The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito
The Mosquito was a multi-role combat aircraft that served during the Second World War and the postwar era. It was known affectionately as the “Mossie” to its crews and was also nicknamed “The Wooden Wonder”. It saw service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) as well as other air forces around the world.
When the Mosquito entered production in 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world. Over 7,000 of this beautiful aircraft, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland, were built.
None survive in flying condition today, so far…
The final night-fighter version used by the RAF, this was a post-war development of the highly-successful NF.30. The prototype NF.36 was a converted NF.30, and first flew in May, 1945. It was fitted with fuel-injected, two-stage supercharged R/R Merlin 113/114, each producing 1,690 hp. This gave the aircraft a top speed of 404 mph, with a ceiling of 36,000ft.
The primary radar was the centrimetric AI. Mk X, which was installed under a bulbous nose radome. Similar radomes had, during WW2, been painted in camouflage colours, but many of those fitted to NF.36 aircraft were left unpainted (and therefore clear), to improve radar performance. This gave a somewhat startling appearance. The armament was four, powerful 20mm Hispano cannon, each with 150 rounds.
There was an ‘equipment gap’ in the post-war Royal Air Force. The first generation jet night/all-weather fighters were not being developed as fast as had been hoped, so this version of the Mosquito was needed in order to bridge the gap between the wartime NF.30 and the new Gloster Meteor NF.11 and the de Havilland Vampire NF.10 jets, which finally arrived with the squadrons in 1951.
The NF.36 equipped the following RAF Units: Nos. 23, 25, 29, 85, 141, 199 and 264 Squadrons, the Central Fighter Establishment, the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and 228 OCU in the United Kingdom, and with No. 39 and 219 Squadrons in Egypt. The frontline squadrons were each equipped with 8 aircraft and the U.K. force practised all-weather (day) interceptions, night-fighter patrols, low-level intruder sorties, and radio-countermeasures sorties. Crews reached the squadrons after passing through No. 228 OTU based at RAF Leeming (which was also responsible for Bristol Brigand training).
A formation of nine NF.36 aircraft flew low over Trafalgar Square, and central London, during the September, 1947 ‘Battle of Britain’ Flypast by units of the Royal Air Force.
A famous Mosquito unit, No. 23 Squadron (Motto: ‘Sempur Aggressus’ – ‘Having always attacked’) which had fought hard over Malta, was disbanded after the war. It reformed in September, 1946 at RAF Wittering, equipped with the NF.36. The squadron moved to RAF Church Fenton and then to RAF Coltishall – a noted night-fighter base during WW2 – in September 1950. The aircraft bore the code letters ‘YP’ and had the spinners of their Merlin engines painted with concentric blue/red/blue rings.
In February 1950 all NF.36 aircraft were suddenly grounded due to a spate of engine fires, caused by incorrect feathering of propellers. They were sent back to various servicing units and even back to Leavesden to be modified under Special Technical Instruction STI 109b, then re-issued to units.
One problem was that single-engine safety speed was 186 mph, and if an engine cut on take-off, careful handling was needed to avoid a crash. That might very well be what happened to RL249, shortly after take-off from RAF Coltishall.
Many No. 23 Squadron aircraft were fitted with ‘Hookah’, a radar and radio-detection aid developed from the wartime ‘Serrate’ system, which had been the cause of the demise of many Luftwaffe night-fighters during Mosquito sorties over Germany. ‘Hookah’ aircraft could be distinguished by short, vertical aerials both above and below both wingtips. There were two versions of Hookah, Hookah Mouse and Hookah Bat, the first of which monitored VHF radio frequencies, and the second, radar frequencies. A small cathode ray display was shoe-horned into an already cramped Mosquito cockpit, and practice night-time sorties were flown against the Avro Lincolns of No. 100 Group, Bomber Command during the 1950s. These sorties were code-named ‘Stardust’.
RL249 was one of the very last batch of NF.36 aircraft to be built (RL229 – RL268). The last, RL268 left the factory on the 28th March, 1947.
No. 23 Squadron finally gave up their Mosquitoes in 1953 – to be replaced by another de Havilland type, the Vampire NF.10. The very last RAF Mosquito flight in the U.K., probably was the ‘disposal flight’ of RL201 between RAF Coltishall and RAF West Raynham on 30th May, 1952.