Although often overshadowed by the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator was built in greater numbers than any other US military aircraft and served with distinction in both war and peace. Designed by the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation to improve upon Boeing’s earlier B-17, the first B-24 Liberator made its maiden flight on 29 December 1939.
At its inception, the B-24 was a modern design featuring a highly efficient shoulder-mounted, high aspect ratio Davis wing. The wing gave the Liberator a high cruise speed, long range and the ability to carry a heavy bomb load. Early RAF Liberators were the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean as a matter of routine.
The type was an outstanding success, with 19,257 aircraft built by Consolidated, Douglas, North American and Ford between 1940 and 1945. 18,481 were built for the United States Army and Allied Air Forces and the remainder for the United States Navy.
The Royal Air Force was the second largest operator of Liberators, with nearly 1900 being delivered via purchase and Lend Lease. Others were transferred directly in theatre making a grand total of just over 2000.
Liberators continued in use until December 1968 when the Indian Air Force retired its former RAF machines.
Liberators also saw service as transports; indeed, AL504 Commando became the personal aircraft of Prime Minister Winston Churchill for a short time.
This Liberator was on display at RAF London.
Built at Ford Willow Run as B-24L-20-FO. Held in operational reserve until April 1945. Sent to RAF 231 Group in Dhubalia, India as KN751. Served with 99 Squadron at Cocos Islands. One of 36 B-24s restored by Indian Air Force and used as HE807 until December 1968. Presented as gift to RAF Museum on 1 July 1974. Flown to UK and arrived 7 July at RAF Lyneham. Moved to Cosford in 1976. Painted in 99 Squadron markings with the “Flying Bee.” motif. Transported to Hendon in September 2005.