scavenged or bought item had to be evaluated, catalogued and repaired to a useable or operational condition. Over the last 30 years this has been done by hundreds of volunteers working on site, and, sadly, many of them without ever seeing the final result.
We’re Increasing Our Fundraising Efforts.
B24 Liberator Fund Members and its many other supporters have raised the money that has made it all possible so far and now we need to further increase our fund-raising efforts. Currently the Restoration Committee is in negotiation with the many stakeholders involved with the task of finalising the ceding of the surrounding land to the Fund and demolition and the re-erection of the larger hangar Number 1 behind our current position. This will provide a permanent and proper home for the B24 Liberator A72-176 in accordance with our Mission Statement: ‘To locate restore and display a B24 Liberator in an appropriate Museum for the people of Australia’. It also means we have to find the means to fund it
How Can You Help?
We are asking people to become a Member of the B24 Liberator Fund, or a volunteer or bring family and friends to visit our B24 Restoration Project. We can also supply guest speakers that will travel to your meetings without charge.
Join us in the restoration of Australia’s only surviving B24 Liberator! Find out more by visiting the B24 Restoration Project website.
Above (left): The B24 Liberator - restoration well underway!
Above (middle): Peter Perryman and Tony Muller, at work in B24 hangar.
Above (right): Roger Williams (L) and Paul Rourke manufacturing underwing fuselage panels for the Liberator.