Sunday, 30 June 2013

Finding the B-29 Superfortress in the Peak District

Greetings, Blog Fans.  We had a different type of walk today.  It was more of an adventure or scavenger hunt than our typical jaunts.  The weather has warmed up and a sunny day was predicted so we (I) decided to seek out the crash site of the B-29 Superfortress (wiki link).

According to the wiki link above:  The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States toward the end of World War II and during the Korean War. It was one of the largest aircraft to see service in World War II and a very advanced bomber for its time, with features such as a pressurized cabin, an electronic fire-control system, and remote-controlled machine-gun turrets.

Evidently, there are quite a lot of wreckage sites across the Peak District given it's relatively high ground and location between bases.   Many training flights over-flew this area or its periphery.  As many were still undergoing training most of the aircrews were relatively inexperienced in flying and the use of navigational equipment which combined with the high ground and regular night flying often in poor weather, made accidents inevitable. Overall just over half of the accidents in the Peak District occurred while crews were on training flights.  (reference: Peakdistrictaircrashes)

The B-29 site is one of the better preserved and perhaps easier to find, so we thought we'd have a go.

Stretching my radius even further for this one.  This is perhaps another 10 miles past the Ladybower Reservoir which was our previous farthest away walk (link).   It took about 70 minutes to get there, again choosing the easier (but boring) motorway route via Sheffield.

Parking along the Snake's Pass on A57.  Shorts (and a little sunscreen too).  Are we in the UK? 

I have to admit that I let my guard down on this trip and did not prepare as well as I usually do.  It was going to be in the low 20s (70s) in Derby and about 20C in Hathersage in the Peak District so we did not bring enough clothes.  It was about 13C and very windy (cold!) when we parked up.  I normally throw everything in the "boot" (trunk) for all options (rain gear, warm weather gear, extra shoes, etc.) but not this time.  My handheld GPS also ran out of juice and my spare batteries were in my other pack.  Argh!

 Hills in the distance.  I assume that's where we are headed but I wasn't so sure.

And we are off.  The initial part of the walk is along the Pennine Way (wiki link):   The Pennine Way is a National Trail in England. The trail runs 268 miles (431 km) from Edale, in the northern Derbyshire Peak District, north through the Yorkshire Dales and the Northumberland National Park and ends at Kirk Yetholm, just inside the Scottish border.

Nicole and I walked a little bit of it when we did Kinder Scout.

After a mile or so, we drew even with the Higher Shelf Stones (not shown in the distance) and it was time to go off-roadin'. 

this no trail business is new to us -- plenty of ups/downs and careful selection to minimize the potential to fall in a bog

the troops carrying on -- we were quite enamored with the cottongrass (?)

best photo of the day -- Nicole flying off the bog; the fastest way down in this instance

Hey, Andrea, should I have popped these two guys in a jar to sell to the chemist/pharmacist?  At best, they are a different type of slug but they look more like leeches to me.  Ewww.   (but what do I know)

after the bog slog and a climb, we see the beginning of a crash site

a stray piece at first

 a few impromptu memorials

a bigger piece

and another

Then, bam, this site opens up -- never seen anything like this.  This crash occurred in 1948.  A few of the bits have grown legs but there is still quite a bit here.  Fascinating, yet somber.

more of the wreckage

and another

bigger pieces here

remnants of 1 of the 4 engines -- Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone I believe (twin row, super-charged, 18 cylinder radial engine (link))

another view

and the memorial

In Memory:  Here Lies the Wreckage of B-29 Superfortress "Overexposed" of the 16th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron USAF which tragicially crashed whilst descending through cloud on 3rd November 1948 killing all 13 crewmembers.  The Aircraft was on a routine flight from RAF Scrampton to American AFB Burtonwood.   It is doubtful the crew ever saw the ground.  Memorial laid by the 367 Course of RAF Finningley on 12 November 1988.

 more engines

 my crew by the memorial

the wind was really whipping up here (30-40 mph??) -- I tried to take a shot of the valley just past the wreckage site.  It's not the best photo (new camera, cold hands, wind, etc.) but the town in the middle is Glossop.  Just under the clouds on the right (barely noticeable) is Manchester.

back to look at another memorial

and a final shot from a different perspective as we leave

we (broadly) re-traced our steps to find our way back to the trail  -- came across some sheep hiding in the tall grass (not too many up here)

look blue skies!  the scenery on this walk was a touch bland compared to some of the others, but we enjoyed seeking out the crash site and also the varied terrain underfoot (bog and dry creek bed)

instead of turning back to the car, we went for the stretch goal in the opposite direction -- we carried on to the Bleaklow Head (it's marked as a peak, but the slope is so gradual it didn't really afford many views)

I got a glimpse of another apparent wreckage site from Bleaklow.  I headed out while the family took a break.  I did the easy bit but as it was farther than I thought, I did not cross the boggy part and pulled up short.  Not sure if it was a wreck or not.

Retracing our steps now.  The "trail" between Bleaklow and our turnoff for the B-29 site was damp and rocky.  It made for a fun walk though.

more walking along the little stream

the "root beer" pond that comes with water in the Dark Peak

Heading home (or at least the car).  Happy and tired.

I'm quite disappointed that my GPS died and I flubbed up the transfer so I lost the track (breadcrumbs) and the geeky stats that go with it (it lasted to our furthest point so would have been useful).  I think we walked about 8 miles based on the 5 or so miles I had on the odometer at Bleaklow.  It took about 4.5 hrs.  We doubled the length by going out to Bleaklow for those that want to just go out to the site.

The gang all did well and commented that they liked the uniqueness of this particular walk (crash site plus terrain differences).

For those interested in another perspective, here's a write-up on this and some other "close by" sites by a more experience walker (link).

It was pretty amazing to see an aircraft wreckage, particularly from 1948.  It's is a touch remote but not incredibly so.  Important to remember than 13 men actually lost their lives here.

Photos were taken from my new camera that Kuk got for me for Father's Day.  It's a newer, fancier and slightly bigger Nikon Coolpix (point-n-shoot).  I'm still figuring it out and I need to learn how to turn some features off and open up others.  It was a good trial run though.  I needed to put it through some paces before our next big trip.

Kids have one more week of school and then they "break up".  That's 2 weeks before the State (public) schools so we will be heading out to beat the masses (and the bridge the gap of unavailable holiday care).

Take care everyone and have a good week.


  1. So cool Stephen! I think its so great that you are documenting your time over there! It will be a treasure to your family!

  2. I wrote the comment above, I don't think my name shows up :-)
    Allison (Martin) Smith

  3. Pretty cool walk. Crazy to think that there is still wreckage from 1948! I need to get back out there and do some walks now that the weather isn't so miserable.