Liberator VI/VIII for RAF

Last revised August 15, 1999






Approximately 1600 B-24H, J, and L Liberators were supplied under Lend-Lease to the Royal Air Force between the spring of 1944 and August of 1945. They were known as the Liberator VI and VIII in RAF service (The missing designation Liberator VII was assigned to C-87 Liberator Express transports supplied to the RAF). Unfortunately, the British mark numbers allocated to these planes did not necessarily have any connection with their USAAF designations. 1150 of these planes are believed to have been B-24Js, with 739 of them being built by Convair/Fort Worth and 411 by Convair/San Diego. All of the San Diego-built machines, as well as the first 500 Fort Worth-built B-24Js were given the British designation Liberator Mk.VI, while the remainder of the Fort Worth-built machines became Mk.VIIIs. However, the designation Liberator Mk.VIII was also applied to the Ford-built B-24Ls that were supplied to the RAF following the cessation of Liberator production at Convair/Fort Worth.

Generally, the Mk.VI differed from the Mk.VIII in the former having Consolidated-built nose turrets, the latter having Emerson-built nose turrets. However, the Liberator Mk.VI designation was also assigned to B-24G and H models which found their way to the RAF, and most of these had Emerson nose turrets. Twelve Liberators taken over from the USAAF in Italy early in 1945 were a mixed bag of B-24G, H, and J models, and yet all were identified as Mk.VIs. So it is impossible to make any general statement about the differences between VI and VIII marks.

The Liberator VI and VIII retained their US-built nose, dorsal, and belly turrets, but the Consolidated tail turret was initially replaced by a Boulton Paul turret with four 0.303-inch machine guns. However, many of theses Boulton Paul turrets were replaced by American turrets when the planes reached service.

The RAF Liberators appeared in different forms to meet the needs of various commands. The bomber version was designated B.VI or B.VIII and was used primarily as a day bomber in the Mediterranean or South East Asia theatres. Like their American B-24J and L cousins, the B.VI and B.VIII bomber versions often had their ball turrets removed to save weight. The maritime reconnaissance version was designated GR.VI or GR.VIII and was used by RAF Coastal Command for long range ocean patrol. The GR versions generally had the ball turret replaced by a retractable A.S.V. radar installation. The GR.VIII differed from the GR.VI in having a different ventral radar installation. Many GRs had radar antennae sprouting from the wings and the fuselage, and carried underwing Leigh lights for anti-submarine operations at night.

Numerous Liberator Mk.VI and Mk.VIII aircraft were converted into transport configuration in the UK under the designation C.VI and C.VIII. All the armament was removed, the nose and tail were faired over, and seating for 24 passengers was added. They thus became similar to C.VIIs that were later supplied to the RAF from USAAF C-87 stocks.

Although aircraft delivered to Britain under Lend-Lease generally carried USAAF serial numbers for administrative purposes, very few of these numbers are known for RAF Liberator VIs and VIIIs. So it is currently impossible to make any one-to-one correlation between USAAF and RAF serials, making an interesting problem for aviation historians.

The following serial number listing is a summary of what I have been able to glean from various sources, and I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has additions and/or corrections.

The initial batch of Liberators were all Mk.VIs. They had RAF serials of BZ960/BZ999. These are believed to have all been Fort Worth-built B-24Js, although there is no confirmation. Many of them were initially delivered to the RAF with Boulton-Paul tail turrets, which were often replaced by Consolidated turrets in service. They are divided as follows:

B.VIs were serialed BZ962, BZ965, BZ973, BZ974, BZ976/BZ978, BZ982, BZ983, BZ989, BZ990, BZ992, BZ993, and BZ996/BZ998.

GR.VIs were serialed BZ960, BZ961, BZ963, BZ964, BZ966/BZ969, BZ975, BZ979, BZ980, BZ984, BZ985, BZ987, BZ988, BZ991, BZ994, BZ995, and BZ999. GR.IV BZ960 was converted to B.VI. GR.IVs BZ979 and BZ985 were converted to C.VI

C.VIs were serialed BZ971, BZ972, BZ981, and BZ986

The following were listed only as Mk.VI, since their roles were not known: BZ970 and BZ980.

