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Mosquito. The timber terror. Light, fast, deadly.

Photo-recon, bomber, fighter-bomber, night-fighter, intruder, trainer, pathfinder, target marking, torpedo-bomber, U-boat killer, day ranger, mine layer, and target tug.

A Short History of the DH98 Mosquito.

The Wooden Wonder or "Anopheles de Havillandus".

The de Havilland Aircraft Company was noted for it's light aircraft, such as the famous DH82 Tiger Moth, and some mixed construction transport planes. In 1936 they had built the DH91 Albatross airliner and mailplane entirely in wood. In 1938 de Havilland proposed to the Air Ministry that they should build a bomber or reconnaissance aircraft that would be so fast it could be unarmed. The Air Ministry was generally hostile to the plan and turned them down. In October 1938 they told de Havilland that their contribution was best served by building wings for one of the existing bomber programmes.

De Havilland was not put off and continued with their project as a private venture. The proposal was based on reducing weight by removing the gun turrets and and having a crew of two instead of six. The aircraft would be smaller and burn less fuel. With twin Merlins an unarmed bomber could carry 1,000lb (454kg) of bombs for 1,500 miles (2400km) at a speed of almost 400mph (644km/h) which was almost twice that of current British bombers.

With great foresight they proposed to build the aircraft predominately of wood; another item the Air Staff did not approve of. However de Havilland had surmised that in time of war aluminium for aircraft would be a very scarce commodity and so would those who were skilled in the construction. There would be, on the other hand, many experienced carpenters, piano, cabinet, and furniture makers available whose skills could be used.

Almost the entire plane was built of wood. The wings had two spars with double plywood skins on the top and single underneath. The fuselage was made with a sandwich of balsa between two ply skins built on spruce stringers. It was made in two sections split down the length and moulded on concrete formers. After all internal fuselage wiring and controls had been installed the two halves were then glued together. The flying control surfaces were of light alloy with a metal skin on the ailerons and fabric on the tail. The hydraulic plain flaps were wood. The coolant radiators were in the wing leading edge between the engines and the fuselage. The landing gear was simple twin shock struts filled with rubber blocks. Engine mounts were welded steel tube. The total weight of castings and forgings used in the aircraft was a mere 280lbs (127kg).

On the 1st March 1940 an order was given to de Havilland for 50 aircraft against Air Ministry Specification B.1/40 but was cancelled again in the aftermath of Dunkirk. After many false starts it was eventually re-instated on the 25th November 1940. The prototype Mosquito (W4050), which had been secretly built at Salisbury Hall near Hatfield, was flown for the first time on the 25th of November 1940. The aircraft was painted bright yellow so it would not be fired on by allied anti-aircraft guns or planes.

Original estimates were that, with twice the power of a Spitfire and twice the wetted area and over twice the weight, the Mosquito would still be 20mph (32km/h) faster than the Spitfire. The Air Ministry was very sceptical. When the prototype was officially tested at Boscombe Down in February 1941 they were proved wrong and it exceeded this estimate by achieving a top speed of 392mph (631km/h). It was the fastest aircraft in Bomber Command until May 1951.

Not everyone was happy about the aircraft. America's General Henry Arnold, who saw the plane fly on the 20 April 1941, was very enthusiastic and could see the potential. However when he returned to the USA and passed his information to five American aircraft manufacturers for assessment they unanimously opposed the aircraft. One of them, Beech, said "It appears as though this airplane has sacrificed serviceability, structural strength, ease of construction and flying characteristics in an attempt to use construction material which is not suitable for the manufacture of efficient airplanes".

This was later disproved during weight testing for the 4,000lb (1814kg) Cookie bomb. A Mosquito, DZ594/G, with an all-up weight of 21,500lbs (9752.4kg) had already proved it could lift four times the load it was originally designed for. On one test it was mistakenly loaded with 10,000lbs (4536kg) of ballast which it also lifted with no problems.

Once it had proved itself official attitudes towards the Mosquito changed and development went ahead. The wingspan was increased from 52ft 6in (16.00m) to 54ft 2in (16.51m). It was fitted with a larger tailplane, improved exhaust system, and lengthened nacelles that improved stability. Even though it had been designed as an unarmed aircraft there was still room to fit a variety of .303in (7.7mm) machineguns and 20mm and 57mm cannon in addition to the bomb load.

The de Havilland design and production staff made many contributions that were, apparently, outside their field of expertise. In October 1941, C.T. Wilkins, suggested that if the normal 500lb (227kg) British bombs were fitted with shorter or retractable fins then the Mosquito could carry four of them in the bomb bay. This was rejected with the claim that the bombs would then be unstable. Experiments soon showed that this was wrong and it was not long before all bombs were manufactured with shorter fins.

Forty nine of the original short-nacelle Mosquitoes entered service during the summer of 1941 either as photo-reconnaissance (PR) aircraft or converted to B IV series 1 bombers with a bomb load of 2,000lb (907kg). The first mission was a PR trip to Bordeaux and La Pallice on 17th September 1941 by W4055 now of No 1 PRU. The first bomber mission was flown by four aircraft (including W4072) of No 105 Sqn immediately after a '1,000 bomber raid' to Cologne on 30-31 May 1942.

