View Full Version : Liberator serial BZ978

30th June 2008, 20:13
Have a photo showing the nose of an RAF-bound Liberator VI with the manufacturer or modification center code '30-13' on the nose. Can anyone tie this to an RAF serial?
In case it helps, have just found a another photo showing '30-410' as KH166 at Louisville Mod Center, Kentucky - it's KH166.

Graham Boak
30th June 2008, 21:07
The 30 code tells us it is a B Mk.VI, GR Mk.VIs being coded 29. The recent (superb) Air Britain book sadly does not have a full listing of these Modification Centre numbers, but does say that they do not follow the serials. The GR Mk.VI MCns were recorded: 29-13 is known to be BZ979, and at least the early ones do seem to be in a matching sequence. The 13th B Mk.VI serial was BZ989, but the 4th crashed in the USA before delivery - whether this was before or after going through the Mod Centre is not stated! So the 14th was BZ990 - but this was delivered to Dorval the day before BZ989, so maybe BZ989 was the 13th after all? The next B Mk.VI serial was BZ991, delivered to Dorval the same day as BZ989, EV812 and EV815. Unfortunately, although the earlier BZxxx aircraft staged through Dorval in a reasonable sequence by serial, we have BZ996 and BZ998 going through 16 days before BZ990 - so either of these could be 30-13.

The RAF serial does go with the USAAF serial, so that's no help.

I think that's the best this source will provide: it does give EW126 as 30-155.

Alex Smart
1st July 2008, 01:34
Hello Robert & Graham,

With the help of Air Britain's "KA100-KZ999" and "The British Air Commission & Lend Lease" books, I think that I may have solved it.
YES "30-13" might well have been BZ989 ex 42-64085.

I worked from both books to find ONLY B.VI's not to include GR VI's or Mk. VIII's.
And from that, working back from KH166 as "30-410" the numbers worked out for me, right down to BZ960 becoming "30-001".
This brought BZ989 as "30-13" that was destined for the Indian theatre.

I will include a table of these serial numbers soon.


1st July 2008, 01:54
Graham and Alex:
It never ceases to amaze me as to how much work Forumites will go to in response to a request. Thanks so much for all your detective work. I should have mentioned it is a B.VI in non-Coastal camouflage. Looks like I can safely state in a caption that it is "... very possibly BZ989."
I think I mentioned this before but former official BPC Charles Luttman, who had hung on to the BPC files subsequently used by Ken Meekcoms for the excellent AB book, was killed in a car accident shortly after the book was published - Meekcoms has since passed away too. So this invaluable information could well have been lost to us all.
Graham: I'm curious to know from where you are drawing the Dorval arrival and departure dates.

1st July 2008, 02:01
Would appreciate learning the date you have for BZ989 (and her sisterships) departing Dorval. The photo was taken at Lagens in the Azores between late October 1943 and January 1944 if that helps pin the aircraft down - the location would very likely indicate she was Middle East or India-bound.
Best regards:

Graham Boak
1st July 2008, 09:56
My source is the recent Air Britain "The Liberator in RAF and Commonwealth Service" by James Oughton, John Hamblin and Andrew Thomas. It gives a complete (as far as is known) individual history of all such aircraft. A must-buy for all B-24 enthusiasts. I only needed to look at a few pages.... but some queries just light up the curiosity. However, I repeat that it does specifically state that the sequence of MCns did not always align with the serials.

B.VIs would not wear Coastal Command camouflage - those were GR Mk.VIs.

If the photo was taken in the Azores, that was not BZ989, because she was delivered via Prestwick.

BZ988 Dorval - Sydney 22.12.43, Sydney - Gander 25.12.43, Gander - Lagens 27.12.43 via Azores (isn't Lagens the capital of the Azores?),Lagens - Rabat Sale 28.12.43.
BZ990, dld Dorval 28.11.43; via Azores, arr Karachi 12.12.43
BZ992 ditto, arr Karachi 17.12.43
BZ993 dld Dorval 2.12.43, Via Azores to ME arr Cairo 12.5.44
BZ996 via Prestwick
BZ997 dld Dorval 1.12.43, via Lagens, arr Karachi 16.12.43
BZ998 via Prestwick

Others in the same period via Lagens: EV812, 815 28.11.43; 813 16.12; 814 1.12; 817 5.12 and so on.

Alex: does EW126 fit in this sequence? EW229 was 30-245, EW157 was 30-186, EW113 was 30-142, KG920 was 30-334, 922 was 336, 923 was 337, 924 was 338. 967 was 358, KH166 was 410, 283 was 477, That's all I can find.

