Mark Huxtable's review of 'Mosquito' by Sharp & Bowyer

 

In their comprehensive book simply titled Mosquito, C. Martin Sharp and Michael Bowyer present an encyclopaedic review of the full life cycle of this unique aircraft, in all of its variants and operational roles. They are uniquely placed to present this story - Martin Sharp spent his career with de Havilland, serving as the executive in charge of co-ordinating overseas production, while Michael Bowyer has spent a lifetime researching the innumerable stories of individual aircraft and crews, on both sides of the conflict.

This book is divided into a series of sub-sections, each presenting a detailed review of a critical element of the Mosquito story - the project itself, development, production, and operations. Most readers will likely initially focus on the operations section, or indeed one specific chapter of this section. However, many of the stories told within the other sections are better told here than in other works. In particular, the long indecision regarding whether or not to proceed with the aircraft at all, and, once the Mosquito's abilities had been demonstrated, the chaos surrounding which types and marques to produce and in what quantities, make for fascinating reading.

The challenge of this type of book is to deal fairly with each aspect of what is, given the Mosquito's adaptability, a many-sided tale, without allowing the whole to balloon out of control. The authors handle this task well - each chapter on operations has comprehensive narrative, grey-scale plates of representative aircraft, and often includes supporting statistics and exhibits. The pace can however be rather frenetic, as the full course of specific wartime operations, including lead-up and postscript, are often run through in the course of a few dozen pages.

The book also contains a variety of unique appendices, including a full inventory of enemy aircraft shot down in defensive operations. There is also a list of U-Boat sinkings credited to Mosquitoes, and a full listing of all contractors involved in the production of the aircraft. The ample photographic plates contribute an additional dimension - there are some spectacular shots taken by the aircraft on some of the Mosquito's most famous raids. These give a vivid impression of the operations, as aircraft pull up over the buildings, roof tiles shatter as bombs pierce them, and flak guns fire wildly trying to get at the attackers.

The book was initially published in the 1960s; in the more recent edition there are additional chapters, including the use of the Mosquito by the US Forces. However, there are also some glaring omissions - having provided a detailed description of Mosquito deployment by the Americans, the appendix listing foreign air forces using the aircraft excludes the U.S. In addition, the list of aircraft destroyed in defensive operations, by definition, provides no information on aircraft destroyed, or even claimed, on intruder or support missions. As the chapters dealing with these operations are some of the most exciting in the book, the exclusion of these statistics is puzzling at best, frustrating at worst.

One other possibly unfortunate issue with this book is that all of the illustrations are monochrome - none of the photos or graphics are in colour. This will make the book less useful for the modeller than other works, however as squadron designations, serial numbers, dates and crew names are often cited, there is a wealth of historical information available here.

Taken altogether, Mosquito represents an essential part of every Mossie fan's library. Indeed, probably no other book covers as many (all) elements of the Mosquito story, in as much detail, as this one. Other publications no doubt do a better job on a particular part of the story, or provide more lavish illustrations. However, no other book provides such a comprehensive telling of the Mosquito tale, from concept, through design and development, to operations and ultimately retirement.

Mosquito can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk or from Amazon.com's out of print service using the links provided on this site.

Mark Huxtable, January 2001

 
Comments or questions? Please contact me.