Hidden away in the moors of the Peak District, approximately 2000ft above sea level, lies the wreckage of a Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
Whilst I was Camping in Crowden, Peak District, I visited the crash site even though I did not know much about it.
It was a spooky and surreal experience that led me to want to know more about the story behind this tragic incident.
Here’s what I found out…
The four-engined propeller-driven Superfortress is an American heavy bomber plane that was used by the US during the Korean War and World War II.
The one I visited was a photo-reconnaissance aircraft, hence the name “Over Exposed”, and it had once captured photos of nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific Ocean.
Here’s a stock photo I managed to find of the Boeing-designed plane.
The Superfortress left the Scampton RAF base in Lincolnshire at approximately 10:15 on the 3rd November 1948.
This was a scheduled and routine flight heading to the US Air Force base in Burtonwood, Warrington.
Due to the low cloud and minimum visibility, the pilot and co-pilot were having to fly by the aircraft’s instruments.
It is thought that, based on the flight time, the crew believed that they had passed the hills and started to descend. Although the exact reason as to why they didn’t fly high enough to clear the hills is unknown.
The plane hit the ground at approximately 11:00.
An air search was initiated after the Superfortress failed to arrive at the US base.
An RAF Moutain Rescue Team were on a training exercise only a few miles away, and so joined in the search to help locate the missing plane.
The still-burning crash site was located at around 16:30.
Who was on board?
Over Exposed was carrying the following 13 people.
- Pilot – Captain Landon P. Tanner
- Co-Pilot – Captain Harry A. Stroud
- Enginner – Sergeant Ralph W. Fields
- Navigator – Sergeant Charles R. Wilbanks
- Radio Operator – Sergeant Gene A. Gartner
- Radio Operator – Sergeant David D. Moore
- Sergeant Saul R. Banks
- Sergeant Donald R. Abrogast
- Sergeant Robert I. Doyle
- Private William M. Burrows
- Captain Howard E. Keel (photographic advisor)
- Corporal Clarence M. Franssen
- Corporal George Ingram Jr
It is thought that all 13 men were killed instantly during the crash.
The recovery of the bodies took place the following day.
The servicemen from RAF Finningley installed a plaque at the site in 1988 as a memorial for the men who sadly lost their lives that day.
Most of the wreckage is still visible, albeit spread out over some distance, and I’m sure the mechanics and engineers amongst us can recognise various parts.
Back in the 1970s, a wedding ring was found which was identified to be Captain Tanner’s. It was later returned to his daughter.
How to visit
The crash site is very difficult to find with no obvious routes and navigation can be especially tricky in poor weather.
Here’s a Google Map which shows the location of the site.
For a hiking route, I used AllTrails (along with their GPS navigation) to help me find my way.
I first hiked to Higher Shelf Stones and then left the track to wander my way through the moors, but the route you take will depend on the direction you are coming from.
I highly recommend wearing a good pair of boots and making sure you are confident at navigating in what is, essentially, the middle of nowhere.
What did we learn?
I’m sure we can all agree that this was a tragic accident, but as with everything in life, there are lessons to be learned here.
For Boeing, they may have created and installed fail-safes to stop this from happening again.
For future pilots, they may have extra training for flying in low cloud.
For me and you, it’s a reminder that if there is something you want to do, go and do it. If there’s something you want to say, go and say it.
…and do it now. Don’t wait.
Tomorrow is promised to no man (or woman, for the feminists).
- Camping in Crowden, Peak District
- Why I Visit Cemeteries & Graveyards for Personal Development
- How My Suicide Attempts Liberated My Life
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl