De Havilland B.35 Mosquito, RAF Museum, London and ‘The People’s Mosquito’ Project

By: shortfinals

Dec 29 2011

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Category: aircraft, Aviation, British Isles, England, Great Britain, London, military, Museums, RAF, Royal Air Force, Second World War, United States, warbird


Focal Length:18mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D40

This aircraft has it all – speed, power, grace. It was built against all the odds, when the Air Ministry just couldn’t understand the concept of a bomber without defensive armament or gun turrets. It was only due to the staunch support of the Air Member for Research and Development, Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfred Rhodes Freeman, Baronet, KGCB, DSO, MC, FRAeS, RAF, that the De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was built at all; indeed, its detractors often referred to it as ‘Freeman’s Folly’. The prototype Mosquito, W4050, was built in secrecy close to Salisbury Hall, Hertfordshire, and took off from a small field nearby on 25th November, 1940, to start its flight test programme. It was only because of its mainly balsa/plywood ‘sandwich’ construction, with wood being used wherever possible so using relatively little strategic metal resources, that it got the green light under Specification B.1/40. W4050 soon amazed a gathering of senior officers and others by exhibiting near-400 mph speed, extreme manoeuverability for a twin, and performing upward rolls with one of its two Rolls-Royce Merlin engines feathered! It became the fastest warplane in Europe – of ANY type – a title it held for nearly 18 months; indeed, it stayed the fastest bomber in RAF service until the 1950s, and the advent of the twin-jet English Electric Canberra.

Everyone now wanted the Mosquito!  RAF Coastal Command for anti-shipping strikes, Fighter Command as a superb night-fighter and day fighter-bomber, Bomber Command as a hard-hitting low-level attack aircraft and later a night bomber with the capacity to carry a 4,000 lb bomb to Berlin and return (and do it TWICE in one night!). Photo-reconnaisance units prized it for its enormous range – able to penetrate as far as Prague, Czechoslovakia in later versions – and its ability to outmanoeuver opposing German fighters. Even the USAAF wanted the Mossie, going so far as to suggest a one for one swap involving P-51 aircraft!

Production was split amongst many UK subcontractors in the former wood-working and furniture trades, and rapidly spread to Canada and Australia. Even after the end of the war, Mosquito night-fighters, such as the NF.30, were used to defend Great Britain until the new jet aircraft could be developed (No. 616 Squadron, RAuxAF, at RAF Finningley, near Doncaster, was an example of this). The final versions produced were target tugs, which provided fast towing  and target facilities for anti-aircraft units around the country; some of these were converted from B.35 bomber versions, (as seen in the above photograph) which was taken in the Royal Air Force Museum’s  ‘Milestones of Flight’ Gallery at Hendon. Inadvertently, the Mossie must have given radar operators a harder time than they might have expected, because its wooden structure conveys certain ‘stealth’ characteristics.

Due to the tragic loss of the British Aerospace-owned  ‘RR299’ at Barton, in 1996, there is no longer a flyable Mosquito in European skies (up to three restored aircraft may fly in the next year or so, one in New Zealand, one in the USA and one in Canada). However, there is big news this month; a popular movement has been formed with the avowed intent of restoring a Mosquito to flight status, so that future generations can marvel at the sight and sound of a warplane which did so much to influence the outcome of WW2. I would urge you all to support the efforts of the ‘Peoples Mosquito’ organization (links at the bottom of this page), as being not only the right thing to do, but as a way of honouring those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Bomber Command, especially, has been under-represented until recently in the way of public memorials, and this would be a wonderful way of righting that omission. As I was saying to a friend, ‘It’s Mosquito time’!




12 comments on “De Havilland B.35 Mosquito, RAF Museum, London and ‘The People’s Mosquito’ Project”

  1. Great article. Super photograph. Well done!


    • Many thanks! I wish the People’s Mosquito’ project the very best of luck. They have the right attitude……….


  2. Hi, Ross!

    Thanks for a great photo of a great airplane.

    Sunday evening last, I had to turn in early in expectation of an early wake-up for an 0700 wheels-up on my flight from MD back to CT — so I could only allow myself the first 40 minutes or so of a broadcast of “633 Squadron” starring Cliff Robertson and the Mossie. Great footage, that gives a feeling of the power and capability of the Mossie.

    The USAAF flew about 140 Mossie’s in photo rec and night fighter roles. The museum at Wright-Pat has one, tricked out as a PR Mk XVI. Pretty bird!

    Freeman’s Folly indeed…hah!

    May you have, sir, a healthy, prosperous and safe 2012!



    • Dear Frank,

      Thank you so much for your kind comments, and for your support throughout this year! It has been much appreciated. I am looking forward to seeing the ‘Peoples Mosquito’ project accelerate in the near future – I think it will be one to watch.

      I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you, your loved ones AND November631Sierra a very Happy New Year, and many smooth landings!



