14th November 2015 | Leicestershire, England and Lakeland, Florida, USA. The unmistakable and heavenly sound of Merlin engines always stir one’s soul. Likewise, the sight of a sleek twin-engine de Havilland Mosquito aircraft is enough to generate goose bumps on the viewers’ bodies. Readers may best recall de Havilland Mosquitoes from the 1964 film 633 Squadron, which starred actor and pilot Cliff Robertson. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of airworthy examples. In fact, the only flying Mosquito is residing at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia. That may soon change as several projects are either underway or planned.
One undertaking is in Leicestershire, England. There, The People’s Mosquito project is using the remnants of Mosquito NF.36 RL249. She was one of the last Mosquito NF.36s to leave the factory. RL249 crashed and burned at RAF (Royal Air Force) Coltishall in February 1949 while in service with No. 23 Squadron. Today, the various and sundry surviving parts and components are providing the basis and inspiration for the restoration initiative.
Central Florida boasts a significant British population and numerous anglophiles. One, a member of The Royal British Legion and Royal Air Force Historical Society, commented to 20th Century Aviation Magazine that, “It would be marvelous to have a ‘Mossie’ flying again in the United Kingdom. It is inconceivable that a serviceable aeroplane cannot be found in the British Isles.” Undoubtedly, many aviation aficionados on both sides on the ‘pond’ share that sentiment. Fundraising has commenced.
England, Canada, and Australia produced marks of the vaunted Mosquito. It was almost Divine providence that provided the RAF, and Britain’s allied air forces including the U.S. Army Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, and Royal Australian Air Force with such a versatile airplane and weapons platform.
The People’s Mosquito stated vision is to see the return of their de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito to the sky. The aim is to inform and educate the public about the Mosquito and maintain the plane’s legacy. It follows that the non-profit’s motto is as follows: To fly; To educate; To remember. Flying displays, an ‘open hangar’ policy, and the emphasis on education, will reinforce the importance of the Mosquito during World War II. A nearly lost art, The People’s Mosquito desires to detail and demonstrate the unique design and engineering techniques that were utilized to manufacture the mostly wooden Mosquitoes. Concurrently, the group will honor those who designed, built, crewed, and maintained the legendary flying machines. An additional objective is to establish an Internet resource on Mosquitoes.
The People’s Mosquito decided to restore the airframe as an FB.VI, a fighter-bomber variant, and Aerowood Limited, of Auckland, New Zealand will be tasked to rebuild RL249. The first FB.VI first flew in June 1942. This mark or model was intended to mix the potency of the NF.II and incorporate the ability to deliver the standard bomb of the B. Mark IV bomber. With four 20 millimeter Hispano cannon and a pair of 500-pound bombs, and powered by 1,460 horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin 21s or 23s, the version was designated as FB.VI Series 1. The Series 2 FB.VI featured a strengthened wing, under wing bomb racks, and 1,635 horsepower Merlin 25 powerplants. The Series 2 could carry a pair of 500-pound bombs internally and two others under the wings. Alternately, eight 60-pound rocket projectiles could be fitted on launch rails beneath the wings.
Notably, the FB.VI served RAF Coastal Command and devastated Kriegsmarine (Nazi Germany’s navy) and German merchant shipping along the Norwegian, Danish, and Dutch coasts. In addition to the aforementioned, FB.VIs famously undertook which was the raid (Operation Jericho) on Amiens Prison designed to liberate interned French Resistance fighters.
Famed Royal Navy test pilot Captain (Ret.) Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown has graciously become The People’s Mosquito patron. In March 1944 Brown landed a modified Mosquito FB.VI on aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable, which was no small feat. In a video, which appears below, Captain cites the de Havilland Mosquito as being “one of the three most important British aircraft of the Second World War.”
The People’s Mosquito is headquartered at 4 Chestnut Way, East Goscote, Leicestershire. Representatives may be contacted by telephoning 0844 884 2552.
The author (John Stemple), 20th Century Aviation Magazine, and Military Aviation Magazine wish to encourage readers to consider a donation to this worthy cause. Donations to this worthwhile endeavor are encouraged.
Sources and Suggested Readings
Calgary Mosquito Society
Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Mosquitoes! Former RCAF de Havilland Mosquito KA114