back to article Mosquitoes, Comets and Vampires: The de Havilland Museum

Approaching the museum down a bumpy single track road you start wondering if any of this makes any sense. Why is this museum in the middle of nowhere? Why are the opening hours so peculiar? Why are there bits of aircraft lying around? Why does it have two different names? All becomes apparent in due course and in the process …

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  1. James Hughes 1

    Mosquito

    Best looking aeroplane. Ever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mosquito

      Best looking aeroplane. Ever.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Mosquito

        The mozzie was IMHO the best WW2 Aircraft.

        Second best WW2 aircraft was the Hurricane. I had the honor of meeting its designer shortly before he died.

        The best Aircraft ever has to be the Harrier. No bias here :) I worked at Dunsfold for a time in the 1970's.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mosquito

          I was just trying to be witty. Comparing apples and oranges is always futile.

          1. Prof. William Waterman Sherman

            Re: apples and oranges

            Comparing apples and oranges is not futile. It's quite easy. Whilst both are delicious, sweet, round and grow on trees, they taste quite different. Apples can be baked in pies, but oranges cannot. Apples come in a variety of colors, but oranges are almost uniformly the same color (a kind of reddish-yellow).

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Mosquito

          The Timber Terror/Wooden Wonder was definitely the best bomber of the war. Scarily, by not carrying several tons of armour and defensive guns the Mosquito could actually deliver the same bomb load to Berlin as a B17, while taking off a few hours later and being back first.

          I think the head of the Luftwaffe, Herman Goring gives the Mosquito best reference.

          "It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that? There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I'm going to buy a British radio set - then at least I'll own something that has always worked."

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mosquito

            Several aircraft could carry a bigger bombload than the B17 - a bomber laden down with guns and armour whose purpose in the Combined Bomber Offensive was to draw the German fighter aircraft into a war of attrition they could not win but could not avoid either.

            1. JCitizen
              Gimp

              Re: Mosquito

              "Several aircraft could carry a bigger bombload than the B17 - a bomber laden down with guns and armour whose purpose in the Combined Bomber Offensive was to draw the German fighter aircraft into a war of attrition they could not win but could not avoid either."

              True! But we were bombing in broad daylight with German fighters and successfully trained anti-aircraft fire on our squadrons! The US will not put up with losses any more that your Parliament! However, my Dad never got over the damage he saw when he toured Germany after the onslaught we unleashed on the German populace. He threw his guts up when he saw the damage on the people of Germany! He traveled later on and asked his cousins for forgiveness; and they said they were totally okay with the situation as we were all in back then! This history is very complicated to say the least!

          2. JCitizen
            Childcatcher

            Re: Mosquito

            Actually the Germans had a comparable interceptor built of advanced composite wood, that some engineers feel was the beginning of the new age of air-frame technology; but the only chemical formula plans for the glue that held it together burned in a fire set by Allied bombing! HA! I wouldn't doubt is was a Mosquito Squadron that got the plant!

            No one has repeated this chemistry to this day! Good for us, but bad for technical sciences! We would have had lighter and stronger air-frames sooner for the jet age that would have saved trillions in fuel costs and air-frame failures and crashes!

        3. Kernel Silver badge

          Re: Mosquito

          I was able to see a Mosquito in the air during an Armistice Day fly-past in Nov., 2012 - an impressive aircraft, but for my money the best looking aircraft of WW2 would be the ME262.

          The world's first operational combat jet, the only jet to see squadron service during the war, and as an additional plus it had a healthy speed advantage of the Mosquito, which would have probably seen the Mosquito become just another old aircraft if the war had continued.

          1. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Mosquito

            'the only jet to see squadron service during the war,'

            Which does raise the question of what the RAF's 616 Squadron were flying from mid-44 onwards if it wasn't a jet fighter... <cough> Meteor </cough>

          2. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Mosquito

            As long as your considering the ME262 based purely on looks without considering that it was rushed into service before it was ready. This showed because it needed a new set of engines every couple of flights and replacement airframes and also required replacement pilots who were killed when the engines failed almost as frequently.

            ME262's that are flying today have modern engines installed, because nobody wants to commit suicide by flying with the originals installed. The Rolls Royce engines on the Meteor though? Funnily enough those can actually still be used.

