De Havilland Mosquito
De Havilland Mosquito
'The Wooden Wonder', as the Mosquito is affectionately known, almost never came to be. Air Ministry opposition to de Havilland's original proposal for an unarmed, all-wooden bomber almost forced de Havilland to abandon the design, but thanks to some behind-the-scenes lobbying, the Air Ministry reluctantly agreed to progress with the design.
The Mosquito was almost too radical a concept for the Air Ministry. Bomber designs were, by design, slow, cumbersome beasts, heavily-armed and metal in construction. Despite a specification being issued by the ministry for a bomber with some wooden construction in the airframe (B17/38), the idea of leaving the aircraft with no means of self-defence was too much of a risk to take. But some gentle persuasion of the ministry by Air Marshal Sir Wilfred Freeman, who sat on the Air Council as Member for Research and Development, resulted in a new Specification, B1/40, detailing a light bomber capable of carrying a 1,000lb load over a distance of 1,500 miles which could, presumably if it failed in this respect, be quickly modified as a fighter or photo-reconnaissance aircraft. An initial order for 50 aircraft was placed in March 1940.
In November 1940, Geoffrey de Havilland took the prototype Mosquito into the air for the first time. The performance of the aircraft was something of a revelation, the two Merlin engines giving fighter-like handling and a top speed which would allow the aircraft to outpace enemy fighters. The first bomber version, the B.IV first flew in the following September and the first deliveries to No 105 Squadron at Swanton Morley followed in November 1941.
Following its operational debut in a raid by four aircraft on Cologne on 31 May 1942, the Mosquito joined the Main Force but became famous for a number of set-piece attacks, and the first of these was a low-level attack on the Gestapo Headquarters in Oslo on 25 September 1942.
By this time, No 109 Squadron, based at Marham, had formed on Mosquitos, but was unusual in that the squadron was tasked with the development of various bombing aids then in the pipeline. The first of these aids was a blind-bombing device known as 'Oboe' and this was tried for the first time during an attack on a power station in Holland during the night of 20th/21st December 1942. Trials with 'Oboe' continued and gradually introduced across the remainder of Bomber Command during 1943.
No 105 Squadron was not idle, and along with the third Mosquito bomber squadron, No 139 at Marham, set about carrying out a series of highly-publicised precision attacks on enemy targets during the early months of 1943. Indeed, over 100 such attacks took place in the first half of 1943, notably raids on Copenhagen (27 January), Berlin (30 January) and Jena (27 May). The Jena raid, on the Zeiss optical factory and Schott glassworks was the final such attack to be carried out in daylight.
Shortly after the raid at Jena, Nos 105 and 139 Squadrons were transferred from No 2 Group, which had left Bomber Command for the newly-formed Second tactical Air Force, to the Pathfinder Force (No 8 Group) and began to re-equip with an improved bomber Mosquito, the B.IX. With these aircraft, the Mosquito squadrons flew ahead of the Main Force, marking out waypoints for the bombers to guide them onto their intended target and used 'Oboe' increasingly to mark as accurately as possible.
The next bomber variant was the B.XVI, and this became the standard version of the aircraft in Bomber Command, eventually equipping 16 squadrons. This version could fly at altitudes up to 40,000ft thanks to a pressurised cockpit, and could also carry a 4,000lb bomb in an enlarged bomb-bay. With additional wing fuel tanks, the Mosquito could take one of these mighty bombs to Berlin and still evade much of the defending night fighter force.
In 1944, with the tide turned against the Germans, the Mosquitos were transferred to the new Light Night Striking Force (LNSF), part of No 100 (Bomber Support) Group. Here, the Mosquitos were tasked with carrying out diversionary raids to attract the defending fighters away from the main bomber stream. These 'spoof' attacks, many of which were against Berlin, were aided by electronic aids to deceive the German radar network into believing that the much smaller Mosquito force was the main attack.
Some Mosquitos which served with the LNSF and Pathfinders were Canadian-built Mark 25s. After the War, a number of B35s were produced and entered service from late 1947 onwards, many with squadrons on the Continent. The final home-based bomber Mosquitos, some 1,690 of which had been built (from a total of 7,781 of all versions), serving with No 139 Squadron, were eventually replaced by Canberras in November 1953.
An example of the tremendous accuracy achieved by Mosquitos can be shown by comparing figures for the attacks on the V-weapons sites. The average tonnage of bombs required to destroy one of these sites by B-17 Flying Fortresses was 165; for B26 Marauders it was 182 tons and for B25 Mitchells 219 tons. The average for the Mosquito was just under 40 tons!
De Havilland Mosquito Specifications
Details for Mosquito B.XVI
|Length:||41ft 6in (12.64m)|
|Wingspan:||54ft 2in (16.50m)|
|Height:||15ft 3in (4.65m)|
|Maximum Speed:||415mph (669kmh)|
|Range:||1,485 miles (2,395km) with 4,000lb (1,816kg) bombload|
|Powerplant:||Two Rolls Royce Merlin 72 or 73s of 1,680hp each or two Merlin 76 or 77s of 1,710hp each|
|Recognition:||Sleek, slender fuselage with sharp taper at the rear. 'Shark fin' tail mounted at the extreme rear of the fuselage above retractable tailwheel. Extensive glazing for bomb aimer's position with heavily-framed canopy mounted in line with the leading edge of the mainplanes. the Merlins are mounted in low-drag nacelles which also house the main undercarriage. The B.XVI bomb bay had bulged doors to accommodate single 4,000lb High Capacity bomb.|