Many other raids followed and some were designed more for effect than destruction. On 31st January 1943 105 Sqn became the first Mosquito Unit to bomb Berlin. Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe, was due to address a parade in the morning and the raid effectively disrupted it. Not content with this aircraft from 139 Sqn went over to Berlin in the afternoon and gave the parade being addressed by Dr. Goebels the same treatment. This very effectively gave the lie to Goering's boast that no enemy aircraft would fly unscathed over Berlin.

It was said that the 2 man twin engined Mosquito could carry the same bomb load to Berlin as the 4 engined Flying Fortress with its crew of 11. It also did it quicker and used less fuel.

Some of the most famous raids were due to the precision bombing by the Mosquito from roof top height. Among these were raids on the Gestapo Headquarters in Oslo, the Central Registry in The Hague, Shell House in Copenhagen, and Amiens Goal. They were expected to hit a single enemy building in the middle of a city with minimum harm to the civilians. In many cases they did not achieve all they set out to do but the effect on enemy morale was devastating.

The Mosquito was used as photo-recon, bomber, fighter-bomber, night-fighter, intruder, trainer, pathfinder, target marking, torpedo-bomber, U-boat killer, day ranger, mine layer, and target tug. They could be fitted with varying bomb loads, including the Wallis spinning bomb, up to the 4,000lb (1814kg) bomb or carry rocket projectiles for anti-tank and anti-transport use. The Mosquito served in all theatres of the war and flew from all types of airfields. Some were Carrier based and a Mosquito (LR359) was the first twin engined aircraft to land on a Carrier

They also flew countless missions in civilian garb throughout the war to neutral Sweden carrying despatches, returning with ball bearings and, sometimes, passengers.

As an indication of the versatility of the Mosquito it was equipped, or used, with many different loads. Some of these were experimental only and some were post-war.

50, 100, 200 gallon drop tanks.
4 x .303in (7.7mm) Browning machine guns.
4 x 20mm British Hispano cannon.
1 x 57mm Molins (or Vickers G) six pounder cannon.
1 x 3.7 in (9.4cm) 32 lb (14.51kg) anti-tank gun.
2 x .303in (7.7mm) remote rearward machine guns in the nacelles.
1 x .303in (7.7mm) remote rearward machine gun in the tail.
4 gun dorsal turret at rear of cockpit.
Rocket Assisted Take Off Gear (RATOG).
6 x 250lb bombs.
4 x 500lb bombs.
6 x 500lb bombs in Avro bomb-carrier.
1 x 4,000lb bomb.
2 x 100 gallon napalmgel tanks.
Highball spherical anti-ship bouncing bomb.
1 x 18 inch Mk XV or XVII torpedo or 1 Naval mine.
Extra bomb bay fuel tanks.
Underwing 500lb bombs.
8 x 25lb solid armour piercing rocket projectiles.
8 x 60 lb semi-armour-piercing rocket projectiles.
1 x 1,050lb Uncle Tom rocket projectile.
Youngman circular segmented air brake.
Helmore Turbinlite airborne searchlight.
Radar and navigation equipment of various types.
Cameras - various still and cine plus photo-flashes.
Weather recording equipment.
Head-up type reflector gunsight.
Clear Air Turbulence research equipment.
Target towing equipment.

A Mosquito, PF604, was used as the launch and recording platform for the Vickers-built rocket powered Miles M52. This was a pilotless supersonic 3/10th scale model aircraft which eventually achieved Mach 1.38 on 9 October 1948 and became the first British aircraft to exceed the speed of sound in level flight.

In all 7,781 Mosquito aircraft were built in 43 variants. They were produced in the UK, Australia and Canada. The last Mosquito built, an NF 38 (VX916), rolled off the production line at Chester on 28th November 1950 but many remained in service around the world well into the 1960's.

Shortly after he was politically and personally humiliated by the Mosquito bombing raid on Berlin in January 1943
Reichmarschall Herman Goering had this to say about the aircraft...

"In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy.

The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that?

There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war's over I'm going to buy a British radio set - then at least I'll own something that has always worked."

Frank Ruskell, who was a navigator in Mosquito B IV's, had this to say about it.

"The first thing that struck one about the Mosquito was the beauty of line of the fuselage, tailplane, fin and engine cowlings. They all went together and made a lovely aeroplane. The cockpit cover also had a sweet line and the simplicity of the undercarriage and the treaded tyres set the whole thing off. The aeroplane sat on the ground looking pert and eager and it was easy to become fond of - which was by no means true of all aeroplanes, the Hampden for example.

These were my feelings about the B IV. The line was marred in the Mk VI by the flat windscreen and the protruding guns. When the B IX came along, it looked even better than the B IV because the engines were larger and the spinners extended forward of the line of the nose (the later Hornet had a similar feature). This gave the line added beauty and also conveyed an air of warlike viciousness which was very apt."

During the Second World War, Northern Hardwood Veneers, Inc. of Butternut manufactured plywood (or veneer) that was used to build the famous de Havilland "Mosquito" Bomber. Thirty-five percent of the wood going into this plane was from the plant at Butternut. It is recorded that one thousand carloads of Butternut veneer "winged its way over Europe" -- the "Mosquito" Bomber.

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