de Havilland Mosquito

de Havilland Mosquito

The hugely versatile and high-performance DH98 Mosquito was unquestionably De Havilland’s greatest contribution to the success of the RAF in the Second World War.

The design made use of a wooden sandwich construction, drawing upon experience from the DH88 Comet Racer and the DH91 Albatross airliner and because of this it became affectionately known as ‘The Wooden Wonder’.  

Originally conceived as a high-flying, unarmed photo-reconnaissance aircraft, the Mosquito saw service in wide-ranging roles from bomber, fighter-bomber, night-fighter, anti-shipping strike, trainer, torpedo bomber and target tug.

With World War 2 raging throughout Europe, UK aircraft production was concentrated on the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane fighters alongside heavy bombers such as the Avro Lancaster, Vickers Wellington and Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley.  Wartime aircraft production was at its height so the use of alternative, non-strategic materials and the ability for an aircraft to perform several roles became of increasing significance.

 By 1938, the Ministry were looking for a heavily-armed, multi-role aircraft to which Geoffrey de Havilland responded ‘we believe that we could produce a twin-engine bomber which would have a performance so outstanding that little defensive equipment would be needed’.  Nevertheless, at a meeting in October of that year the Ministry showed very little interest and ordered The De Havilland Company to act as sub-contractors, building wings for other bombers as a sub-contractor.

De Havilland persevered and after a number of impressive submissions the Ministry warmed to their concept and a draft requirement was raised for a high-speed, light reconnaissance bomber capable of over 400 mph.

The project was being designed in secrecy at Salisbury Hall (current home of the DH Mosquito  Museum in London Colney, Hertfordshire).  It was being financed as a private venture, only finally receiving official backing with the release of Specification B.1/40 on 1st March 1940 which called for 50 bomber / reconnaissance variants. 

This was then supplemented in May 1940 by Specification F.21/40 calling for a fully-armed, long-range fighter and as a result De Havilland’s were authorised to build a fighter version of the DH98.

Construction of the prototypes began in March 1940 although work was cancelled soon after due to the losses suffered at the Battle of Dunkirk. 


Thankfully, the instruction issued by Minister of Aircraft Production Lord Beaverbrook was not very specific and it was largely ignored by Air Vice-Marshal Freeman (Vice-Chief of the Air Staff). 

Despite this however, development was very slow with the Design Team, led by Ron Bishop, experiencing severe shortages of base materials for the creation of initial prototypes.

The first prototype (W4050 – E0234) flew at Hatfield on 25th November 1940with Geoffery de Havilland Jnr at the controls.  This aircraft is currentl preserved at the De Havilland Mosquito Museum at Salisbury Hall in London Colney, alongside the M25 motorway.

The second prototype (W4051) served as the basis for the photo-reconnaissance variant which was actually the first type to enter service as the Mosquito PR1 and flew its first operational sortie in June 1941. 

The third prototype (W4052) was used for the development of the fighter variant with cannon and machine gun armament.  It would also carry Airborne Interception (AI) equipment to enhance both its night and day fighter capabilities.

On entry into service, the ‘Mossie’ was immediately successful and became well-known for its bombing, pathfinder and precision, low-level strike capabilities. Wartime development however resulted in a wide range of variants and a significant increase in bomb load capability and range due to the incorporation of a larger bomb bay and auxiliary fuel tanks.

The major production was carried out in the UK by De Havilland Aircraft Co, Airspeed, Standard Motors and Percival Aircraft Ltd with a number being built at the DH Factories in Canada and Australia.

A high number of sub-contractors were also engaged in component manufacture, particularly the wooden furniture companies of High Wycombe (which by coincidence was Geoffrey de Havilland’s birthplace) as well as automotive coachbuilders such as the Standard Motor Company.

The Mosquito saw glory on a number of occasions, the most famous being Operation Jericho on 18th February 1944.  9 Mosquito FB Mk VI Bombers, operating out of RAF Hunsdon in Hertfordshire, attacked the German held prison at Amiens on the edge of the Somme Valley.  Their skilful airmanship delivered low-level waves of bombs, first destroying the outer and inner prison walls quickly followed by the Guard House.  A total of 255 allied prisoners escaped although sadly 182 were soon recaptured.


On another occasion a Mosquito daylight attack knocked out the main Berlin broadcasting station on the very day Herman Göring (German Commander in Chief) was giving a speech to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Nazis’ seizing of power.

Göring often chasitised German aircraft manufacturers and at one address he commented,

“In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that? There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I’m going to buy a British radio set – then at least I’ll own something that has always worked!”


The Mosquito flew its last war mission on 21st May 1945 when it joined in the hunt for German submarines that might have been tempted to disobey the surrender order.

Navalised Mosquitos appeared on aircraft carriers after Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown landed a modified Mosquito FB.VI (designated Sea Mosquito TR.33) on HMS Indefatigable on 25th March 1944 and 50 Torpedo-bombers were built at Leavesden shortly after.

A small number were used as high speed unarmed wartime transports by BOAC, operating flights to and from Sweden.

Lastly, during its final days, a number of Mosquito TT Mk35’s acted as Target Towing Tugs for both the Belgian Air Force and the RAF. The last operational flight by a Mosquito was in May 1963 when No.3 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Co-Operation Unit retired their TT.35 variants.

The total number of aircraft built was 7,781, the type serving with the main Allied air forces, including both the United States and Russia.

Today, only 2 airworthy examples remain: A DH Mosquito Mk.35 Bomber took to the air in Canada on 16th June 2014 and it joined DH Mosquito FB.26 (KA114).  Both aircraft are listed below and it is hoped that a 3rd aircraft will be joining the list very soon.



DH.98 Mosquito F Mk II

Fighter version.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: pilot, navigator/radar operator
  • Length: 41 ft 2 in (12.55 m)
  • Wingspan: 54 ft 2 in (16.52 m)
  • Height: 17 ft 5 in (5.3 m)
  • Wing area: 454 ft2 (42.18 m2)
  • Empty weight: 13,356 lb (6,058 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 17,700 lb (8,028 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 18,649 lb (8,549 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 21/21 or 23/23 (left/right) liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,480 hp (21 & 23) (1,103 kW) each



  • Guns: 4 × 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk II cannon (fuselage) and 4 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns (nose)


  • AI Mk IV or Mk V radar (NF variants)

DH.98 Mosquito B Mk XVI[edit]


General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: pilot, bombardier/navigator
  • Length: 44 ft 6 in (13.57 m)
  • Wingspan: 54 ft 2 in (16.52 m)
  • Height: 17 ft 5 in (5.3 m)
  • Wing area: 454 ft2 (42.18 m2)
  • Empty weight: 14,300 lb (6,490 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 18,100 lb (8,210 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 25,000 lb (11,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 76/77 (left/right) liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,710 hp (1,280 kW) each



  • Bombs: 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg)






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