            1. Number6

              Re: Mosquito

              The longevity of the Meteor engines comes back to the genius of Frank Whittle. He built a centrifugal flow jet engine, which in most respects is inferior to the axial flow engine that was on the Me262 and is the basis of all modern jet engines. To increase the power of a centrifugal engine, the cross-sectional area increases, so there's the issue of diminishing returns with air resistance, unlike the axial flow, where you just add another compressor disk to the shaft.

              The genius is revealed in his answer when he was asked why he'd picked the centrifugal engine, and he remarked on the inadequate materials available for the axial flow engine and the high stresses incurred, compared to the centrifugal approach. He knew about the axial, but also understood why its time had yet to arrive. This is why the Meteor engines just worked, and the Me262 ones kept failing.

            2. ridley

              Re: Mosquito

              I believe the life expectancy of the engines on the ME262 was below 100 hours but not as bad as a few flights. However did it matter when the life expectancy of the plane due to combat was much less?

              On a similar note I worked on a tank for the Pakistan military and was surprised by both the superb accuracy of the gun but also the very small number of shots (about 30-50) that it could fire whilst maintaining anything like that accuracy. I asked about this and they explained that it was better to have a highly accurate gun for a small number of rounds, rather than an OK gun for more rounds, as the life expectancy of the entire tank in combat was extremely short....

      2. RainForestGuppy

        Re: Mosquito

        You look at the UK jets of the 50's/60's and my god did they have style.

        Just look at planes like the DH Vampire, and the Supermarine Swift, Hawker Hunter and even the graceful Vulcan. They just looked great.

        1. NogginTheNog

          Re: Mosquito

          Agreed, though you missed out the English Electric Lightning. Now THERE was an stunning, and unique, looking machine!

          The Vulcan also sounded amazing (there's a video on YouTube of one doing a fly-over of some plane spotters).

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: Mosquito

            I've been at an airshow when a Vulcan did a low slow flypast, loud is not really a good enough description, its more like a thunder that permeates throughout, a bit like standing near a big waterfall but caused by a sodding huge set of jet engines..

            1. MrT

              The most iconic noise a Vulcan makes...

              ... IMVHO, is the eery, baleful howl just as the engines spool up, like it's crying out to be in the air already...

            2. itzman

              Re: Mosquito

              Nothing surpasses the EE lightning on full afterburn, for noise.

          2. ridley

            Re: Mosquito

            I am sorry but no sound from a video can do justice to a high powered fly past by a Vulcan. In real life the experience was truly visceral.

            1. bristolmoose

              Re: Mosquito

              Absolutely. Total sensory deprivation. I have had the good fortune to be by a Vulcan taking off a few times at Fairford and Filton. It isn't just a noise, it's something that seems to permeate every cell in your body. If you had asked me what 2+2 was at the time I would have probably answered "a badger" or something!

            2. Paul 77

              Re: Mosquito

              Live at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and every so often the Lanc flies over the house - has to be said, thats a rather nice sound :-)

          3. Lapun Mankimasta

            English Electric Lighnting? Re: Mosquito

            My vote goes for the Fairey Delta. Now if it had been developed to its full potential ... the Dassault Mirage was after all, Fairey Delta V1.2.5 or thereabouts.

    2. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Re: Mosquito

      The Mosquito is my all-time favourite aircraft. Beautifully proportioned and the front profile of the FB variants with the four 20mm cannon in the nose and the radiator openings inboard of the engines gave it powerful warlike appearance unmatched by any other WW2 aircraft.

      Bomber, Fighter-Bomber, Recon, Pathfinder, Night-fighter, Ground attack, anti-tank, ant-shipping / submarine. The first true multi-role aircraft.

      Any wonder it had Goering bricking his pants?

      1. JQW

        Re: Mosquito

        The Mosquito also acted as a freighter. Several Mosquitos in BOAC colours were used to transport ball bearings from Stockholm to Leuchars, using the bomb bay as a cargo store.

        The bomb bay in these Mosquitos could also be used as an improvised cabin to transport a single passenger. The most notable passenger to be flown this way was physicist Niels Bohr who was smuggled out of Sweden in 1943.

        1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Mosquito

          "bomb bay in these Mosquitos could also be used as an improvised cabin"

          - and you wouldn't DARE complain about the in-flight service or delays!

