Charity launches bid to get RAF’s iconic de Havilland Mosquito back in the skies
Dubbed the “Wooden Wonder”, it fought its way to become the plane that saved Britain during the Second World War. Yet, despite famously successful raids and immortalization by the 1963 Hollywood blockbuster 633 Squadron, no de Havilland Mosquito has flown in British skies for nearly 40 years. Now, Sunday Express readers can help a charity to change this.
The People’s Mosquito will use 23,000 detailed blueprints and schematics found in an old Airbus factory to build the first Mosquito on British soil in seven decades.
Last night project brainchild John Lilley said that he wanted the British public to see the Mosquito take its rightful place flying in British skies once more alongside Spitfires and Lancasters.
“The dream to rebuild Britain’s most iconic aircraft was alive in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2017 that things really turned around,” said John, the charity’s chairman and managing director.
“That’s when I got a call to say someone had discovered blueprints at the old Airbus factory near Broughton, where production had moved to in 1948.
“There were 22,300 detailed schematics, all on microfiche. Altogether they weighed 65 kg, and they represent around 92 percent of the aircraft.
“We knew that it was going to be possible to rebuild the first new flying Mosquito in 70 years.”
Mosquito fighter cockpit
Because its fuselage halves were made of Ecuadorian balsa wood, spruce and birch before being glued together, time has been unkind to surviving Mosquitos.
“There are only four which are flying around the world right now, and they are all based in the US and Canada.
“We felt it was important that this national treasure, which was originally built in Britain to a British design, come back home.”
Another aim for the charity – whose motto is ‘to fly, to educate, to remember’ – is to encourage youngsters to pursue apprenticeships in the aviation industry.
“Britain has a proud aviation heritage – the Mosquito was the world’s first multi-role plane, and its legacy can be seen in today’s Typhoon and F-35,” said John.
“We hope this project encourages youngsters to consider apprenticeships so they can build the icons of the future.”
Restoration work has begun
Although initially dismissed as a “folly”, it did not take long to appreciate the advantages that the Mosquito’s light wooden fuselage gave it over German rivals.
Initially conceived as a light bomber, the Mosquito soon spawned more than 25 variants and served with both Bomber and Fighter Command in Europe, the Middle and Far East and Russia.
In September 1942 it took part in the successful bombing of Gestapo headquarters in Oslo, destroying the records of members of the underaged resistance.
In 1943 a Mosquito daylight attack knocked out Berlin’s main broadcasting station on the day Herman Goring was giving a speech to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Nazis power.
And in 1944, Operation Jericho saw nine Mosquitos carry out a daylight raid on a German-held prison at Amiens, France, in which the planes flew so low they were able to blow up the walls, allowing 255 allied prisoners to escape.
So envious did Goring become of the Mossie’s 400 mph speeds and high flying altitudes that he offered German pilots two kills for every Mosquito they downed.
In 1943 the former fighter ace proclaimed: “It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. The British, who can afford aluminum 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. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops.”
Historian James Holland, author of Battle of Britain, said: “The decision to use wood wasn’t just about the scarcity of metals – George de Havilland knew it would be faster and lighter and more streamlined.
“The Mosquito was almost impossible to shoot down because it was faster than anything Germany had and operated at higher altitudes”.
Last night Mosquito veteran George Dunn – who was awarded the DFC for his role in the daring Peenemünde Raid against Hitler’s V1 and V2 factories – recalled the first time he took control of the yoke.
“It was incredibly light and versatile, very different from the Halifaxes I had been flying before. We had to learn to fly a different way,” said 100-year-old George from his home near Brighton.
“It was beautiful and it could do anything. It took us just over four hours to fly to Berlin, whereas it would have taken eight in a Halifax.”
While the Halifax boasted three gunners in their seven-man crew, the Mosquito had a crew of only two and relied on its speed and height to stay out of trouble.
“We didn’t need gunners. Halifaxes bombed from 18,000 feet, but in the Mosquito it was 26,000 feet,” he said.
“This project is marvelous. It’s going to take several years and a lot more money, but I’m so pleased that people in Britain will have the chance to see it fly once more.
“I just hope I’m still around to see it.”
The painstaking work is being carried out by volunteers at aviation restoration firm Retrotec Ltd, based near Rye, East Sussex.
Because of complexities involved, it had taken time to construct the mold needed to make both halves of the wooden fuselage, which is nearly completed.
Due to modern day standards needed to reassure the CAA before it can fly, almost half of the £8m needed will be spent on airworthiness tests.
Sunday Express readers – who generously helped to raise £1m for the Bomber Command memorial in Green Park – are invited to become part of the journey
“We almost have the molds completed which will help us to make the two fuselage halves and join them together,” said John.
“Depending on funding it may take as long as four years before she is flying,
“But with support we can do it sooner and see this pioneering bomber back where she belongs – in the skies over Britain.”
- Sunday Express readers – who generously helped raise £1million for the Bomber Command memorial in Green Park – can donate to this amazing project by visiting: www.peoplesmosquito.