The next batch of RAF Liberators were serialed EV812 through EV999, EW100 through EW322. This involved 411 aircraft, all of them being Mk VIs. The planes up to EW249 are believed to have all been San Diego-built B-24Js, with the remainder being Fort Worth-built B-24Js.

The following were B.VI: EV812/EV817, EV820, EV822, EV825, EV826, EV828, EV838, EV839, EV841, EV843/EV847, EV849/EV852, EV854/EV855, EV857, EV859, EV860, EV862, EV865, EV867, EV868, EV870, EV875, EV876, EV900/EV918, EV920/EV932, EV934, EV937/EV938, EV940/EV941, EV944, EV946, EV949, EV951, EV952, EV957/EV971, EV973/EV984, EV989/EV991, EV993, EV999. EW101/EW126, EW127/EW128 (USAAF 42-99793/99794), EW129 (USAAF 42-99827) EW130 (USAAF 42-99809), EW131 (42-99812), EW132 (USAAF 42-99815) EW133 (USAAF 42-99815), EW133 (USAAF 42-99817) EW134/EW137 (42-99820/99823), EW138/EW207, EW215, EW-219/EW250, EW251/EW252 (USAAF 44-10254/10255), EW253/EW269, EW270 (USAAF 44-10273), EW281/EW282 (USAAF 44-10284/10285), and EW287. B.VI EV828 was converted to GR.VI and then to C.VI. B.VI EV929, EV944, EV962, EW147, EW249, and EW276 were converted to C.VI

The following were GR.VI: EV818/EV819, EV821, EV823/EV824, EV827, EV829/EV837, EV840, EV842, EV848, EV853, EV856, EV858, EV861, EV863, EV866, EV869, EV871/EV874, EV877/EV899, EV919, EV933, EV935, EV936, EV939, EV942, EV943, EV945, EV947, EV948, EV950, EV953/EV956, EV972, EV985/EV988, EV992, EV994/EV998, EW100, EW251/EW252, and EW288/EW322 (EW317 was USAAF 44-10320, EW320 was USAAF 44-10323, EW321 was USAAF 44-10324).

GR.VIs EV879, EV880, EV886, EV888, EV890, EV896, EV943, EV948, EV986/EV988, EV992, EV995, EV997, EV998, EW100, EW290, EW297, and EW310 were converted to C.VI.

Listed only as Mk VI since their roles are unknown: EV864, EW208/EW214 (USAAF 42-99824/99831??) EW216/EW218 (USAAF 42-99902/42-99904), and EW251/EW252 (USAAF 44-10254/10255),

The next batch was serialed in the KG821/KG999 and KH100/KH420 range. These planes were a mixed bag of Liberator VI and VII versions. 500 aircraft were involved. All of these planes are believed to have been Consolidated/Fort Worth-built B-24Js, with the possible exception of the batch KH100/KH124, which were built by Consolidated/San Diego.

The following were B.VI: KG823/KG846, KG871/KG879, KG880 (USAAF 44-10385, held in Canada), KG881/KG885, KG886 (USAAF 44-10386, held in Canada) KG887, KG888 (USAAF 44-10392, held in Canada), KG889/KG890, KG891/KG892 (USAAF 44-10396/19397, held in Canada), KG893, KG894 (USAAF 44-10398, held in Canada), KG919, KG920 (USAAF 44-10425, held in Canada), KG921, KG922/KG924 (USAAF 44-10427/10429, held in Canada), KG925/KG928, KG929/KG931 (USAAF 44-10434/10436, held in Canada), KG933/KG934, KG937/KG942, KG967/KG977, KG978 (USAAF 44-10483, retained in Canada), KG993/KG999, KH100/KH104, KH105/KH110 (USAAF 44-10670/10674, retained in Canada), KH111/KH122, KH147/KH151, KH155/KH170, KH171/KH176 (USAAF 44-10736/10741, retained in Canada), KH203/KH218, KH222, KH239/KH258, KH269/KH284, KH285/KH288 (USAAF 44-44156/44159), KH309/KH320, KH323, KH325/KH328, KH349/KH368, KH386, and KH389/KH408. B.VI KH208 was converted to C.VIII. B.VIs KG827 and KH279 were converted to C.VI.

The following were GR.VI: KG821/KG822, KG847 (USAAF 44-10352), KG849/KG870 (KG852 was USAAF 44-10357), KG895/KG918, KG936, KG985/KG986, KG990/KG992 (KG991 was USAAF 44-10656), KH123/KH124, KH127, KH134, KH198/KH200, KG991 was USAAF 44-10656. KH296, KH305, KH344, KH348, KH377/KH385, (KH382 was USAAF 44-44253, KH383 was USAAF 44-44254), and KH419/KH420. GR.VIs KG863/KH866, KG868, KG899/KG902, KG905/KG906, KG908, KG914/KG916, KG918, KG936, KG985, KH198/KH200, KH305, KH344, KH348, KH377, KH380, KH381, and KH419/KH420 were converted to C.VI

The following were B.VIII: KG848, KG943/KG958, KG960, KH227/KH238, and KH369/KH376. B.VIIIs KG848, KG950, and KG960 were converted to C.VIII.

The following were GR.VIII: KG959, KG961/KG966, KG979/KG984, KG987/KG989, KH125, KH126, KH128/KH133, KH135, KH136, KH143, KH146, KH177/KH184, KH189, KH221, KH223/KH226, KH259/KH268, KH290/KH294, KH298, KH302, KH306, KH308, KH322, KH329/KH341, KH346/KH347, KH387/KH388, and KH410/KH418 GR.VIIIs KG959, KG980, KG983, KG984, KG987, KG989, KH125, KH126, KH128, KH130/KH133, KH177, KH179, KH181, KH182, KH184, KH222/KH226, KH259/KH260, KH265/KH266, KH291/KH294, KH298, KH308, KH322, KH333, KH334, KH337, KH340, KH411, and KH412 were converted to C.VIII. GR.VIIIs KH146, KH346, and KH347 were converted to C.VII

Out of the previous batch, there is no record of the following RAF serials: KG932, KG935, KH137/KH142 (except that KH138 was 44-10703), KH144/KH145, KH152/KH154, KH185/KH188 (except that KH186 was USAAF 44-10751 and KH187 was USAAF 44-10752), KH190/KH197 (except that KH193 was USAAF 44-44054, KH194 was USAAF 44-44055), KH201/KH202, KH219/KH220, KH285/KH289, KH295/KH297 (except of KH296 as a Mk VI, USAAF serial number 44-44167), KH299/KH301 (except that KH299 was USAAF 44-44170, KH303/KH304, KH307, KH321, KH324, KH342, KH343, KH345, and KH409.

The next batch of RAF Liberator VI/VIIIs was the 158 planes of serial number batch KK221/KK378. They are believed to have all been Convair/Fort Worth-built B-24Js, and are subdivided as follows:

B.VI: KK229/KK236, KK243/KK248, KK269/KK288, KK301/KK320, and KK343/KK362. B.VI KK248 was converted to C.VI.

GR.VI: KK221/KK228, KK237,KK242, KK251/KK258, KK260, KK265/KK267, KK337, KK340/KK342, KK368, and KK371/KK378. GR.VIs KK221, KK222, KK224, KK226, KK228, KK251, KK252, KK254, KK255, KK257, KK260, KK265/KK267, KK337, KK340/KK342, KK368, and KK371/KK378 were converted to C.VI.

GR.VIII: KK249/KK250, KK259, KK261/KK264, KK268, KK289/KK300, KK321/KK336, KK338, KK339, KK363/KK367, KK369, and KK370. GR.VIII KK322 was converted to C.VIII

Listed only as Mk.VI: KK237/KK242 (USAAF 44-44308/44-44313, held in Canada),

The next batch of RAF Liberator VI/VIIIs were the 242 planes of the lot KL348/KL689, which are all believed to have been B-24Js. They are subdivided as follows:

