In honour of National Aviation Day (February 23rd) in Canada, I thought we should add a Canadian twist to this diary! If I had to pick just one warbird which is making headlines this year, it would be the de Havilland DH 98 Mosquito. From New Zealand to the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom, projects are being started, being worked on, or being planned almost everywhere it seems. However, we must not forget Canada, the second home of the Mosquito, a country which provided many aircraft, mostly to RAF Bomber Command, in order to help smash the industrial heart of the Third Reich.
The de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. facility at Downsview, Toronto delivered its first aircraft – a B.Mk. VII – on September 24th, 1942, and a steady stream of various versions, powered by U.S.-built Packard Merlins, followed. There were three main ‘design families’. The British Mosquito trainer, the T. Mk III, gave rise to the T. Mk 22 and T. Mk 27. The RAF’s fighter-bomber, the FB. Mk VI lead to the FB. Mk 21, FB. Mk 26 and a trainer, the T. Mk 29. Finally, the classic bomber version of the Mosquito , the B. Mk IV Series ii, was developed into the B. Mk VII and the B. Mk XX. So fast were these later pressurised versions of the Mosquito, that they regularly broke the unofficial West-East Transatlantic record during their delivery flights to the U.K.; indeed, one aircraft, in April 1945, lowered the time to 5 hours 30 minutes! As an aside, 40 B. Mk XX were converted to photo-reconnaissance aircraft, and supplied to the United States with the American designation of F-8 (over 100 British-built Mossies were also acquired, but they retained their original Mark numbers).
The photograph you can see above (graciously provided by Bob Bolivar) shows a Spartan Air Service Ltd Mosquito in February, 1958, on the ramp at Cazadero Airport, Cucata, Colombia during survey operations from this base, running up its engines prior to a photographic survey flight. Bob Bolivar was the navigator of CF-HMS on this flight. You might think that this would have been one of the many Canadian-built Mosquito aircraft which were disposed of, after their Service careers were over, but you would be wrong. This is a converted B.35 – the last of the bomber versions – 122 of which were built by Airspeed, a U.K. subsidiary of the de Havilland concern. The pressurised B.35 was just too late to see action in WW2, but equipped two RAF squadrons, No. 109 and 139, at RAF Hemswell, post war.
In the 1950s Spartan Air Service Ltd of Ottowa gathered 15 late-model B.35 Mosquitos in the UK, and the best 10 of these airframes were converted by Derby Aviation Ltd, at Burnaston Airfield, the then municipal airport of my home city of Derby. Indeed, the aircraft you can see above, CF-HMS, ex ‘RS700′ the prototype PR.35 converted from a B.35, was the very last to depart from Burnaston, reversing the Transatlantic course taken by many of its Canadian-built compatriots during the war. These survey Mossies carried a crew of three, including a cameraman who operated the Swiss Wild RC-8 survey camera, and a large fuel tank in the bomb bay. Aerial survey work was carried out as far afield as Kenya and Argentina. Modifications included an extra-clear Perspex nose cone, a DF loop and a modified rear hatch for the cameraman. Unfortunately, several Mosquitoes were lost or severely damaged due to engine failure; Spartan had bought spare Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, just not very good quality ones!
The great news is that the Calgary Mosquito Society (Motto – ‘Retain, Restore, Honour and Educate’) has just been awarded a contract to restore the aircraft shown above – CF-HMS, ex-RS700 - the last of Spartan’s Mosquitoes to be ferried across the Atlantic in 1956. The owners of CF-HMS are the City of Calgary, who also own a CC&F-built Hawker Hurricane XII (RCAF 5389), and the Mosquito came close to being traded/sold by the City in both 2004 and 2008. Fortunately for the aviation heritage of Canada, and all concerned, in December, 2011 the City of Calgary selected CMS to undertake the complex and challenging restoration of these aircraft. You can find out more about the fascinating history of both the Hurricane and Mosquito on the CMS website http://www.calgarymosquitosociety.com/... I would urge you all to support CMS in their worthy venture.
CMS has also established links with People’s Mosquito, a fast-growing U.K. group dedicated to seeing a Mosquito fly in British skies once again. Please visit the People’s Mosquito sites shown below, in order to find out how to aid in this exciting effort.
Photo credit: Bob Bolivar