A Short History of the
The Wooden Wonder or "Anopheles
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
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
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
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
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
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."