‘We believe that we could produce a twin-engine bomber which would have a performance so outstanding that little defensive equipment would be needed’.
Geoffrey de Havilland – September 1939
The de Havilland Mosquito is one of the most iconic British aircraft of WWII. The ‘Wooden Wonder’, as it was called, due to its frame being made almost entirely out of wood, participated in a wide range of operations throughout the war, from the transport of valuable cargo across enemy-held airspace to high-precision bomb raids on prisons and Gestapo headquarters. If you needed to get in, wreak havoc and get out fast, the ‘Mossie’ was your weapon of choice.
Conceived as a multi-role combat aircraft and manned by a crew of two, it served as a low- to medium-altitude daytime tactical bomber, high-altitude night bomber, pathfinder, day or night fighter, fighter-bomber, intruder, maritime strike aircraft, and fast photo-reconnaissance aircraft.
The Mosquito’s operational history began in November 1941, when it started performing as an unarmed, high-speed, high-altitude aircraft engaged in photo-reconnaissance missions. Justifiable, since it was among the fastest airplanes in the world at the time.
It quickly became clear that this wooden beauty could do much more damage than just providing intelligence on enemy positions. It was soon equipped with 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) Blockbuster bombs, usually dropped from high altitude.
Its role became that of a “nuisance bomber,” either by diverting the attention of military defenses from raids occurring elsewhere or engaging “Targets of Opportunity” such as trains, convoys, and troop movements.
Apart from serving as an offensive aircraft, de Havillands pride and joy helped defend the skies above Britain on numerous occasions, successfully intercepting German night raids during Operation Steinbock in the first months of 1944.
After this final push, the Luftwaffe abandoned the idea of bombing Britain with conventional aircraft and almost entirely switched to the use of V1 and V2 rockets.
This lead to Mosquito pilots countering the threat by conducting raids on rocket production facilities deep in enemy territory.
Some of its most notable actions include the famous raid on Amiens prison in German-occupied France, in an attempt to cause a massive breakout of prisoners, most of whom were members of the French resistance.
Other daring exploits in which the Mosquito played a vital role include the attack on the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the bombing of the Philips factory at Eindhoven, Netherlands, in 1942, which caused a major disruption in the production of electronic equipment used by the Germans.
It remained active within the RAF, as well as other air forces supplied by the British, until the 1950s when it was subsequently replaced by the jet-powered English Electric Canberra.