Later B Mk.VIs were in the 43-xxx sequence, and they were definitely not linked to serials. Sequential RAF serials from KL481 are 43 -60,35,48,39,33,51..... That these were Lend-Lease aircraft may be relevant.

Annoyingly, it seems that all the OD-painted aircraft seem to have retained the 30-xxx number in service, there are some tantalising photos with MCns partially visible, or just unclear.

1st July 2008, 10:58

RAF Lagens = Lajes Field on Terceira Island




There are five cities in the Azores: Ponta Delgada and Ribeira Grande on São Miguel Island; Angra do Heroísmo and Praia da Vitória on the island of Terceira, and Horta on the island of Faial. Three of these Ponta Delgada, Angra and Horta are considered capital cities in the regional government, homes to the President (Ponta Delgada), the Judiciary (Angra) and the Regional Assembly (Horta).


Matt Poole
1st July 2008, 15:43
Robert and all,

The RAF and US serials for Modification Number 30-13 are definitely BZ978 (a B.VI) and 42-64074.

As C.O. of 159 Squadron (Dec '43 - July '44), W/Cdr John "Hoppy" Hopkins collected a few 159-related photos, including two of BZ978 / W for Winnie showing crew posing for the camera in front of the forward fuselage (groundcrew in one, aircrew in the other). On each of these prints 30-13 and the stencilling with the US serial are clearly visible. Hoppy's brother, ex-wartime RAF flight surgeon Dr. Tom Hopkins, generously lent me his late brother's photo collection, which I scanned. Excellent quality prints.

I see that one of these is in the Australian War Memorial collection: SUK12705. You can clearly read the 30-13 but not the US serial number in the version viewable via http://cas.awm.gov.au.

After suffering serious damage from fighters while attacking Siam rail targets on 6 Oct 1944, BZ978 limped homeward but was lost in a ditching in the Bay of Bengal, short of the first available Allied airfield at Cox's Bazaar. One crewman was killed in the fighter attack and others wounded. 1550526 W/O John "Jock" McKinnon, skipper, not seen after the ditching, was on his final-scheduled op. Despite a massive search over the next few days during which a dinghy with three crewmen was spotted several times in poor conditions, an RAF rescue launch was unable to locate the dinghy and the three fell into Japanese hands. One died in Rangoon Jail, but two survived.



1st July 2008, 16:03
Matt, Graham and Pavel:
Thank you all! Do you have delivery dates for BZ978, Graham?

Graham Boak
1st July 2008, 17:45
BZ978 dld Dorval 23.11.43, then via Azores arr Mauripor, Karachi, 12/12/43

I make it the 9th B Mk.VI by RAF/USAAF serials

However, I count 10 delivered to Dorval ahead of her, another which crashed, and 3 others delivered on the same day. So somewhere in there is the explanation why she was 30-13.

1st July 2008, 21:03
Thanks, Graham.
Late November/early December is what I would have expected. Now I think about it, there is another Liberator in the photo, the wing of which is framing the upper part of image.
Kind regards:

Alex Smart
2nd July 2008, 14:26
Hello Graham,

Well from what you have in your reply on July 1st (reply 6) it would look as though my list is not 100% correct .

Some numbers are close but not "on the button".

I have an e-mail address of yours but do not know if it is up to date.

I will try to forward the details to you via that address.

Also I will forward it to Ross so that he may if he wishes place it in this thread, I am afraid I do not know how too.

All the best


Graham Boak
2nd July 2008, 16:16
Alex: Use the email facility of the board, it is pointing to the right address. Thanks.

Alex Smart
3rd July 2008, 12:44
Hello Graham,

E-mail sent to you.


Henk Welting
6th July 2008, 11:04
"One died in Rangoon jail".
This was F/Sgt Harry F. RICHARDSON - RCAF R/184955, who died 28-1-1944 and his name commemorated column 444 of the Singapore Memorial.

Matt Poole
7th July 2008, 03:26
Thanks for adding Harry Richardson's name, Henk. In a rush, I had failed to mention names.

The "Circumstantial Report" on the loss of BZ978 / W for Winnie follows. I have not yet cross-referenced service numbers with the CWGC Debt of Honour Register. The two surviving crewmen/Rangoon Jail POWs were Hill and Roper.




To: B.P.O. A.C.S.E.A.
Date: 2nd November, 1944. Ref: 1898/S.402/24/P.1.


Herewith circumstantial report on the above aircraft as required.

I. CIRCUMSTANCES. Liberator "W" 978 was detailed, together with fifteen other aircraft of this Squadron, to carry out a low level dawn attack on the Bangkok-Lampang Railway line from UTTARADIT to BHANPAJII; locomotives were the primary target with opportunity targets along the railway line as the secondary.

