The Smithsonian’s Mosquito
The National Air & Space museum’s collection includes a De Havilland DH-98 B/TT Mark 35 Mosquito, serial number TH 998. The aircraft was built at the de Havilland factory in Hatfield. It was built as a bomber version. The Royal Air Force Air Ministry accepted this aircraft on August 24, 1945. It was sent to RAF Shawbury. On May 14, 1952 it was sent to Brooklands Aviation Co., Ltd. at Leicestershire for conversion to a TT Mark 35. After conversion it went to No. 3 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Unit at RAF Exeter. There from September 30, 1952 to March 1962 it served as a target towing aircraft. On March 20, 1962 it was sent to RAF Dishforth for an overhaul and painting. The purpose for the overhaul and cleanup was to give it to the Smithsonian Institution. TH 998 was transported to the United States on August 17, 1962. The aircraft has been in storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Silver Hill, Maryland since then. The Smithsonian plans to eventually display the aircraft at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles.[i] Unfortunately plans to restore its Mosquito have been put on hold. The Air & Space Museum is going to focus its efforts on revitalizing their museum on the Washington Mall. The Mall project will begin in 2017 or 2018 and last at least until 2025.
[i] The Air and Space Museum’s web site (http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?object=nasm_A19640023000) last accessed March 19, 2016.
About the Mosquito
The wooden construction caused the Air Ministry to reject the Mosquito in 1938. The Air Ministry reversed its decision in 1940 for fear of a shortage of strategic metals. The prototype Mosquito made its first flight on November 25, 1940. The first Mosquitoes reached operation service on September 20, 1940.[i] The first Mosquitoes were photoreconnaissance aircraft. The Mosquito was a true multirole aircraft. They served as bombers, day and night fighters, and photoreconnaissance. They served well in each of these roles.
[i] Jane’s Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide, by Tony Holmes, © 2005 by HarperCollins Publishing, Page 148.
The Mosquito in Combat
The first Mosquito combat mission was on September 20, 1941 when a Mosquito flew a reconnaissance flight over France. Four Mosquito bombers attacked Gestapo headquarters in Oslo, Norway on September 25, 1942. The mission was timed to coincide with a rally for German sympathizers. An FW 190 shot down one of the bombers. Four bombs struck the building and all failed to explode.[i] On the night of May 28/29, 1942 a Mosquito was credited with a “probable” over Great Britain.[ii] The Mosquito’s first night fighter “kills” occurred on the night of June 24/25, 1942. Wing Commander Irving Stanley Smith shot down 2 Dornier Do 217s.[iii]
January 30, 1943 – RAF Bomber Command tasked Mosquitoes to attack Berlin twice. The attacks were to coincide with a speech by Hermann Göring in the morning and a speech by Joseph Goebbels in the afternoon. The bombing raids disrupted both speeches. Ground fire shot down a Mosquito on the second mission. Squadron Leader Darling and Flying Officer Wright were killed.[iv] These were the first daylight attacks against Berlin.
May 16/17, 1943 - Focke-Wulf FW 190A-4/U-8s attacked England’s south coast. Mosquitoes shot down 4 of the FW 190s.[v] This was the same night of the famed “Dam Buster” raids. Also on this night 9 Mosquitoes attacked 4 German cities, including Berlin, all returned safely. [vi]
From the summer of 1943 the Mosquitoes flew night intruder missions. In these missions the Mosquitoes would patrol areas around known Luftwaffe airfields and attack the German night fighters as they were taking off or landing. The Luftwaffe tried to counter this threat by having their Me-110s patrol over German airfields. Me-110s only shot down 4 Mosquitoes in 1943.[vii]
January 21/22, 1944 – An RAF Mosquito shot down a Ju 88 flown by Prinz Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein after Wittgenstein made his 83rd kill. Wittgenstein was killed when his parachute failed to open. That night Manfred Meurer was killed when the bomber he shot down, his 65th kill, fell onto his He 219.[viii] RAF Bomber Command lost 58 bombers that night.[ix]
Claims the He-219 shot down 6 Mosquitoes during their first 10 days of operations[x] are inaccurate. Bomber Command didn’t lose any Mosquitoes during this period.[xi] In the conclusive Mosquito vs. He 219 combats the Mosquito was almost always the victor.
In December 1944 the Luftwaffe night fighters shot down 66 bombers for the loss of 114 night fighters. Mosquitoes caused many of the night fighter losses.[xii] Bomber Command lost 8 Mosquitoes, 3 of them intruders. [xiii]
Over Great Britain Mosquitoes accounted for over 1,000 Luftwaffe aircraft, 471 of them were the pilotless V-1s. The Mosquito’s speed made it difficult for the German fighters to catch Mosquito bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. On July 25, 1944 Flight Lieutenant A. E. Wall and Pilot Officer A. S. Lobban encountered a fighter they couldn’t outrun. A Messerschmitt Me 262 was attempting to shoot them down. By turning his Mosquito Wall survived 5 firing passes by the jet fighter. Wall escaped into cloud cover. Wall’s report proved the Me 262 was being used operationally.[xiv] A Mosquito pilot was also the first to report the Me 262 was being used at night. The RAF summarily dismissed the account.[xv] The Luftwaffe did use day fighter and night fighter versions of the Me 262 at night.
