What made the Mosquito fighter-bomber so special? We spoke to Bill Ramsey from the People’s Mosquito
The People’s Mosquito is a charity with the sole aim of restoring and returning a UK-based DH.98 Mosquito to British and European skies. We spoke to their Operations Director Bill Ramsey to find out what makes the ‘Wooden Wonder’ so special.
Describe the Mosquito in three words
“Fast, innovative and multi-role.”
What was unusual about the Mosquito’s construction? Were any aircraft made in similar ways?
“Wooden composite for the entire airframe, giving strength, light weight and streamlining (no rivets) – as others designed for combat operations then you are looking at the gliders such as the Horsa used for paratroops.”
How did its performance compare to other aircraft of the time?
“During its trials on 16 January 1941, W4050 outpaced a Spitfire at 6,000 ft (1,800 m). The original estimates were that as the Mosquito prototype had twice the surface area and over twice the weight of the Spitfire Mk II, but also with twice its power, the Mosquito would end up being 20 mph (30 km/h) faster.”
What was best and worst about how the RAF operated the type in World War Two? What were the greatest triumphs and mistakes?
“The most famous action of the Mosquito was the Amiens Prison raid in February 1944, a precision strike which released captured resistance leaders who had knowledge on some plans for D-Day. The saddest raid by Mossies would be the successful strike on Gestapo HQ in Copenhagen, Denmark in March 1945, called Operation Carthage. The raid was successful in destroying records and preventing the collapse of the Danish resistance fighters, but tragically a Mosquito was lost and crashed near a school; other Mosquitos mistakenly then though the school was the target. Civilians, including many children, were killed.”
What were the type’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?
“Speed, versatility, and the ability to outsource manufacturing to alternative industries e.g. cabinet makers, reliability, good range, and good survivability on raids compared to other types. Weaknesses, well very few, but one all pilots respected was that both engines props turn the same way and as you take off there was a vicious tendency for the aircraft to swing violently. Another would be that if a fully fuelled and loaded Mossie had an engine failure on take-off below 160 knots then the aircraft would not climb and your only course of action would be to belly-land the aircraft. This actually affected all aircraft fuelled and bombed up, but the Mossie needed a high rate of speed to then take-off on one engine fully armed.”
What are the advantages of twin-engines versus single or four engines? Depends on the mission type, for the Mossie she operated well in many roles whether bombing, intruding or photo-reconn at good speed, range and versatility versus some single engined types (range / mission) and four engined (size / weight and speed).
In terms of survivability and carry a certain size bombload a certain distance hope how does a Mosquito compare to a B-17? “The Mossie had a higher survivability over all the four-engined bombers used by the allies. Its size, speed and manoeuvrability gave the allies the ability to do precision strikes and great close air support. But Mosquitos were used as an effective light bomber force, used very effectively to mark targets and aircraft were often detailed to do two Ops in an evening. The early Mosquito bomber versions could carry 2,000 lb of bombs, but the later B.XVI could carry 4,000 lbs in an enlarged bomb bay. It is a myth it carried the same as the B-17, this carried 6,000 lbs of bombs and was used in strategic bombing.”
Could a Mosquito do well in a dogfight against a single-engine fighter? “Yes and no. If the single-seater engaged the Mosquito low level, with height and speed it (the single-seater) had tremendous advantage in a dogfight. The Mosquito’s strength was its ability to hit and run. Not to engage in twisting dog-fights, the Mossie crews would engage once with an advantage and speed off to fight another day.”
How many export operators did it have? Did Mosquitos perform in any wars in ways that we are unlikely to have heard of? “Circa 12, including Canada and Australia. It operated in the Chinese Civil War 1945-47 and was used by the Israelis in the early Arabic wars in the Middle East.”
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What is the biggest myth about the Mosquito?
“It carried the same bomb weight as a B-17.”
What was the strangest role or mission that the Mosquito had? “Flying with a passenger in the bomb bay?”
Could it take a lot of gunfire and fly on compared with its contemporaries?
“Yes and depending on damage repairs could be done in service at the field.”
Complete this line, the Mosquito was the great because….
“It could do any mission you asked of it!”
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How dangerous was it being a pilot assigned to a Mosquito unit?
“Less dangerous operating the four-engined aircraft – as survivability was higher.”
Which enemy aircraft was most comparable to it and how does it compare?
“None, in my opinion it was unique for its type and era.”
Which modern aircraft could you compare it to and why?
The F-35, as this is also a composite multi-role combat aircraft.”
How many are airworthy?
“Currently three and all in the USA. There is one in Canada requiring work to regain airworthiness”
Two aeroplanes radically changed the European air war. The Mustang because it was a good fighter with a phenomenal range and the Mosquito because it was a phenomenal aeroplane.
Well said Mr Knox.
One of the great leadership of The People’s Mosquito project. Bill is an amazing aviator and person. Leader of Red Arrow, demonstration pilot for the Vulcan Bomber, RAF Fast Jet pilot, etc. Consider joining him and other great people bringing this magnificent back to UK skies. Also consider a coin or two for Hushkit doing some of the most innovative writing on aviation today.