2. The crew consisted of:-

1550526 W/O McKinnon J. - Capt.
1338538 F/Sgt. Roper L.G. - 2nd Pilot.
A. 416627 W/O Swan C.S. - Nav. [Australian]
A. 420172 W/O Ford E.P. - W/Op. [Australian]
1891770 Sgt. Hill S - F/Eng.
A. 423854 Sgt. Nelson - Beam Gunner. [Australian]
1345502 F/Sgt. Paterson W.N. - Upper Gnr.
R.184955 F/Sgt. Richardson H.F. - Tail Gnr. [Canadian]

3. The bomb load consisted of 15 x 100 lb. G.P. U.S. bombs fused 8 - 11 seconds tail delay and armed with spikes. The aircraft carried 2650 Imp. gallons of fuel which brought its all up weight to 62000 lbs. and gave it an endurance of approximately 18 hours.

4. The aircraft took off from Digri as briefed at 23.33 hrs. 5.10.44. The weather en route and over the target was good apart from small patches of low stratus, and all aircraft were able to map read easily and to identify the railway line without difficulty.

5. The three other aircraft which were on the same section of the line as Liberator "W" attacked between 05.25 and 06.18 hrs. at heights varying from 100 to 500 ft.

6. Liberator "W" 978 failed to return to base.


1. At 08.10 hours Liberator "W" broadcast "S.O.S. S.O.S." followed by "333" to which Base Control at Digri replied by asking if they had any further message.

2. At about this time another aircraft of this Squadron who were receiving the signals very loud and clear, thinking that they were in the vicinity passed an approximate position of 15 00'N. 95 00'E.

3. At 08.37 hrs. R.A.F. Salboni gave a second class Q.D.M. of 315 deg.

4. At 08.45 hrs. Liberator "W" 978 called Digri with the following message "Trying CHITTAGONG - Two engines u/s. Height 5000' A.S.I. 140 [Air Speed Indicator 140 MPH] D. 360 deg [Direction 360 degrees, or due north]".

5. At 09.09 hours it called again with "Unable to receive due to heavy interference".

6. Finally at 09.20 hrs. it sent the following message which Digri received "Attacked by two fighters over target, one dead, three wounded". This message ceased at 09.25 hours and was the last transmission heard.

7. At 09.34 hrs. Digri sent a message asking for the aircraft's position but no contact was made.

8. At 10.30 hrs. Digri ceased listening on night frequency for any further messages.

9. It is stressed that no signals were received from Liberator "W" indicating that it was in any trouble until the signal advising that it had two engines out. These were most probably damaged in the attack carried out by the two enemy fighters.


1. A.S.R. Search was immediately instituted by aircraft of No. 224 Grp. at 15 00'N 95 00'E, the position at which the Liberator was believed to have ditched.

2. The search was continued throughout the day of 6th October and aircraft of Strategic Air Force were sent out on the night of the 6/7th October.

3. From then on, until the evening of the 13th October, a continuous search was made during which aircraft of the S.A.F. carried out 83 sorties involving 341 hours flying.

4. The following results were achieved:-

(a) On the night of the 6/7th Oct., pyrotechnics and flashing lights were seen at 18 30'N 92 30'E; the latter were believed to come from a dinghy radio, but no dinghy was seen.

(b) On the 7th October, a dinghy was sighted at position 18 55'N, 92 22'E and reported to S.A.F. by W/T.

(c) On the 9th October at 16.07 hrs. a dinghy was sighted momentarily at position 18 25' N, 93 05' E and in the evening it was sighted again in much the same position.

(d) This was the last sighting and since then there has been no further news of either the aircraft, the crew or the dinghy.

5. On every occasion on which the dinghy was sighted it was reported as being a dirty gray colour and on two occasions as being occupied by three personnel. All the dinghies of this unit are checked regularly and are a bright yellow colour on the top and a pale blue on the under surface. It can only be assumed that if the dinghy sighted was actually one of the Liberators, then either it was upside down or it was polluted with oil. It was only seen in very quick glimpses and my own view is that it was not one of those for which search was being made.


1. This was W/O McKinnon's last sortie before completing his operational tour. He was an extremely capable and experienced pilot and I am certain that he did everything within his power to save both his aircraft and his crew.

2. The whole crew have been posted missing.

(signed J. BLACKBURN)

Wing Commander Commanding
No. 159 Squadron, R.A.F.

Henk Welting
7th July 2008, 13:16
Thanks Matt for this very detailed response.