      2. kraut

        Re: Mosquito

        The Mosquito was an extremely cool aeroplane, no doubt. But then there's also the SR-71, IMHO one of the coolest (or, more precisely, hottest) aircraft ever. And the looks!

        But what about the Me 262? Years ahead of anything on the allied side. Or, one of my favourites for sheer bonkers value, the Me 162? ("Yes, we're going to put you in a tiny little sail plane and strap an enormous hydrogen peroxide rocket to your a*se. What could possibly go wrong?")

      3. Lapun Mankimasta

        Re: Mosquito

        I've never been able to choose between the Mosquito and the Spitfire. Both are hot lookers, both are hot performers, both wound up doing heaps of things their designers had not originally imagined. And both are proof of the airman's dictum: if it looks right, it is right.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mosquito

      It's a looker, but my favourite is still the Handley Page Victor. It's like something from a 1950's sci-fi comic.

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    A fascinating place.

    And right on my doorstep, which causes me to wonder why I don't get round there more often!

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: A fascinating place.

      I've been there a few times. Lovely place. Great atmosphere.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A fascinating place.

      Anybody in that neck of the woods shouldn't miss out on visiting Old Warden, a few miles up the road in Bedfordshire.

      When I first went I was expecting it would be rather dull, full of stuffed stringbags, but the reality is that it is alive, with many of the exhibits in flying condition and brought out on special occaisions, lots of detail on the engineering and the history. If you're there during the week you can see the guys restoring aircraft, but even at weekends the place reeks of fabric dope and engine oil. Compared to the sterile, odour free RAF museums at Cosford and Hendon, Old Warden shows what an aircraft museum should be,

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Multimedia in museums - olfaction overlooked.

        You're not wrong there.

    3. kraut

      Re: A fascinating place.

      Ditto - I must have gone to Willows Farm a million times when my sprog was younger..never even knew it was there!

    4. JCitizen
      Mushroom

      Re: A fascinating place.

      "And right on my doorstep, which causes me to wonder why I don't get round there more often!"

      Okay. How old are you? Was there human fat pools at that doorstep after the firestorms? Just wondering! My Dad had nightmares about that for the rest of his life! :/

  3. DJO Silver badge

    Bombs Away...

    A few years ago I met an elderly gent who flew Mosquitoes in WWII, he said he bombed the Phillips Factory in occupied Holland an act which gained my eternal gratitude, just a shame he didn't do a better job as Phillips are still in business.

  4. Chz

    Chipmunk

    De Havilland Canada was an entirely separate design entity post-war. Mainly of note because it out-lived its parent company and was arguably more successful in the post-war era. Bombardier still builds DHC-8s and another company bought the rights to the older aircraft and still builds DHC-6s to order.

    The Chipmunk is of note for having a low enough stall speed (roughly 40kts) to hover over people's back gardens in a moderate wind. Scares the crap out of them.

    1. Xamol

      Re: Chipmunk

      The Chipmunk was notable for flying backwards in higher winds. Particularly on final approach when they contacted ATC reporting a position further away than their last contact.

      1. Stacy

        Re: Chipmunk

        Ahh... A Chipmunk T.10 was the first plane I ever flew (OK I've only ever flown 4...). Great introduction to flying :)

        Memories... (and wishing that I could afford to actually get my license!)

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Chipmunk

      The Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight still keep a couple of Chippies around for training new pilots to land a tail dragger. I just missed out on flying one, ended up flying in Bulldogs instead, but some of the cadets a year older than me flew in Chipmonks a few times.

    3. Jay 2
      Happy

      Re: Chipmunk

      A small claim to fame for me is that my very first flight was in a Chipmunk and I was even allowed to briefly take control. Even better was the second (or third?) trip where some beginner aerobatics were attempted. I say attempted as my first loop ended in a stall, so I was told to try again. Happy days!

  5. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    A little gem

    I haven't been there for many years but it's nice to see little have changed. While it does not have the facilities of a Duxford or Cosford, the informality and lack of restrictions of enthusiast run collections are always a refreshing change.

