Two Minute Read, WWII

The Bleaklow Bomber – A Tale of Tragedy and Resilience

High in the mist-shrouded moors of the Peak District in England lies a poignant reminder of a time when the world was at war. Known as the Bleaklow Bomber, the wreckage of a Boeing RB-29A Superfortress, named ‘Over Exposed’, is a sombre testament to a tragic incident that occurred on November 3, 1948.

This essay explores the historical significance of the Bleaklow Bomber, its circumstances leading up to the fatal crash, and how it has been preserved as an enduring symbol of the sacrifices made during the Second World War.

Boeing RB-29A Superfortress

Before delving into the specifics of the Bleaklow Bomber, it’s necessary to understand the significance of the aircraft model itself.

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The RB-29A Superfortress was built on the foundation of its predecessor, the B-29 Superfortress, a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber.

A B-29 in flight above the clouds.
The B-29 was a highly versatile platform that spawned many variants.

The B-29 was renowned for its advanced features for the time, such as pressurized cabins, remote-controlled guns, and its long-range.

In the RB-29A, these features were adapted to serve a different purpose – aerial reconnaissance. Equipped with high-resolution cameras instead of bombs, the RB-29A was designed to capture strategic imagery for military intelligence.

Some of these aircraft also carried weather monitoring equipment to aid meteorological studies and forecasts.

The RB-29A retained the B-29’s large, robust airframe and high-altitude performance, making it well-suited for its reconnaissance role. Its large bomb bays, which once housed ordnance in the B-29, were now the storage space for the aircraft’s photographic equipment

‘Over Exposed’, the Superfortress that became the Bleaklow Bomber, was an RB-29A photo reconnaissance model used by the United States Air Force (USAF).

The recon versions were visually similar to the bomber variant.
The recon versions were visually similar to the bomber variant.

The Fateful Mission

The story of the Bleaklow Bomber begins on a cold, misty morning on November 3, 1948. ‘Over Exposed’, part of the 16th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, USAF, was undertaking a routine flight from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire to American Air Force Base Burtonwood near Warrington.

Commanded by Captain Landon P. Tanner, the aircraft had a crew of 13, including the squadron’s commanding officer.

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The crew had previously completed numerous critical missions, including aerial photography of the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.

Despite their experience, the crew faced challenging weather conditions that day.

As the aircraft neared the Peak District, it was flying at a dangerously low altitude. The moors of Bleaklow shrouded in fog, were a perilous obstacle, and tragically, the aircraft collided with the high ground.

All 13 crew members lost their lives in the incident, leaving ‘Over Exposed’ as the silent sentinel on Bleaklow’s barren landscape.

The Wreckage Today: A Symbol of Remembrance

Today, the remnants of the Bleaklow Bomber lie scattered across the moors, a haunting reminder of the sacrifices made during and after the war.

The crash site, accessible to the public, has been preserved as a war memorial, with many of the aircraft’s parts still visible, including sections of the wings, engines, and undercarriage.

A plaque as the Bleaklow crash site.
A plaque as the site of the crash.

Visitors to the site often leave poppies and other tributes in memory of the fallen crew.

These poignant gestures underline the site’s significance as a place of remembrance and reflection, tying together personal stories of loss and sacrifice within the broader narrative of World War II and its aftermath.


The Bleaklow Bomber stands as a poignant landmark in the historical and cultural landscape of the Peak District. While it stands testament to a tragic event, it also symbolizes resilience, sacrifice, and the human cost of global conflict.

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The tale of ‘Over Exposed’ reminds us not only of the perils faced by those in service but also of the essential role of remembrance in acknowledging and honouring their sacrifices.

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