B.VI: KL352/KL388, KL391/KL393, KL473, KL475, KL476, KL478, KL479, KL481/KL489, KL491, KL492, KL494, KL495, KL499, KL501, KL503, KL504, KL507, KL508, KL510, KL512, KL513, KL515, KL516, KL521, KL523/KL531, KL534, KL536/KL538, KL540, KL541, KL543, KL545/KL549, KL552, KL556, KL557, KL560, KL563, KL564, KL569, KL571/KL601, KL607, KL611/KL617, KL619/KL630, KL632, KL633, KL635/KL639, KL641, KL642, KL644/KL652, KL654, KL655, KL657, KL658, KL663/KL667, KL669, KL670, KL672, KL673, KL676, KL679, KL681/KL683, and KL685/KL689

B.VIs KL486, KL494, KL499, KL503, KL529, KL548, KL576, KL578, KL593/KL595, KL613/KL617, KL619/KL623, KL625, KL627, KL628, KL630, KL637, KL639, KL641, KL642, KL645/KL647, KL650/KL652, KL657, KL658, KL663/KL667, KL669, KL670, KL672, KL673, KL676, KL679, KL686/KL683, and KL685/KL689 were converted to C.VI

GR.VI: KL348/KL351, all of which were converted to C.VI.

B.VIII: KL608/KL610, KL618, KL631, KL634, KL640, KL643, KL653, KL656, KL659/KL662, KL668, KL671, KL674, KL675, KL677, KL678, KL680, and KL684.

B.VIIIs KL608, KL631, KL634, KL640, and KL643 were converted to C.VIII.

GR.VIII: KL390, KL394, KL471, KL472, KL474, KL477, KL480, KL490, KL493, KL496/KL498, KL500, KL502, KL505, KL509, KL511, KL514, KL517, KL520, KL522, KL532, KL533, KL542, KL544, KL550, KL551, KL553, KL554, KL558, KL559, KL561, KL562, KL565/KL568, KL570, KL618, KL631, and KL634.

GR.VIII KL496 was converted to C.VIII

There is no record of the following: KL389, KL395/KL470, KL506, KL518, KL519, KL535, KL539, KL555, KL602/KL606,

The 135 planes of KN702/KN836 are believed to have been Ford-built B-24Js. They were distributed as follows.

B.VI: KN702/KN707 and KN744/KN752.

B.VIs KN702/KN707 and KN747/KN750 were converted to C.VI

B.VIII: KN759, KN760, KN762, KN764, KN766, KN768, KN771, KN772, KN774, KN780/KN784, KN790, KN791, KN793, KN794, KN796, KN798, KN801, KN802, KN806/KN808, KN812, KN814/KN816, and from KN818 on to KN836 all even numbers.

B.VIII KN828 was converted to C.VIII.

GR.VIII: KN719/KN743, KN753/KN758, KN761, KN763, KN765, KN767, KN769, KN770, KN773, KN775, KN776/KN779, KN785/KN789, KN792, KN795, KN797, KN799, KN800, KN803/KN805, KN809/KN811, KN813, and from 817 to 836 all odd numbers.

GR.VIIIs KN719, KN720, KN727, KN734, KN737, KN739, KN743, KN754, KN756/KN758, KN761, KN763, KN770, KN773, KN775, KN786, KN792, KN795, KN810, KN813, KN825, KN829, KN831, KN833, and KN835 were converted to C.VIII.

GR.VIIIs KG723 and KN765 converted to C(VIP).VIII.

No record of KN708/KN718.

The final batch of Lend-Lease Liberators for the RAF was the 72 planes of KP125/KP196. They are believed to have been Ford-built B-24Js and Ls, and were subdivided as follows:

GR.VIII: KP125, KP127, KP129, KP131, KP133, KP135, KP137, KP139, and KP141/KP146. GR.VIIIs KP129 and KP146 were converted to C.VIII.

B.VIII: KP126, KP128, KP130, KP132, KP134, KP136, KP138, KP140. B.VIII KP128 was converted to C.VIII.

KP147/KP196 were not delivered.

The last batches of Liberator VIs to reach the RAF were ex-USAAF machines, for which some of the corresponding USAAF serials are known. Although these B-24s were a mixed bag of B-24G, H, and J versions, all were identified as Mark VIs by the RAF. They are as follows:

B.VI: TT336 (USAAF 44-10597), TT340 (USAAF 42-94797), TT343 (USAAF 42-51350).

