the 30th of January 1943, the commander of the Luftwaffe and World
War I hero, Herman Göring, was scheduled to make a radio speech
on the 10th anniversary of Adolph Hitler's ascent to power in Nazi
Germany. As Göring was introduced, nearby explosions forced postponement
of the broadcast. The explosions were caused by bombs dropped from
three "super fast" twin-engine Mosquito bombers on the occasion
of the first allied daylight raid of World War II (WWII) on the German
capitol. This occasion must have been painfully embarrassing to Göring
who had once boasted that no British aircraft would ever bomb Germany.
Lord Haw Haw, a German propaganda broadcaster, passed the raids off
to British listeners as
"thanks to the U-boat campaign.
Britian is so wanting for material that she has been compelled to
build her bombers of wood."
was only through the perseverance of Geoffrey de Havilland, an early
aircraft pioneer, and the encouragement and support of Air Chief
Marshall Sir Wilfrid Freeman that the Mosquito was built. The proposal
by de Havilland of a bomber that could fly as fast as a fighter
with a range that would reach Berlin and back was turned down by
the British Air Ministry because it was perceived that no modern
military aircraft could be built of wood.
and de Havilland convinced the Air Ministry to proceed only because
the wooden aircraft would not be constructed of a vital war material.
De Havilland was so confident in the concept that his own son was
the first test pilot. Young Geoffrey de Havilland flew the prototype
across the British countryside on the 20th of April of 1941 with
General Hap Arnold of the United States in attendance. The Mosquito
reached 408 mph in level flight, which was faster than the operational
version of the Spitfire at the time, whose top speed was 370 mph.
After this demonstration flight, the airplane almost failed its
acceptance for the Royal Air Force. In one trial the test pilot
heard a disturbing noise in the rear of the plane. On landing, it
was found that a piece of the wood had broken in the fuselage. To
the astonishment of onlooking experts, the de Havilland ground crew
put in a new spruce structural member and patched the cracked fuselage
prototype went on to pass the acceptance trials with flying colors.
The 8,000 Mosquitos built in WWII consumed large quantities of balsa,
Canadian yellow birch and Sitka spruce. When supplies of high quality
wood became scarce, Douglas fir and English ash were sometimes substituted.
all other aircraft, the mosquito was not perfect. It tended to be
susceptible to incendiary bullets; however, it exhibited an ability
to take tremendous punishment from conventional flak. It was simple
to repair and easy to fly. It was an aircraft for airmen who affectionately
referred to it as the "Mossie". Group Captain Basil Embrey,
a heavily decorated flyer of WWII, later to become Air Chief Marshall
Sir Basil Embrey, described the Mosquito as "the finest aeroplane,
without exception, that has ever been built in this country."
1941, the Mosquito was the fastest operational military aircraft.
Colonel Elliot Roosevelt of the U.S., after flying a Mosquito, wanted
to trade a squadron of his P-38 Lockheed Lightning fighters for
a squadron of Mosquitos. The Russians wanted to build a factory
to manufacture the bombers. On several occasions it was proposed
by the Americans that Mosquitos be swapped for either P-38 Lightnings
or the P-41 Mustangs. Air Marshall Freeman vetoed these swaps because
of demand for the aircraft by the RAF and because he felt America
possessed no plane worth swapping for the Mosquito.
Mosquito is generally believed to be the most versatile military
aircraft of WWII, possibly of all time. While the plane was designed
as a light bomber, versions of the aircraft were designed for day
and night fighters, for photographic reconnaissance, and for path
finding. Path finding aircrafts were designed to precede raids by
the British and American four-engine heavies. Path finders flew
at low altitudes and dropped flares to help the slower more vulnerable
heavy bombers locate their targets.
Bernard Montgomory, on several occasions during the African and
European campaigns, made specific requests for Mosquitos to support
the British Eight Army because of his confidence in the aircraft.