    Definitely worth a visit

  6. Martin Winchester

    One small thing... The Horsa was an Airspeed design, not Handley Page... Airspeed were an interesting company, started in part by author Neville Shute, who were ultimately absorbed by DeHavilland. Interestingly Shute predicted the fatigue problems that would plague the early Comets in his novel 'No Highway'

    Its worth remembering though that large chunks of DeHavilland remain as parts of Airbus. The vast Airbus wing factory at Hawarden near Chester was for years a DeHavilland factory, as was Astrium in Stevenage.

    MW

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Neville Shute Norway worked for DeHavilland before he went off to join Vickers to help create R100, the successful private attempt at a British designed and built Airship. (unlike the R101, which was a government project).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My grandfather loathed the Horsa glider. He was a Para who parachuted into occupied Holland as part of Operation Market Garden (the attempt to takes the Rhine bridges at places like Arnhem). He jumped from a Dakota, and on getting to the ground he found that many of the Paras in the gliders had been crushed to death. This was a combination of piss-poor planning - the fields were ploughed at that time of the year, tipping the gliders up onto their nose - and the insistence on taking heavy equipment including things like jeeps in the back of the gliders. As the glider impacted the ground, or worse still tipped up, the equipment broke free to crush the troops up at the front.

      He never got to Arnhem, as the Germans and their Dutch allies knew they were coming to help the Paras already holding one side of the bridge. It was only a few years ago that the records were released showing that German counter-intelligence had compromised the Dutch resistance and had been monitoring the coded radio messages for months. He spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.

  7. Longrod_von_Hugendong

    I am down the Saaarf...

    Over christmas, so will try to pop in and have a look around - looks a great place to lose a few hours.

    1. Shrimpling

      Re: I am down the Saaarf...

      Good Luck with that...

      "The museum is open from the first Sunday of March to the last Sunday of October. "

      1. MrT

        Depends what you want to see...

        ...because Tony Agar's been reconstructing a Mosquito NFII for years at Yorkshire Air Museum, which is amongst an amazing collection.

        But then I'm a little bit biased in that respect since I was working on exhibits for YAM before it ever got going at Elvington, stripping Merlin XX's from JP165 for display/parts and picking mud from the rear fuselage section of HR792, both aircraft from 58 squadron, whilst YAM existed in the minds of Ian Robinson and Bobby Sage, but physically at a lockup at RAF Dishforth and a storage unit at Melmerby...

  8. Roger Greenwood

    DH.89 Dragon Rapide

    You can still take a spin in one of these at http://www.classicairforce.com/ (Cornwall UK)

    1. Tanuki
      Thumb Up

      Re: DH.89 Dragon Rapide

      And at IWM Duxford.

      Their one is rather fun - as well as them weighing all six(!) of the passengers before boarding (so they can trim the plane by human-ballast distribution) the pilot likes to fly back along the line of a local dual-carriageway and let the passengers watch the trucks driving faster than he's flying.

      1. Number6

        Re: DH.89 Dragon Rapide

        I've been on the Duxford Dragon Rapide. I was amused by the fact that the emergency exit was a circle of fabric in the roof. I got to fly a Tiger Moth that day, too, sitting in the front seat. Impressive descent rate sideslipping down over the M11 (which is the local dual-carriageway from Cambridge to Duxford) to the runway.

    2. Vic

      Re: DH.89 Dragon Rapide

      > You can still take a spin in one of these

      We had a flight in one at the Goodwood Revival meeting a few years back. Marvelous aircraft.

      My only complaint is that they wouldn't let me sit in the front seat... :-)

      Vic.

    3. itzman

      Re: DH.89 Dragon Rapide

      there are two that run out of Duxford as well.

      £60 a trip if memory serves.

  9. Triggerfish

    The Mossie

    Nice to read that.

    I always thought that as fantastic a plane as the spitfire its press always overshadowed the other planes of our WWII RAF.

    The mosquito was frankly an amazing plane Goering hated them* after they took a celebration speech of air during a daytime raid over Berlin on the radio transmitting tower, (I'm pretty sure after it was repaired the RAF promptly did the same thing again). I'll agree with the comment in the article it was arguably the best plane of WWII

    I have to add that I always thought we should tip our hat to the old hurricane as well for being such a workhorse and backbone of our defence in in the battle of Britain etc as well.

