Designed and planned as a private venture by the de Havilland company
in the autumn of 1938, the de Havilland D.H.98 Mosquito was intended
for use as an unarmed bomber or reconnaissance aircraft, one that would
fly so fast and high that defensive armament would be superfluous. The
powerplant was to comprise two Rolls-Royce Merlins, and to save
strategic materials all-wood construction was chosen. Although this may
not now seem a very advanced aircraft, it was certainly far too much
for the Air Ministry of that day to swallow and de Havilland's proposal
was neatly filed in the 'pending' tray.
It was not until World
War II had started that the Air Ministry gave serious thought to the
possibility that light alloys might become in short supply. In such
circumstances an all-wood aircraft might be a useful ace up the sleeve.
Even then, the committal to proceed was only to the extent of
authorising detail design and de Havilland's design team began work at
the end of December 1939, resulting in an order on 1 March 1940 for 50
aircraft against Air Ministry Specification B.1/40. Even then the way
ahead was not clear, for in the post-Dunkirk frenzy of concentration to
build up stocks of standard in production aircraft, de Havilland's new
bomber was temporarily postponed.
In due course the
programme was reinstated and eventually, on 25 November 1940, the
prototype Mosquito Mk I was flown for the first time. There was little
doubt from factory testing that this new bomber was capable of
development into an outstanding aircraft, comfortably exceeding the
performance margins of the Specification. When demonstrated to military
and government officials shortly afterwards, these sceptical gentlemen
discovered that the new bomber had the manoeuvrability of a fighter, a
dashing high speed that was not far short of 644 km/h (400 mph), and
were staggered to see it performing smooth climbing rolls on the power
of one engine, the propeller of the second engine 'feathered' to
prevent windmilling and to cut drag to a minimum.
followed immediately, beginning on 19 February 1941 and leading to the
initiation of priority production by July of that year. Three
prototypes were built and the last of these to fly, on 10 June 1941,
was of a photo-reconnaissance (PR) version. The promised combination of
high speed and high altitude had made the Mosquito a natural selection
for such a role, and a PR version was the first of these exciting new
aircraft to enter operational service. The initial sortie, a daylight
reconnaissance over Brest, La Pallice and Bordeaux, was made on 20
September 1941, and immediately confirmed the concept of high speed and
no armament as being correct, for during this initial deployment the
lone Mosquito PR.Mk I was able easily to outpace three Messerschmitt Bf
109s which attempted to intercept.
Next into service was
the bomber version, the first being designated Mosquito B.Mk IV.
Deliveries to the RAF's No.2 Group began in November 1941, the
Mosquitoes going first to No.105 Squadron, then based at Swanton
Morley, Norfolk. The winter months were spent in familiarisation and
working up, for the Mosquito was a very different aeroplane from the
Bristol Blenheim which it had replaced. This pioneering squadron had
not only to learn how to handle a very much faster and more
manoeuvrable aircraft, but also how best to deploy it in attacks
against the enemy. At that time there must have been some doubt among
the crews who were to fly these aircraft of just how this 'plywood'
bomber would withstand the enemy's defences. They soon discovered that
the Mosquito had an enormous capacity to absorb punishment. By no means
did it consist only of plywood, but the strength and flexibility of
this material was exploited to the full in its construction. The
cantilever wing, mounted in a mid-position, was a one piece assembly,
with plywood used for the spar webs and all skins. Tail unit structure
was similar, but the fuselage was entirely different. This consisted of
a plywood-balsa-plywood sandwich, built up onto spruce formers, and was
constructed in two halves which were completely equipped individually
with their appropriate control, pipe and wiring runs before the two
halves were united. The retractable tailwheel type landing gear was
unusual in that shock absorption dispensed with costly to build
oleo-pneumatic struts, substituting rubber-in-compression springing.
All versions had accommodation for a crew of two, seated side-by-side.
(ABOVE) At dawn on a December day in
1944, a Mk.XVI Mosquito of No.140 Squadron (RAF) silently awaits its
crew at Melsbroek, Belgium. The hangar has been camouflaged as a barn.
This pressurized photo-recce version of the famous "Wooden Wonder,"
packed with cameras and extra fuel, could cruise over enemy territory
at over 40,000 feet, in excess of 400 mph (TAS) if necessary.
Universally loved by its crews, hated and copied by its enemies, the "Mossie"
was born beautiful at de Havilland as a high-speed bomber built mostly
of moulded plywood, a nonstrategic material. When Geoffrey de
Havilland, Jr. flew the prototype on November 25, 1940, he knew his
father's company had created something unique. Mosquitoes became some
of the finest combat types of the war, serving equally well in
multiple roles, including night fighter and anti-shipping strike.
