The Mosquito at Hendon (1)

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”


“Amos, who?”

“A Mosquito.”

Terrible, but according to my Dad, a genuine RAF joke from World War II. Well, I suppose they had to do something while they waited for colour television to be invented:

Of all the exciting aircraft of World War Two, the De Havilland Mosquito is perhaps the most exciting. This amazing aeroplane really was the result of thinking outside the box.

Give it powerful engines. Make it more or less entirely out of wood. It will be so fast that no enemy fighter will be able to catch it. It will be one of the few bombers of any era which was regularly unarmed. No surprise that it was nicknamed “The Wooden Wonder”:

And so it came to pass, although the Mosquito could not escape the rule which says that every fast aircraft ever built always has its speed reduced by being forced to carry something extra under its wings.

The very first Mosquitos made their début in May 1942 as daylight bombers. After that, they found work with the Pathfinder Force and performed many other tasks within Bomber Command.

The Mosquito was a great success as a night fighter and an intruder aircraft, as well as an anti-shipping strike aircraft. They were used for photographic reconnaissance at both low and high level by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force. Some Mosquitoes managed a huge number of missions, as their casualty rate was less than 0.5%.

We went to RAF Hendon in July 2010 and of course, they have a Mosquito there. According to their maze of a website, I eventually found out that TJ138 is a bomber variant, the Mosquito B 35, capable of a maximum speed of 422 mph and a cruising speed of 276 mph. I think only an Me262 jet would be able to catch that.

The B35 was the final mark of this amazing aircraft and it made its first test flight on March 12th 1945. This particular B35 was built in 1945 at Hatfield as part of a contract for 80 aircraft. It was never used in combat and indeed went into storage at No.27 MU Shawbury, Shropshire as early as August 28th 1945, with another period in storage from May 20th 1948. In October 1950, it was sent to Celle in West Germany with 98 Squadron, which means that TJ138 is the only Mosquito still in existence which actually served with a squadron. In 1953 it was converted into a target tug and eventually finished up flying THUM flights. A lovely acronym which means “Temperature and Humidity Flight”.

And to finish the first instalment, here’s a picture of this very Mosquito, TJ138, waiting patiently to go off on some more THUM flights:

One final point I would like to make is that I had a minor operation on my hand recently and for that reason I will not be able to reply to any of your comments in the immediate future. If you do want to make a comment, by all means please do so, but I will not be able to write any replies until after December 6th as a minimum. After this date, with luck, I should be back in business.


Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, Canada, History

39 responses to “The Mosquito at Hendon (1)

  1. I trust your hand will be strong again soon, John. In the para above the second picture, did you mean ‘unarmed’ – or perhaps ‘unharmed’?

  2. What a great post to go on leave with. I think that the Mosquito would have to be my favourite ever aeroplane. My first boss, Mr Cook of the law firm Russell Kennedy and Cook, Melbourne was a pathfinder pilot during the war. He flew a Mosquito. He was missing the first finger on his hand which was blown off by a stray German bullet. He told me it was a beautiful plane.

  3. turtomagoo

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery, John. Another fascinating blog.

  4. I was always amazed by the performance of the Mosquito. With a full weapons load of 4000 Lb of bombs (1,800 kg), the DH.98 B.Mk. XVI had a range of 1,500 mi (2,400 km). By comparison, the 4-engined B-17G ‘standard’ Long range mission range was 800 mi: 4,500 lb (2,000 kg).

    • You are absolutely right about the capabilities of the Mosquito compared to the B-17 and even the B-24. Ten or twelve men in Mosquitoes could carry a lot more bombs with a much superior loss rate than ten men in a B-17 or twelve men in a B-24. I suppose a lot of national pride was involved and a lot of commercial interests. Only the Lancaster was superior statistically to the Mosquito although losses were not too far short of catastrophic. The Halifax and the Stirling couldn’t compete either with the “Wooden Wonder”.

  5. The Mosquito was my favourite Airfix kit. I always liked the plane after watching the film 633 Squadron.
    Good luck with the hand!

    • Thank you very much for your good wishes. I would agree with you about the Airfix kit although I always had a soft spot for the Me 109 and never enough pocket money to buy a Sunderland flying boat.

  6. Don’t concern yourself with answering, simply get that hand better, John. I simply wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the post.

  7. Andy Jones

    Bonne récuperation, as you would have taught me to say…

    • Thanks very much. The operation is a fairly trivial one, but the problem is that your hand has to be immobilised for at least a week and then treated gently after that. For that reason, I am under wife’s orders not to do any typing for a while.

  8. Pierre Lagacé

    Mosquitos did not have any.turrets.
    Four .303 in the nose and 4 20mm cannon under the belly, but not in turrets.
    Bomber version had a plexiglass nose.

  9. Pierre Lagacé

    Prototype only

    There is a picture of the turret prototype W4053 on p127 of de Havilland Mosquito – An Illustrated History Volume 2 by Ian Thirsk.

  10. Fascinating! I don’t know very much about this subject–the details–and I certainly never knew there was a wooden aeroplane. The comments are great, too. I hope your hand heals completely and feels good.

  11. Hope your hand recovers fully, John. We can take our hands for granted.

  12. This should be an interesting series. Hoping your hand heals quickly.

  13. atcDave

    Always a beautiful airplane. Hope your hand heals up well!

  14. Truly one of the world’s finest aircraft, a real thoroughbred and beautiful with it. I hope you make a full recovery soon John.

  15. Hope your recovery goes well. Enjoyed the article!

  16. Chris Waller

    Glad that you have brought the Mosquito to our attention. One of my favourite aircraft also and one which has not generally received the recognition it deserves. That may be because, having been made of wood, they rotted away after the war and slipped from our memory, unlike the Spitfire and Lancaster. Best wishes for your recovery post-surgery!

  17. The DH88 Comet and the Mosquito have to be two of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, just in time to be phased out in favour of jets.

    Hope the hand recovers soon John.

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