Mosquito has landed

The Mosquito Diary by Doug Schmidt


Fastest plane in the war

Pelly Lake, N.W.T.
Windsor's Bob Upcott remembers falling in love with a Mosquito while waiting to take part in some of the most dangerous missions of the Second World War.
"I'd just arrived (at the Bournemouth reception Centre for aircrews) and we were out playing golf - along comes this aircraft doing low, slow rolls on one engine at about two to three hundred feet. I thought it was a great, marvellous thing," he said.
Despite going on to fly 26 Lancaster bomber missions over Germany in a squadron noted for suffering among the heaviest losses within Bomber Command (only every second flyer survived the normal tour of 30 missions), Upcott said he immediately wanted to sign back on, this time as a mosquito pilot. But the atomic bomb over Hiroshima cancelled any such hopes: "I was on leave when they dropped the big one, and they told me to forget my posting."
According to Upcott and follow Windsorite John Braidford, who flew as navigator on a wartime Mosquito night interceptor, every Second World War flyboy wanted to fly the fastest plane in the war.
The Mosquito hid a multitude of specialized tasks during the war, primarily as a pathfinder, leading Allied bomber missions to Axis targets.
One of its most daring and spectacular raids was blowing holes in a fortified Nazi prison in Amiens in occupied France. The French underground had radioed England that about 100 imprisoned Resistance fighters were to be executed the next day. Despite bad weather and strong German defences, a group of Mosquitoes flew over and breached the prison's walls, giving more than a third of the prison's population of 700 a chance to escape and Survive.
No sooner had Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, the head of the Luftwaffe, solemnly sworn German soil would never be bombed, than a cocky squadron of Mosquitoes launched a daytime bombing raid on Berlin. With metal always at a premium, Goering cursed German aviation engineers for not being able to similarly produce a superior fighting aircraft that was made primarily of wood.
With a wartime ban on the manufacture of such luxury items as furniture, Mosquito maker de Havilland was able to put those workers to use building Mosquitoes. Furniture and piano makers in towns from Windsor to Toronto put their expertise into building wooden warplane fuselages using Canadian birch and Douglas fir.
At 408 mph, "nobody could run away from you," according to Braidford. Armed with four 20-mm cannons in the nose, three .303-calibre machine guns on each wing and sometimes even with a howitzer for anti-submarine attacks, the Mosquito fighter-bomber was quite able to make gutsy trips deep into enemy territory.
By collecting Mosquito remains from far and wide, the members of Mosquito Bomber Command of the local Canadian Historical Aircraft Association are hoping they'll soon he able to show a new generation what the famed aircraft looked like. Although close to 8,000 were built (1,130 in southern Ontario), only a few remain.
This article copyright the Windsor Star 1996. I have tried to contact the Windsor Star in an effort to get permission to use this article in the web, but have not had any reply.
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