As noted above, the
first of the three Mosquito prototypes was a bomber version, and the
last intended for photo-reconnaissance. The second, first flown on 15
May 1941, was equipped as a night-fighter, and carrying initially AI Mk
IV radar and a nose armament of four 20 mm cannon and four 7.7 mm
(0.303 in) machine-guns. Designated Mosquito NF.Mk II, the type began
to enter service first with No. 157 Squadron, which made its first
operational sortie on the night of 27-28 April 1942. The type equipped
No. 23 Squadron shortly afterwards, and this was the first unit to
operate the type in the Mediterranean theatre when based at Luqa,
Malta, from December 1942. These were deployed not only as
night-fighters, but also in a day or night intruder role, making the
first night intruder sortie on 30-31 December 1942.
The missing one in the
versions detailed so far is the Mosquito T.Mk III, a dual-control
trainer used for conversion to the type, and 343 were constructed. The
story of the Mosquito's operational deployment is too extensive to be
covered in an A-Z entry such as this, however, the list of variants
that follows gives an appreciation of the wide role played by the
Mosquito during World War II. The Mosquito was built not only in the
UK, but also by the de Havilland factories in Australia and Canada.
When production was finally terminated a total of 7,781 had been built.
Many examples of the
Mosquito continued to give valuable service in the RAF during the
immediate post-war years. Photographic-reconnaissance Mosquitoes were
used extensively in the Middle and Far East, and No.81 Squadron in
Malaya was the last unit to use the type operationally, in late 1955.
The bomber versions were displaced by English Electric Canberras in
1952-3, some then being used in a training role, with others converted
for photo-reconnaissance or target-tug duties. In this latter role some
remained in service until 1961. Fighter versions, however, disappeared
in the early 1950s, their role taken over by the new generation of
Wing Commander G.H.
Goodman DFC 151 Squadron.
Four Heinkel-111’s shot down in six minutes.
4 May 1944 - On a routine flight to Dijon via Mont St Michel making
landfall they set course for St. Laurent and to Bonny sur Loire.
Approximately 15 miles northeast of Dijon they followed the railway
line towards Dijon. At approximately 8-10 miles west of Dijon they
spotted a flight of enemy aircraft flying in an easterly direction.
Goodman opened the throttles to catch up to them, and cautiously slid
into their formation underneath and astern of them. He immediately set
his sights on the starboard aircraft and fired two 3-second bursts and
watched as he fell out of formation in a steep dive and burning. He had
managed to score hits on the port and starboard engines and fuselage.
As they closed in on the leader, from 250 yards astern, they fired a 4
second burst into his aircraft. They watched as he caught fire, as
pieces of debris flew off the aircraft and as he headed for the deck in
an uncontrollable dive.
They were amazed, as the third aircraft in the formation flying in the
port position, is totally unaware as to what was happening. They came
in well astern and close to 250yds and sent a 3 second burst into his
port engine and fuselage. Again they watched as a large fire erupts
inside the fuselage and as the aircraft headed straight to the ground.
“Tally Ho” on to the fourth aircraft they had noticed earlier. At this
point they were now directly over the aerodrome watching the fourth
aircraft making a wide turn on the west side. They opened the throttles
to catch up to him and slid in astern and let loose with a 3 second
burst into his starboard engine as his port engine had already stopped.
We watched as he went into a steep dive burning on the way down and
crashed northwest of the aerodrome.
Wing Commander Cunningham DSO/DFC
Cat’s eyes Cunningham (night
Commander of 85 Squadron
Earlier under the Command Wing Commander Peter Townsend 85 squadron had
earned much renown as a day fighter. Under the direction of Wing
Commander Cunningham and implementing the art of night fighting, the
unit gained a great deal of credibility. Squadron Leader Burbridge and
Flight Lieutenant Skelton shot down 20 raiders at night. At the end of
the war, 85 squadron had shot down a total of 278 enemy aircraft. In
supporting bombers over Germany, 67 were shot down by the “Mossie”, 67
over Britain and 168 at night.
Special Operations Target Amiens
140 Wing 2 Group
Group Captain P.C.Pickard three DSO’s and a DFC
Lieutenant Broadley DSO,DCM,DFM.
Wing Commander I.S. “Black”Smith
Wing Commander RW “BOB” Iredale
Squadron Leader I R McRitchie
Flight Lieutenant R W Sampson
In one of the most famous examples of pin point bombing of targets, the
operation was designed to allow 700 members of the French Resistance to
escape. The prisoners were being held in Amiens jail awaiting execution
by the Gestapo. The success of the operation depended on split second
timing accuracy and a low level bombing run to the target. This was to
be achieved by three formations of aircraft. Six aircraft each from
No.464 /21/and 487 were selected for this mission.
No.487’s duties were to breach the outer wall in two separate places.
No. 464 was to take out the guards annex inside the compound, this was
accomplished by scrapping over the exterior walls and skidding their
bombs across the inner courtyard to rest against the guards annex.
The operation was incredibly successful as 258 prisoners managed to
escape, sadly, many were recaptured and many more were killed in the
bombing. Aimed at killing and confusing the Gestapo there were more
daylight pinpoint bombings including the attack on the Gestapo
Headquarters at Aarhus and Oslo.