B.VI: TW758/TW769. (ex-USAAF B-24G, H, and J, the serial numbers of which I don't know)

B.VI: VB852 (USAAF 42-50744).

With the exception of the TT and TW batches (which were ex-USAAF machines), all Mk. VI Liberators appear to have had the Consolidated nose turret, whereas the Mk. VIII had the Emerson nose turret.

The first Liberator Mks VI and VII began to arrive in Britain in early 1944. Over 40 RAF squadrons flew Liberators at one time or another.

The following RAF Coastal Command squadrons flew Liberator Mks VI and VIII: Nos 8, 52, 53, 59, 86, 120, 160, 200, 206, 220, 224, 228, 246, 311, 321, 354, 357, 422, 423, and 547. In Coastal Command, GR.VIs and GR.VIIIs were used primarily for long range ocean patrol. Many were fitted with various types of sea-search radars, with antennae sticking out of the wings and fuselage. Many carried Leigh lights under their wings for spotting surfaced submarines at night. They served both in the antisubmarine role in the North Atlantic and in the long-range antishipping role in the CBI theatre. Some of these Liberators were used to drop supplies to guerillas operating behind Japanese lines. Several were converted into C.VI and C.VIII transports and were used to carry troops and supplies.

The first Liberator Mk.VIs entered service with RAF Bomber Command in early 1944. Most of the RAF B.VIs and B.VIIIs were deployed to the Mediterranean and CBI theatres, since they felt that the aircraft was not suitable for the bombardment role in northern Europe. Most were used as day bombers, but some were painted black and were used in night bombing missions over Burma. Many were used for leafletting missions over enemy territory. The following Bomber Command squadrons flew B.VIs and B.VIIIs: Nos 37, 40, 70, 99, 104, 108, 148, 159, 178, 214, 215, 223, 355, 356, 358, and 614.

The following RAF squadrons operated C.VI and C.VIII transports: Nos 102, 103, 159, 215, 232, 243, 246, 422, 423, and 426.

Small numbers of Liberaters were also used by the following Conversion Units: 5 (HP) CU, 1330 (T) CU, 1332 (T) CU, 1584 (HB) CU, 1673 (HB) CU, 1674 (HB) CU, 1675 (H) CU, and by 1586 Special Delivery Flight, 111 OTU, 1425 Flight, 1 AGS, 1346 ASR, 1409 Meteorological Flight, and Coastal Command Flying Instructors Schools.

The Liberator remained in service with the RAF longer than it did with the USAAF. All versions except transports and GR.VIIIs were withdrawn from service by June of 1946. The last GR.VIIIs were withdrawn from RAF Coastal Command in 1947.

Some transport Liberators were taken over by BOAC after the war and continued in service for several years thereafter. A few took part in the Berlin Airlift of 1948. Some transport Liberators found their way into service with other nations. A few bomber Liberators of the RAF ended up serving with the Indian Air Force following the departure of the British from India.

An ex-RAF Liberator B.VI (RAF serial number KN751, a B-24L of unknown USAAF serial number) is on display RAF Cosford, near Wolverhampton in England.

References:

  1. Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1959.

  2. British Military Aircraft Serials, 1912-1969, Bruce Robertson, Ian Allen, 1969.

  3. Liberator: America's Global Bomber, Alwyn T. Lloyd, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co, Inc, 1993.

  4. The Consolidated B-24J Liberator, Roger A. Freeman, Profile Publications, Inc. 1969.

  5. B-24 Liberator in Action, Larry Davis, Squadron/Signal Publications Inc, 1987.

  6. General Dynamics Aircraft and Their Predecesssors, John Wegg, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  7. Consolidated B-24D-M Liberator IN USAAF-RAF-RAAF-MLD-IAF-CzechAF and CNAF Service, Ernest R. McDowell, Arco, 1970.

  8. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  9. American Combat Planes, 3rd Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  10. Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century, Michael J.H. Taylor, Mallard Press.