  3. I had no idea about the Mossie’s troublesome start. Thanks too for the news of the latest Mosquito project and Happy New Yaar 🙂


    • Sir Wilfred Freeman was lucky to get the Mosquito into production. It was only because most of it was wood that saved it. Lord Beaverbrook made such a mess of aircraft production that he was shifted to tanks, and Freeman brought back to sort things out! I’ve been asked for advice by the Mosquito project, and I do so hope that things go well.

      My you and your wife have a splendid New Year!!


  4. […] synopsis of the Mosquito and how it very nearly did not come to be can be read in his post entitled De Havilland B.35 Mosquito, RAF Museum, London and ‘The People’s Mosquito’ Project, published on 29 December […]


  5. Yes it certainly is Mosquito time! For your information, I have written an article on Glyn Powell, who has now built two complete Mosquito airframes in NZ, for Aeroplane magazine. It is in the February/March issue, out now. Up until now, by far the biggest stumbling block in getting a Mosquito back into the air has been the integrity of the 70 year old wooden airframe. Glyn has spent over 20 years building all the moulds, jigs and templates to build a new Mosquito airframe exactly to original de Havilland specs. With a new wooden airfame, any suitable donor Mosquito can now be restored and returned to the air.


    • You are absolutely correct, and although I haven’t spoken to Glyn, I have spoken to Corin McCrea in NZ, and am well aware of the advances made in materials technologies which will (hopefully) see more Mossies fly in the relatively near future. Thank you for your article in ‘Aeroplane’! As they say in the best periodocals – ‘watch this space’!


  6. I collect, among other things, fragments from WWII aircraft wrecks found in England and Europe that have been identified through engine serial #s and historical data on downed locations, etc. Most of my items came from a man named Mike Minor, from Seviersville, Tenessee, since passed away, thence to me.

    The most significant (if the associated story can indeed be verified) is the Mosquito “Fuel Cock Selector/Pressure Venting” assembly that reportedly came from the crash site of Wing Commander Guy Gibson near Steenbergen, Holland. (Apparently a road was being constructed some 8-10 years ago and crossed the farm where the crash occurred when it was found.. Large parts of the wreckage was removed by the Germans at the time, but many parts of the wreck were in the ground and remained there for all these years.) He went down on Sept. 19, 1944, after a pathfinder mission escorting and leading some 200 Lancasters on a bombing mission to Rhedt and Munchen Gladbach in northern Germany. He was flying a Mosquito XX, KB267 AZ-E. I have done extensive research in to the details of his flight and the crash, including reading a book on his life by English author Susan Ottaway. In this book, Ms. Ottaway quotes Dutch civilians who heard the aircraft as it crashed, indicating the Merlin engines were spitting and backfiring, as though starved for fuel, before the aircraft went into the ground “in a huge fireball.” However, I wonder if the “huge fireball” might indicate that there was indeed fuel remaining in the aircraft.

    It is my opinion that the fuel cock selector is in the “Off” position. I have made draft drawings of the design and position of the cock assembly, and of course have pictures of the complete assembly as I have it (bent and damaged). I would like to send this information to some War Bird restoration expert on the Mosquito who could comment on the current position and who understands the overall design and workings of this assembly. I have visited and spoken with Ms. Brenda Blair, Museum Liason at the Aero Space Museum of Calgary (Canada) because of their interest in Gibson due to the Dambusters raid. It seems to me that there might one day be interest in some related museum in having this piece, assuming more detailed provenance can be provided. In any case, I would appreciate any help in contacting some group or individual who might be able to help me with the “forensic” analysis of the fuel selector.

    You will of course have my e-mail address – my mailing address is:

    John A. Dietrichs
    6810 Chapel Glen Court
    Atlanta, GA 30360

    Thanks for any help you can offer.


    • Thank you for the data you provided on Mosquito B.XX,’AZ-E’, KB267. The problem lies with provenance of this object. I actually have a photograph, taken from the cockpit of KB267, as it taxyied out past other squadron aircraft, about ten days before the last mission (it was NOT being flown by Gibson, at that particular time).

      The main problem, as I see it, is that the Mosquito “Fuel Cock Selector/Pressure Venting” is not one which is classed as an ‘instrument’. Very careful records were made by RAF Instrument Mechanics of the servicing/allocation of complex instruments fitted into any aircraft’s cockpit. These were individually numbered so faults and service histories could be tracked. Since the Fuel Cock is a ‘simple’ control, it will NOT have been assigned to an individual airframe, just fitted as a stock item during the building process, or issued from RAF Stores on base from a batch of similar items held as replacement parts, if it became faulty in service. Any number stamped on the component will be a generic identifier, to enable it to be correctly issued.

      It is, therefore, impossible to say with certainty whether you actually hold the component fitted to Gibson’s aircraft. As to the fireball seen on impact, it is often the case that a small amount of fuel held in a nearly empty tank, will explode more violently, when compared with a large amount of fuel. This is due to the fuel/air ratio giving rise to something approaching a modern ‘fuel/air explosive’. The resulting fire is less intense (less aircraft fuel available), but the initial explosion tends to be much more violent.


      Ross Sharp


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