Getting "overexposed" on Bleaklow

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SEJohnson95
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#1 Getting "overexposed" on Bleaklow

Post by SEJohnson95 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 11:52 am

Somewhere I have been meaning to visit for quite a while, and finally found the time to do so last Monday

Just off the beaten track of the Pennine Way up near the Snake Pass on the aptly named Bleaklow Moor, some 10 m from the top of the moorlands near the Higher Shelf Stones, lies the corroding, crumbling wreckage of one special aircraft.

Boeing RB-29A [F13-A] Superfortress 44-61999 "Over Exposed" belonged to the 16th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, 91st Reconnaissance Wing, 311 Air Division, Strategic Air Command and was involved in a tragic accident whilst descending through the clouds to land a matter of minutes later at Burtonwood in Cheshire. The following story is taken from the Glossop Heritage Trust Website:

http://www.glossopheritage.co.uk/b29.htm


On November 3rd 1948, during a flight from Scampton in Lincolnshire to the Burtonwood United States Air Force base near Warrington in Lancashire, the Superfortress "Over Exposed" crashed on to the high ground at Higher Shelf Stones. The pilot of the aircraft, Captain Landon P. Tanner had been given a briefing before the 20 minute flight that there would be broken cloud between 2,000 and 4,000 feet with a visibility of 4 - 6 miles.

For this flight the crew was;
Pilot: Captain Landon P. Tanner
Co-Pilot: Captain Harry Stroud
Engineer: Technical Sergeant Ralph Fields
Navigator: Sergeant Charles Wilbanks
Radio Operator: Sergeant Gene A Gartner,
Radar Operator: David T. Moore
Camera Crew: Technical Sergeant Saul R. Banks; Sergeant Donald R. Abrogast; Sergeant Robert I. Doyle; Private First Class William M. Burrows
Additional Crew: Corporal M. Franssen; Corporal George Ingram
Photographic Advisor: Captain Howard Keel of the 4201st Motion Picture Unit.

The flight was carrying the payroll for the American airbase at Burtonwood and sacks of mail to be sent back to the United States. It is believed that the pilot must have descended out of the overcast sky to establish his current position and impacted with the ground just below Higher Shelf Stones, about 2000 feet above sea level. When the aircraft failed to arrive at the airbase an air search was called and the burning wreckage was seen.

At the time the members of RAF Harpur Hill Mountain Rescue team were completing an exercise some two and a half miles away and picked up the messages of the search aircraft. Realising that they were in the area, in two parties, they moved towards the crash site through conditions of mist and drizzle until they could see the remains of the aircraft with its high tailfin above the fires. The first arrivals from the RAF team, Flight Sergeant George Thompson and Corporal William Duthie realised there were no survivors of the crash and as night fell firemen and other men from the RAF arrived and made a further search. Very early the following day a much larger party made their way to Higher Shelf Stones and the 200 yard long debris trail was searched until all the bodies of the crew were found, as was the £7000 pay satchel.

The crew of ‘Over Exposed’ had completed their tour of duty and in three days would have returned to their homes in the United States. Captain Landon P. Tanner, the 33 year old pilot of ‘Over Exposed’ left a wife and two daughters, Jean and Jane. He had enlisted in the US forces in 1936.

The Boeing B 29 Superfortresses used for photographic reconnaissance duties were fitted with extra fuel tanks and cameras were installed to photograph a strip of ground 3 miles wide. After this conversion the aircraft was designated as an F-13 and first entered service in November 1944. 117 were built. 44-61999 "Over Exposed" was built at Renton Washington and, fitted with cameras in five gun turrets was in service just before the Second World War ended.

On July 1st 1946, B29 Superfortress "Dave's Dream", accompanied by "Over Exposed", took off from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to take part in Operation Crossroads - the Atomic Bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. The B29 was to drop an atomic bomb which was to explode over Bikini Atoll Lagoon and it was the job of "Over Exposed"and its 25 cameras to photograph 'Dave's Dream' and the bomb leaving the aircraft. It then dived 1000ft and was seven miles away when the bomb exploded. On July 25th "Over Exposed" was used to photograph the results of an underwater bomb test and at the end of the tests was sent back to Wright field, with the other 7 F-13s involved, where the extra cameras were removed and then sent to Roswell Field for contamination checks. They then returned to their squadrons.
"Over Exposed" at the time of the Bikini Atoll Mission.

