Boeing RB-29A [F13-A] Superfortress “Over Exposed” Crash Site
Simon Wilson and Rachel Gerrand explore the OverExposed crash site which 13 men lost their lives in 1948.. Nearly an hour walk from the road across took us over various inclines of boggy terrain to this aircraft debris; it was a peaceful eerie site.
16th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, 91st Reconnaissance Wing, 311 Air Division, Strategic Air Command crashed on Higher Shelf Stones on November 3rd 1948.
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.
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.
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.
The B29 was also used by the Royal Air Force after World War II, to be used in addition to the Avro Lancaster and Lincoln bombers until the Canberra and Valiant entered service. On March 20th 1950 the first four B29s were handed over to the RAF and flown to RAF Marham in Norfolk, arriving on March 22nd. In the RAF the aircraft was known as the Washington B Mk 1, and after a conversion unit had been set up to train crews, was issued to 149 Squadron which then moved to RAF Coningsby in October. In 1953 149 Sqn began to dispose of some of its aircraft, either to other units or back to the USA. In March 1954 most of the Washingtons were handed back to America. Five were used as gunnery targets at Shoeburyness and some were used by 192 Sqn for radio countermeasures training until 1958 before also being sent to Shoeburyness.