When it was finally determined that it was more effective to fly the
Mosquito on night bombing missions than the Lancaster, it was decided
to implement a Light Night Striking Force of Mosquito’s. The Mosquito
could drop four and one half times the weight of bombs for the same
investment in Lancasters. Berlin was bombed relentlessly for 36
continuous nights and 170 times by this new force. This bombing
campaign became so regular by the Mosquito’s that it became known as
“The Berlin Express” by the Germans.
In May 1944 MosquitoDK296 (bright blue) flew to Russia, the Russians
were going to build Mosquito’s under license. DK296 actually flew 15
sorties for 150 Squadron. On Squadron Leader Dodds first trip to Moscow
the first part of the journey was uneventful up till they reached the
Eastern front. With outdated maps and expecting to follow railway lines
that had been moved or no longer existed, trouble began. As they tried
to sort out which town was which, they were attacked by Russian
fighters. Fortunately with the Mosquito’s speed and the poor shots of
the Russian aviators they managed to elude their pursuers.
Once Dodd and the Mosquito were on the ground the Russians could not do
enough for them and their machine. Vodka, Caviar and the theatre were
the order of their stay.
Group Captain Hon. Max Aitken
Station Commander Banff in Scotland
Coastal Command 248 Squadron
Battle of Britain fighter ace.
This squadron was known for their daring low-level attack tactics.
Often after a sortie there were chimney pots, telephone or fence wire
trailing or tangled in their aircraft. Once there was even a ship’s
While flying a mission four days before VE day, Flight Lieutenant
G.N.E.Yeats and Flight Lieutenant T.C.Scott (the navigator) collided
with the spar and pennant from the masthead of an enemy destroyer they
were attacking. Upon landing it was discovered the ship’s pennant was
fluttering from the nose of the aircraft.
Balsa Bomber; Wooden Wonder; Freeman's Folly (early nickname
referring to Air Council member Sir Wilfred Freeman); Tsetse
(Mk XVIII anti-shipping variant).
Specifications (de Havilland D.H.98 Mosquito FB.Mk VI)
Type: Two Seat Fighter Bomber,
Reconnaissance & Night Fighter
Design: de Havilland Design Team
Manufacturer: The de Havilland
Aircraft Company, Hatfield and Leavesden, also built by Airspeed,
Percival Aircraft and Standard Motors (Canley). Built by de Havilland
Aircraft Pty, in Australia and de Havilland Aircraft of Canada.
(Mks II, III, IV and early Vs) Two 1,230 hp (918 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin
21 engines. (Late FB.Mk VI) Two 1,635 hp (1219 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin
25 engines. (Mk IX) Two 1,680 hp (1253 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin 72
engines. (Mk XVI) Two 1,680 hp (1253 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin 72 or 1,710
hp (1276 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin 73/77 engines. (Mk 30) Two 1,710 hp
(1276 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin 76 engines. (Mk 33) Two 1,635 hp (1219 kW)
Rolls-Royce Merlin 25 engines. (Mk 34/35/36) Two 1,690 hp (1260 kW)
Rolls-Royce Merlin 113/114 engines. Many other variants had
corresponding Merlins made by Packard.
Performance: Maximum speed 362
mph (583 km/h) at 5,500 ft (1675 m); maximum cruising speed 325 mph
(523 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4570 m); service ceiling 33,000 ft (10060 m);
initial climb rate of 1,870 ft per minute with a climb to 15,000 ft in
9 minutes 30 seconds.
Fuel: 453 Imp gal (544 US gal)
plus provision for a 66.5 Imp gal (79.9 US gal) fuselage tank.
(Externally) Up to 200 Imp gal (240 US gal) in 2 × 100 or 50 Imp gal
(120 or 60 US gal) underwing droptanks.
Range: 1,650 miles (2655 km)
with internal bombload.
Weight: Empty 14,300 lbs (6486
kg) with a loaded take-off weight of 22,300 lbs (10115 kg).
Dimensions: Span 54 ft 2 in
(16.51 m); length 40 ft 10 3/4 in (12.47 m); height 15 ft 3 in (4.65
m); wing area 454 sq ft (42.18 sq m).
Armament: Four 20 mm Hispano Mk
II cannon with 150 rounds per gun in the lower nose and four 7.7 mm
(0.303 in) Browning Mk II machine-guns in the upper nose plus 2,000 lbs
(907 kg) of bombs or 1,000 lbs (454 kg) of bombs and eight 60 lbs
History: First flight (prototype
Mk I) 25 November 1940; first flight (NF.Mk II) 15 May 1941; first
flight (T.Mk III) January 1942; first delivery (B.Mk IV) 105 Squadron
at Swanton Morley in November 1941.
Operators: Austraila, Belguim,
Canada (RCAF), China, Czechoslavakia, France, Yugoslavia, New Zealand,
Norway, Soviet Union, Turkey, United Kingdom (RAF, RN, BOAC), United
Number Still Airworthy:
One (Previously airworthy, but has not flown for the last few years.)