The Mosquito proved to be one of the, if not the, most versatile of Second World War aircraft excelling in the bomber, fighter/bomber, pathfinder, photographic reconnaissance, anti-shipping and night fighter roles.
In the mid-1930s in response to the Air Ministry’s requirement for a new bomber, the de Havilland company came up with a small twin-engine aircraft of composite wood construction. The Ministry rejected the proposal in 1938, believing a wooden aircraft to be unacceptable, but de Havilland continued design work and such was the support of the Air Member for Research and Development, that an order for 50 machines was placed on 1st March 1940. The name Mosquito was approved and the first prototype took to the air on 25th November 1940 with Geoffrey de Havilland at the controls. By this time, the need for fighters had become pressing, and a prototype fighter version was produced, its first flight taking place on 15th May 1941
The Mosquito (or “Mossie” as it became known) entered service with the RAF in early 1942 and was used initially on low-level daylight raids across the Channel. Quickly integrated into the Bomber Command Order of Battle, it was soon found that the machine possessed the internal capacity and power to carry four times the 1000 lb bomb load originally envisaged and that its speed proved decisive in outpacing enemy fighters. Bomber Command Mosquitoes flew over 28,000 operational sorties for the loss of only 193 aircraft.
The first night-fighter version was introduced in mid-1942. Armed with 4 x 20 mm Hispano cannon in the fuselage belly, 4 x .303 in Browning machines guns in the nose and equipped with an AI Mk IV/Mk V radar, it proved a formidable machine. Operational roles included air defence of the UK, night intrusion over Europe and bomber stream escort, with the aircraft also being deployed extensively in the Mediterranean Theatre. By the end of the war, Mosquito night fighters had claimed approximately 600 enemy aircraft destroyed.
No fewer than 27 versions of the Mosquito saw service with the armed forces of 19 countries. Total aircraft production was 7,781 with 5007 being built in the UK (the last machine being completed in 1950) and the remainder in Australia and Canada under licence. Some 30 examples survive at museums around the world; no airworthy examples remain although several machines are currently being restored.
Mosquito night fighter aircraft served at RAF Tangmere with No 85 Squadron in 1945/46 and No 29 Squadron in 1950/51.