In 1948 the Russians cut off the Allied occupied sector of Berlin by cutting the road link and the only way to re-supply the Allied forces was by a massive air operation, bringing in food, coal and other supplies. During the period of the Berlin Airlift "Over Exposed" was used to fly in with the other transport aircraft and photograph the Russian occupied territory of Germany.

After the crash the investigating teams had the tail fin destroyed as it stood up on the hillside, visible for great distances and it was attracting too many sightseers. Over the succeeding years many walkers visited the site, as well as aircraft historians and many parts were gradually removed or scattered over the hillsides and the once shiny metal parts rusted or oxidised.

The story of "Over Exposed" was told by Ron Collier in his books on the numerous air accidents that took place in the area and subsequently in other authors' books and the many itineraries published for the thousands of walkers and hikers who used the land around the Pennine Way.

Many years later (1983) a memorial was placed on the site, and wreaths were laid in memory of the crewmen who died in the crash. Services were held on anniversaries and relatives of the lost crew attended.



We arrived up on the tops (in the Colt, of course :wink: ) to find low cloud and a generally Bleak looking day. Having driven right up to the top of the county we decided to go for it anyway. Being at the site in low cloud with the distant sound of aircraft descending into Manchester Airport really put an atmosphere to the site - these were the conditions which brought down the mighty Superfortress.

We were on our own for most of the time on-site too, until we were joined by the most northern people we'd come across (they were from Barnsley :lol: ) - the chap lamenting the slowly decreasing amount of wreckage on the moorside. Trophy hunters ruining it for everyone - the wreckage is not worth its scrap value, but needs leaving in place as a poignant memorial.

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The site looking north from the memorial

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A section of the B29's main undercarriage, serving as a memorial too. The other side was previously buried and has now been uncovered

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A (relatively) intact wing section - a wing spar is visible on the other side of the site, my mate Laurence is stood next to it on one of the photos.

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A total "valley of destruction" - the wreckage has been spread out over the years but is all still in roughly the right place.

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A section most likely from the tail of the aircraft

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One of the four Wright R-3350-23 Duplex-Cyclone turbosupercharged radial engines, certainly not producing anything like the 2,200 hp a piece they did in 1948, the Mg and Al alloys badly corroded and the steel rusting. At one point the props were still in situ according to the chap there, but people have sinced run off with them... Nearby stands an oil cooling radiator, equally looking as though it's had a rough time up there.

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Lest We Forget. Worth paying a visit if you can.
Simon Johnson
Postgraduate Synthetic Chemist at The University of Bristol
Chasing the dream of a S1 4.2 OTS, but plan on getting an E ASAP!
Occasional contributor to the E-Type Club magazine
Lucky passenger in a 1962 FHC - 860927 - See restoration thread

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chrisfell
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#2 Re: Getting "overexposed" on Bleaklow

Post by chrisfell » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:05 pm

Misty conditions add to the poignancy of these images......
Chris '67 S1 2+2

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#3 Re: Getting "overexposed" on Bleaklow

Post by SEJohnson95 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:18 pm

Absolutely, Chris. It made both of us stand and contemplate for quite a while up there.
Simon Johnson
Postgraduate Synthetic Chemist at The University of Bristol
Chasing the dream of a S1 4.2 OTS, but plan on getting an E ASAP!
Occasional contributor to the E-Type Club magazine
Lucky passenger in a 1962 FHC - 860927 - See restoration thread

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1954Etype
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#4 Re: Getting "overexposed" on Bleaklow

Post by 1954Etype » Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:25 pm

One of the saddest photos I saw was of 'Johnny Be Good' - an american bomber that went down in the desert. Apparently due to an inexperienced ATC who gave them a route that took them away from the airfield. They landed with no fuel and I think the crew all died of exposure.
Angus 65 OTS 1E11497. 67 FHC 1E33656

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