Residents of Virginia Beach, Va. may soon be hearing the distinctive growl of twin Rolls Royce Merlin engines overhead, thanks to that city’s Military Aviation Museum.
According to a story published earlier this week on Warbird News, the historical flight center, which is located about 200 miles south of Washington, DC, will unveil a fully restored World War Two de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito at its spring airshow next weekend. Currently, it’s the only known flying Mosquito in existence – the last one was lost in an accident in 1996.
The plane was restored over the past eight years and then test flown in 2012 by a team of engineers in New Zealand. The mostly plywood, twin-engine fighter-bomber was then disassembled and shipped to the United States where technicians with the museum have been rebuilding it. The aircraft is painted up to resemble a DH.98 Mosquito of the NZRAF 487th Squadron.
Between 1940 and 1950, nearly 8,000 de Havilland DH.98 Mosquitoes served in the air forces of Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and even the United States where they excelled in night fighter, reconnaissance, anti-shipping and precision bombing roles. In fact, Mosquitos flew some of the most incredible Allied air missions of the Second World War. Consider these:
Long before the advent of smart bombs or laser-guided ordnance, the de Havilland Mosquito was flying the 1940s equivalent of surgical air strikes.On Sept. 25, 1942, a group of four Mosquitoes from RAF 105 Squadron flew more than 500 miles across the North Sea from Great Britain to Norway. Their target was the Gestapo headquarters in Oslo. Each aircraft, which skimmed just above the waves to avoid radar detection or visual identification by enemy fighters, carried a pair of 500 lb. bombs. Despite these precautions, the flight was jumped by a two plane patrol of German Focke-Wulfs that happened to be patrolling the Scandinavian coast. One of the British planes was damaged in the ensuring melee and had to make a forced landing in occupied Norway; the other three managed to escape and eventually they reached the target. The Mosquitoes located the headquarters and struck the building with four bombs. Unfortunately, one was a dud while the other three passed through the walls of the enemy stronghold and detonated in an adjacent neighbourhood injuring and killing dozens of civilians. Although the mission was a bust, it did prove the Mosquito could penetrate enemy airspace at extremely low altitude and potentially hit targets with some degree of precision.
RAID ON GOERING
Such precision was called for in January, 1943 when a flight of three RAF Mosquitoes penetrated deep into German airspace in broad daylight to bomb a Berlin radio station only moments before Riechsmarschall Herman Goering was to take to the airwaves to deliver a speech. His address, which was to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Nazi regime’s 1933 election victory, was delayed embarrassing Goering, who had only recently boasted that the airspace over the German capital was safe. “It makes me furious every time I see the Mosquito,” Goering supposedly remarked of the incident.
THE WALLS OF JERICHO
The Mosquito would fly a similar mission a year later – this time the stakes were much higher. During February, 1944, the Allies learned that as many as 100 French Resistance operatives being held in a prison in Amiens were scheduled to be shot by the Gestapo. British commanders ordered a flight of Mosquitoes to attack the prison walls to spring the prisoners. They named the mission Operation Jericho after the biblical walled city. In all, 18 British, Australian and New Zealand Mosquitoes from 140 Wing of the RAF Second Tactical Air Force were to strike the watchtowers, guard barracks and the prison walls, creating enough confusion inside the prison to allow the inmates to escape. A dozen Hawker Typhoons were to provide fighter escort. Shortly after flying out over the English Channel, four of the Mosquitoes were separated from the group and were forced to return to base, while a fifth developed engine troubles. The remaining aircraft flew on at treetop level to Amiens and reached their target at exactly noon. Within five minutes, the planes had destroyed a guardhouse and loosed eight bombs that breeched the main cell block. Another eight bombs tore open the walls surrounding the prison. A simultaneous attack at a nearby railroad station delayed German reinforcements from speeding to the area to lock down the prison. The Mosquitoes were forced to break off the strike as German fighters swarmed overhead. While the raid killed 37 prisoners along with 50 enemy guards, more than 250 inmates managed to escape in the conflagration. Unfortunately, 180 would be recaptured. Worse, the Nazis killed more than 260 civilians in reprisals. The Allies lost one bomber to enemy fire – two escorts also went missing and were presumed destroyed. Incidentally, a highly fictionalized account of the raid was featured in the 1969 film Mosquito Squadron.
The Mosquitoes of 140 Wing would fly a similar mission in the final weeks of the war in Europe, this time over Copenhagen, Denmark. At first, the RAF refused a request by the Danish resistance to bomb the Gestapo headquarters in former corporate offices of the Royal Dutch Shell Company in the city. The fear of collateral damage that was sure to result from striking such a small target in the middle of a densely populated city unnerved the Allies. But the resistance insisted, pointing out that the building contained files on the resistance movement and that several agents were being held and tortured at the same location. At 11 a.m. on March 21, 1945, 20 Mosquitoes under the protection of 30 RAF Mustangs suddenly appeared over Copenhagen’s chimney-tops. As the Mustangs roared skywards to provide fighter cover, the Mosquitoes, organized into three waves, went to work pummelling the six-story office building with bombs. In minutes, the headquarters was reduced to rubble and more than 100 Gestapo members were dead. While 18 prisoners were freed, eight others were killed in the raid. Tragically, one of the Mosquitoes flying just a few feet off the deck clipped a lamppost and slammed into a nearby block of buildings. The crash killed both crewmen along with 125 civilians, including 86 schoolchildren. Three more Mosquitoes and two escort fighters were also downed. Nine aircrew were lost in total. Despite the considerable casualties, the mission disrupted Gestapo activities in Copenhagen.
Low level bombing wasn’t the only mission profile for the DH.98 Mosquito. Consider these operations:
- Between April 1943 and July 1945, 25 Mosquitoes from No. 618 Squadron RAF were equipped to carry smaller version of the same water skimming “bouncing bomb” made famous by Lancaster “Dambuster” bombers. Instead of being used against dams, the “highball” bombs, which were spherical, were intended to be used against German and later Japanese warships. Despite plans to unleash the Mosquitoes on the German battleship Tirpitz, no highball missions were ever flown.
- Specially equipped Mosquitoes from the British 654th Bombardment Squadron flew top secret “Redstocking” radio missions for the American OSS during 1944 and 1945. The aircraft, which were loaded with classified VHF transmitters and receivers codenamed Joan-Eleanors would fly night missions to relay radio transmissions between agents on the ground and headquarters in the U.K. The Mosquito was chosen for the job because of its long operating range, high speed and its ability to fly above the reach of anti-aircraft fire.
- Pathfinder Mosquitos were used in Bomber Command raids over Europe. They would typically streak in over target areas in advance of heavy bomber strikes to mark and illuminate the target areas with flares and incendiary weapons. Other missions saw the same aircraft deploy chaff packs at high altitude that would appear to German radar operators as massive bomber formations. Confused air defence commanders would then divert Luftwaffe night fighters away from the real bombers.
Check out this video of the newly restored DH.98 Mosquito making it’s first test flight in 2012.