The Mosquito

One of the major advances in aircraft technology to come out of the period of WWII was the De Havilland Mosquito. This amazing aircraft, which first flew on the 25 November 1940, out performed all Allied and Enemy aircraft - it was 23 MPH faster than the Spitfire with the same engines, and the fastest production aircraft in the world for two and a half years of the War.

The Mosquito was so versatile that it performed in every role - bomber, fighter, fighter bomber, night fighter, photo reconnaissance, etc - it was produced in 45 different Marks. It was very nearly not built at all.

The Mosquito bomber was a major departure from ‘modern’ aircraft construction in 1940 - it was built almost entirely of wood. More than that, it was completely unarmed.

When Geoffery De Havilland approached the Air Ministry with his proposed unarmed wooden bomber they were completely unimpressed. “You want to - what! Send a wooden bomber to Germany without a gun to defend itself?” however, De Havilland had one ally in officialdom, Sir Wilfred Freeman, The Air Member for Development who believed in De Havillands theory that by removing the gun turrets, the guns, the gunners, the superstructure and fuel needed to carry them, a crew of two and it will be as fast as a fighter.

Sir Wilfred Freeman issued an order for a prototype and ‘The Wooden Wonder’ or ‘Freemans Folly’ as it had been called was conceived and born at Salisbury Hall, a very old manor house complete with moat, about 5 miles from the De Havilland factory and headquarters at Hatfield.

In great secrecy the design team set up their drawing boards in the old manor and the Mosquito was lofted in the ballroom. A workshop disguised as a barn was built next door and the prototype was built and taken by road to Hatfield where it took off on its maiden flight just 11 months after the design had started!

The Mosquito’s performance amazed the powers that be and they hurried from London to see for themselves. At this time the RAF frontline bombers were the Blenheim, Whitley, Wellington and Hampden. With perhaps the exception of the Wellington, these were all obsolete then and had been severely savaged by the Luftwaffe in France.

Imagine then how the performance of the Mosquito - top speed of 387 mph - upward rolls with one engine feathered - had the Air Ministry now ordering mass production. The Hatfield factory was set up for Mosquito production, a new factory was built at Leavesden, production lines at Standard Motors factory at Coventry, Airspeed at Portsmouth, Percival Aircraft at Luton, production of parts and materials was dispersed all over southern England, by 1943 over 100 Mosquito’s a month rolled out, by 1945 almost double that. Production had also started in Canada and in 1943 the first Mosquito rolled off the assembly line at Bankstown in Australia.

Bankstown started with sets of metal parts imported from the UK, but by 1948 when the last Mosquito came off production the rapidly expanding aircraft industry, local engineers and manufacturers were producing all metal parts such as radiators, fuel tanks castings and forgings.

The Rolls Royce engines came from Packard in the USA. The production of Mosquito parts was subcontracted out, mainly around Sydney.

Fuselages were produced at Annandale by building up the inner and outer plywood skins with a balsa filling between on specially built moulds in two halves which were assembled with the plumbing for the hydraulics, pneumatics, fuel, etc in one, and in the other half the control cables electrics, etc and then they were mated together and fitted with the cockpit canopy, the nose cone and other assemblies. The fuselage was rigged and ready for mating to the wing. The wooden wings were produced at the GM Holden plant at Pagewood. It was not without its problems, wing production was held up due to gluing problems in the production lines and some midair failures on test occurred.

By 1948 when production ceased, 212 Mosquitos had rolled off the assemble line. Meanwhile, a number of complete Mosquitos were imported from British production to fill the requirements of the RAAF. Making a total of 300 or so.

Barnes Wallis invented the aerial mine with which The Lancasters of 617sqn breached the Ruhr dams. What is not so well known is that he also designed a smaller version, two of which were fitted to specially converted Mosquito MK IV bombers of 618sqn. However, by the time they had perfected their technique the war in Europe was over so they were loaded aboard the Aircraft Carriers Fencer and Striker (yes, the versatile Mosquito was the first twin engined aircraft to land and take off from an aircraft carrier) and sent to Australia with the intention of using this weapon against the Japanese. However, the atomic bomb brought to an end to that conflict and the bombs were disposed of and the Mosquitos were left at Narromine and disposed of with local farmers buying some of them. A lot of our parts came from these.

Four of the Australian built MK T43 dual control Mosquitos were sold to the RNZAF and flown to New Zealand. Among these was A52-1054 which became ‘NZ2308' in the RNZAF.

With the advent of the jet aircraft the RNZAF disposed of its 80 odd Mosquitos, most were stripped and burned but a few were sold and some of these survive today in varying conditions. The Australian T43, A52-1054 was among those sold to an orchard equipment firm who stripped it of useful parts and it finished up as a children's playhouse.

I acquired the remains of this Mosquito as the basis of a restoration and because of its poor condition due to many years out in the weather, I decided that its wooden airframe would have to be rebuilt. There were no fuselage moulds, these had been disposed of after the war and as it is not possible to build a fuselage to flying standards without them I decided I would have to make them. This proved to be a lot more difficult than I thought, however I traveled around the world looking for drawings, parts, manuals and any other information and 18 years later I have built a prototype fuselage which went to the Mosquito Bomber Group at Windsor Ontario and a complete wooden airframe for Jerry Yagen's fighter factory in Virginia USA. It is now at AvSpecs, at Ardmore Airport being fitted out. And now I have started on my own Mosquito T43 - NZ2308.