United States Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator 63934, near Mossley.

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United States Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator 63934

This dreary photo is of the spot where the unmanned Liberator PB4Y-1 eventually crashed when its fuel ran out on 18 December 1943.

Pilot Lt George H Charno, Jr, had taken his crew on a patrol of the Bay of Biscay, looking for U-Boats. However, due to deteriorating weather back in England, the mission was ordered to return. Heading back for base at RAF Dunkeswell near Exeter, Lt Charno had to overfly the base upon instructions from the ground. Lt Charno, according to some accounts, offered up his landing slot to another PB4Y-1 Liberator pilot based at Dunkeswell – Lt Joe Kennedy, brother of John F Kennedy, whose aircraft had less fuel.

Lt Kennedy was killed the following August while piloting a robot Liberator from Dunkeswell as part of Operation Aphrodite – remote controlled explosives packed Liberators that had to be manned to get off the ground, then control was taken over by the crew of another bomber while the skeleton crew baled out. Lt Kennedy’s Liberator exploded over Suffolk, 20 minutes into the flight. The death of the brother of the man who would become President was witnessed by Colonel Elliot Roosevelt, the son of the then current President, who was filming the operation from a de Havilland Mosquito.

Meanwhile with the weather getting worse, Lt Charno was directed to an airfield near Southampton. Various attempts were made at landing, but with the weather worsening, and proximity warnings from barrage balloons around Southampton sounding, it was a bad time for the radio to pack in.

Lt Charno decided to try further north, and turned Liberator 63934 towards the Midlands in the hope of finding an airfield in better weather conditions, after mistaking a lorry convoy with dimmed headlights for a runway and attempting to land on it.

With cloud covering the country and no hope of finding a clear airfield, and with the fuel gauges dropping lower and no radio, the crew finally prepared to bale out, very properly disarming the bombs on board first. Leaving through the bomb doors, all 11 airmen successfully parachuted down, not in Midlands as expected, but near the Wash on the East Coast; the Liberator had been pushed north and east by the wind.

The unmanned aircraft flew on 100 or so miles to the North West, crossing the Peak District and heading for Manchester. However, in the vicinity of Ashton, the Liberator was seen overhead, very low and heading back towards the hills. It would appear that the fuel to the starboard (right) engine had run out, causing the aircraft to lose height and turn in a circle and ultimately to crash harmlessly on this bleak moorland.

The link below is to a PDF documenting a fascinating account of a local man, a Mr Brian Thompson who unearthed a Mark 24 accoustic homing torpedo at the crash site in 1980.


11 comments on “United States Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator 63934, near Mossley.
  1. Keartona says:

    I had no idea there were so many sites.
    The story for this one is fascinating. Can you imagine trying to land on a lorry convoy!
    Lucky that it landed on the moors and not in the middle of a town.

  2. Tech Owl says:

    Nice catch with the plane flying overhead – another wonderful image to remember the event by Ian.

  3. andyholmfirth says:

    What a story !

  4. Highy says:

    The plane above is a nice touch.
    Great story of a bit of desolate moor.
    These stories are fascinating, that there are so many of them is a reminder of how dangerous those guys lives were.

  5. ​favourite waste of time​ says:

    love this shot even if it does feel a bit dreary – interesting bit about Joe Kennedy too. Named after his father I guess..

  6. RodtheRhodie says:

    I watched a program about this area of the Penines on TV a few weeks ago. Amazing story, sort of like our own Bermuda Triangle

  7. Pleasureprinciple2012 says:

    There must be so many similar stories like these all around the country, very interesting story

  8. stuant63 says:

    Fascinating story.

  9. Ian D B says:


    Thanks Sean. Hopefully it’s been re-buried. Or I could just have failed to see it.

  10. seansonofbig says:

    Our coords are pretty good, I know as we had reason to revisit…

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