The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito
The Mosquito was a multi-role combat aircraft that served during the Second World War and the postwar era. It was known affectionately as the “Mossie” to its crews and was also nicknamed “The Wooden Wonder”. It saw service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) as well as other air forces around the world.
When the Mosquito entered production in 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world. Over 7,000 of this beautiful aircraft, designed by Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, were built.
Only two Mosquitoes survive in flying condition today: KA114, an FB.26 fighter variant which was recently restored by AVspecs Ltd. in New Zealand, for Jerry Yagen’s Military Aviation Museum, in the United States, and a bomber variant, B.35 VR796, recently restored to flight by Victoria Air Maintenance Ltd. in Canada.
The People’s Mosquito Ltd was formed around the remains of NF.36 RL249, one of the very last batch of Mosquito NF.36s to be built, which had crashed and burned at RAF Coltishall, in February 1949, while serving with No. 23 Sqn (see article). The People’s Mosquito team considered, long and hard, the technical difficulties of reproducing the bulbous nose of the NF.36, with its large transparent fairing, and decided that it would be easier to restore the aircraft as an earlier mark of Mosquito.
True, this would mean altering the nose, but there is plenty of precedent for this. After all, de Havilland built the prototype Mark XV fighter by grafting the nose from an NF.II onto a bomber airframe (see article). When reaching this decision, the team also took into account the many opinions expressed by the general public, which were overwhelmingly against us building an NF.36.
We, therefore, decided to restore the airframe as an FB.VI, initially. We say ‘initially’, as the FB.VI was not just the most-produced version of the Mosquito, but is also easily converted to many related types, such as the NF.II and the T.III. It is The People’s Mosquito’s intention to ‘ring the changes’, in a similar fashion to the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and other warbird owners, when it comes to identities and colour schemes.
The Mosquito NF.II was a night fighter development of the projected F.II fighter. It was fitted with early generation A.I. Mk IV radar, and painted matt black, and it first joined RAF Fighter Command in April, 1942. No. 157 Squadron, based at Castle Camps in Cambridgeshire was formed on the Mosquito NF.II, and became a major exponent of the type. The Squadron did have difficulties, not just with the temperamental early radar, but with the fact that their aircraft had been painted with a very rough matt black paint, designed to make them less visible at night. Unfortunately, the paint (coded RDM2) induced a great deal of drag on the streamlined Mosquito airframe, slowing the maximum speed by no less than 25 mph! These aircraft were soon repainted with a smooth black paint.
A famous Mosquito unit, No. 23 Squadron (Motto: ‘Sempur Aggressus’ – ‘Having always attacked’) became expert at performing night intruder missions with their Mosquitoes, first over Occupied Europe from their East Anglian base, and then from Malta. This Squadron attacked the Luftwaffe on their Sicilian airfields, and also ranged all over Southern Italy from December, 1942 onwards. Because of the danger of giving away Allied radar secrets, No. 23’s NF.II aircraft had their radar removed, and they were therefore known as NF.II (Special).
The first example of the Mosquito FB.VI first flew in June, 1942, and it was designed to combine the hitting power of the machine gun and cannon-armed NF.II, with some of the bomb-carrying capacity of the B. Mark IV bomber. The front section of the bomb bay still carried the breech mechanism of the 4 x 20mm Hispano cannon, whilst the rear section (with its own separate bomb bay doors) carried a pair of 500lb bombs. This version, equipped with 1,460 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 21s or 23s was known as the FB.VI Series 1. When fitted with a strengthened wing, under wing bomb racks and the higher powered, 1,635 hp, Merlin 25s, this became the Series 2 and was capable of carrying 2 x 500 lb bombs internally and the same load under the wings, or the heavy load of 8 x 60lb rocket projectiles. Equipped with these, the FB.VI was formed by RAF Coastal Command into Strike Wings (such as the one based on Banff, Scotland), which went on to devastate enemy shipping along the Norwegian, Danish and Dutch coasts in the last year of the War.
As well as this, the FB.VI was responsible for some of the most accurate, low-level bomb attacks during WW2, including ‘Operation Jericho’, the famous raid on Amiens Prison to liberate the French Resistance fighters held there (see article).
The most powerfully armed Mosquito, in terms of gun armament anyway, was the FB.XVIII. A limited number of these (17 new-built, plus handful of conversions from FB.VI) substituted the Molins version of the QF 6-pounder anti-tank cannon, a 57mm weapon, for the standard 20mm cannon and used either two or four .303” Brownings for aiming purposes. This anti-tank cannon fired solid shot which easily penetrated the hulls of German U-boats, their main prey, or merchant vessels. Deadly accurate, the first U-Boat kill came on June 10th, 1944, when an FB.XVIII of No. 248 Squadron, RAF, sank U-821 in a joint action with a B-24 Liberator. The FB.XVIII was also lethal against aircraft, as when a Luftwaffe Ju88 wandered across the gunsight of Squadron Leader Tony Phillips; he took an engine off the Ju88’s wing with one shot from the 6-pounder, and it fell into the Bay of Biscay. The wooden structure of the Mosquito was far better able to absorb the recoil stresses of the ‘big gun’ than a similar metal structure would have been.