March 16, 1945 – Feldwebel Rolf Glogner, flying an Me 163 Komet rocket fighter, intercepted a Mosquito over Leipzig. One of Glogner’s 30mm shells found its mark and severely damaged the Mosquito. Glogner believed he shot down the Mosquito. Pilot Officer R. M. Hays managed to fly his damaged Mosquito to France where he made a forced landing.[xvi]
The last attacks by RAF Bomber Command was against Kiel on the night of 2/3 May, 1945. The attacks involved 231 aircraft, 142 of them Mosquitoes. One Mosquito was lost and its crew, Flying Officer R. Catterall, and Flight Sergeant D. J. Beadle were killed. Bomber Command lost 2 Halifaxes in these raids.
Bomber Command lost 310 Mosquitoes during the war. These include 260 lost to enemy action and 50 lost in accidents.[xvii] Bomber Command Mosquitoes flew 39,750 sorties and had a lower loss percentage than any Bomber Command aircraft that flew over 1,000 sorties. [xviii]
The USAAF also flew Mosquitoes. These American Mosquitoes flew a variety of missions. These Mosquitoes were sometimes the target of American fighters. The 8th Air Force 25th Group flew Mosquitoes. They painted their tail surfaces bright red so they wouldn’t be mistaken for Luftwaffe aircraft. This didn’t always work. In one tragic incident in March, 1945 a Mosquito with a P-51 escort was on a reconnaissance mission. Some P-47s of the 9th Air Force 36th Fighter Group mistook the Mosquito, piloted by Lt. Stubblefield and with Lt. Richmond as navigator, for a German plane. Lt. Stubblefield showed his aircraft markings to the P-47s. The lead P-47 shot down the Mosquito. The P-51s only saw one parachute. The P-51s proceeded to fly onto the tails of the P-47s. The P-51 leader, Lt. William Barsky followed a P-47 back to its base and reported the “friendly fire” shoot down to Lt. Col. Slayden, the 36th Fighter Group commander.[xix]
[i] The Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt © 1985.
[ii] Aviation-History.com http://www.aviation-history.com/dehavilland/mosquito.html
[iii] History of War(http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_mosquito_night_fighter.html).
[iv] Wings of War Edited by Laddie Lucas © P.B. (Laddie) Lucas 1983.
[v] History of War(http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_mosquito_night_fighter.html).
[vi] Jane’s Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide, by Tony Holmes, © 2005 by HarperCollins Publishing, Page 148.
[vii] Luftwaffe Fighter Aces by Mike Spick © 1996.
[viii] Luftwaffe Fighter Aces by Mike Spick © 1996.
[ix] The Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt © 1985.
[x] Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green, © 1970, Page 355.
[xi] The Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt © 1985.
[xii] Luftwaffe Fighter Aces by Mike Spick © 1996.
[xiii] The Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt © 1985.
[xiv] Messerschmitt Me 262: Arrow to the Future by Walter J. Boyne © 1980 Smithsonian Institution.
[xv] Wings of War, edited by Laddie Lucas © P.B. (Laddie) Lucas 1983. The Luftwaffe used both Me 262 day fighters and night fighters at night and shot down some Mosquitoes.
[xvi] Aircraft Profile 225 Me-163 by Alfred Price
[xvii] The Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt © 1985.
[xviii] The Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt © 1985. Bomber Command B-24s had a lower loss rate but the Bomber Command Liberators flew only 662 sorties.
[xix] Mighty Eighth War Diary by Roger A, Freeman, © 1981, Page 473.
de Havilland Mosquito Stats
Range with drop tanks
4x20mm cannons & 4x0.303 MG
Maximum Bomb Load
© 2016 Robert Sacchi
Robert Sacchi (author) on April 16, 2016:
Thank you. The Mosquito was a remarkable aircraft. It wasn't just that it was used in so many roles but that it did all of them well. The Commemorative Air Force does a great job of keeping vintage warbirds flying.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 16, 2016:
It was definitely interesting reading about the Mosquito airplane. A 5% loss rate had to be considered very good back then. The Commemorative Air Force is flying old WWII airplanes this weekend in our part of Houston. One can hear those old motors long before spotting the planes in the sky.
Robert Sacchi (author) on April 05, 2016:
Yes, it was a true multirole aircraft. Thank you for reading and commenting.
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 04, 2016:
The 'Mossie' is one of my favorites! Over 7,000 built and used in various roles, most saw combat but only about 400 lost, that's a loss rate of just over 5%
The main role they had was photo recce but also 'pathfinder' in going ahead of the main bomber formations to pinpoint targets with flares.
Churchill had ordered that Bomber command were to 'take every precaution not to take French lives' so that meant planes going in before the main Bombing formations to act as target selectors and warning the locals!
Mosquitoes were perfect for the role because they were as good flying at less than a hundred feet as they were at 25,000 feet!
I enjoyed this hub but I think I've 'rabbited on' enough