    *Quote from Goering after this happened. "In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that? There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I'm going to buy a British radio set - then at least I'll own something that has always worked."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Mossie

      You beat me to the Goering quote. (I have a sneaking sympathy for Goering, despite everything; he was about the only Nazi who wasn't totally unsympathetic, and he did know his aeroplanes).

      The Mosquito was the first stealth bomber, it was capable of extreme low level attack, and, as our teacher who had been a wing commander on Mosquitos commented "We knew we were extremely privileged because, unlike Lancaster crews, we expected to survive the War".

      An internal RAF assessment was that, per £ expended, a Mosquito was 5.8 times as militarily effective as a Lancaster. Quite honestly, if Goering deserved to hang, so did Harris, for sticking with a totally ineffective strategy that not only killed German civilians (who were mostly a drain on Germany's war resources) but killed an awful lot of intelligent young men who we really should not have lost. Precision bombing of oil targets by Mosquitos was far more effective.

      One final comment: I don't think the Germans could have built the Mosquito. The reason is simple; wooden construction requires a degree of craftsmanship, and the German reliance on slave labour that was simply worked to death would have made it very hard to achieve the necessary standards. The German belief in keeping women in the kitchen meant that we benefited from a very effective female labour force that was far more efficient than their slaves. We are very fortunate that in some ways Hitler was deeply stupid.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: The Mossie

        Ta for the comment, I never knew some of the stuff you made in your reply it's good to learn something new.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Mossie

        One final comment: I don't think the Germans could have built the Mosquito. The reason is simple; wooden construction requires a degree of craftsmanship, and the German reliance on slave labour that was simply worked to death would have made it very hard to achieve the necessary standards.

        Apart form rudimentary stuff, aircraft construction was not carried out by slave labour. The reason the Germans didn't build an aircraft quite like the Mosquito is that they tended to focus on technical excellence (Me 262, Arado jet bomber, Tiger tanks). The downsides to this were increased cost and lower production rates. The most senior people, Hitler included, never quite understood that it was simpler weapons that could be produced in greater numbers that were likely to tip the balance. Exceptions were the Panzerfaust, Panther tank and MG43/MP44, but in the case of the latter it took a long time to get approval for greater production of a weapon that front line troops already knew to be excellent.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: The Mossie and tech versus numbers

          There's a rather good book on the battle of Caen, (written by a English participant but who interviewed soldiers from both side and civilians caught in the middle*). Which reflects some of that it mentions that allied tactics against the Tigers was 3 Sherman/ Churchills v 1 Tiger and expect to lose 1 or 2 of the tanks before getting the kill.

          interestingly the book also has photos of tanks from both sides absolutely covered in furniture, boxes and other assorted stuff in a early effort to defeat shaped charge warheads.

          *And very sorry because i cant remember the author.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Mossie and tech versus numbers

            allied tactics against the Tigers was 3 Sherman/ Churchills v 1 Tiger and expect to lose 1 or 2 of the tanks before getting the kill

            Same was true of the Panther (although the Allies had a tendency to call all German medium and heavy tanks "Tigers"). This was down to the lack of armour and poor armament on the Sherman, the most numerous Allied tank in the West. The Sherman could only penetrate the side and rear armour on German tanks, and only at very close range. It also had a nasty habit of catching fire easily, and engine fires would engulf the crew compartment rapidly, hence the nicknames of Ronson (a brand of cigarette lighter) and Tommy cooker.

            Even ambushing them with anti-tank units wasn't effective on the ground, as the Allies lacked decent shaped charge weapons. The Brit's PIAT was their main infantry anti-tank weapon - it was inaccurate, lacked range and was a sod to reload. The US bazooka didn't have much penetrating power, but was a bit better. The best way to counter the German tanks was for fighter bombers to catch them out in the open, which was highly effective thanks to overwhelming air superiority.

            1. Brian Morrison

              Re: The Mossie and tech versus numbers

              The Sherman's propensity to brew up was actually not due to its gasoline fuel (diesel oil also burns very well when atomised) but in fact was because the gun ammunition stowage was too close to the more vulnerable sides of the tank where a hit would transfer energy into the shells. Once that propellant is ignited inside the turret it's game over.

        2. Heathroi

          Re: The Mossie

          Amazingly and fortunately, navigating the Nazi military/industrial complex was infinitely worse than the Western Allies's version.

        3. R Callan
          Headmaster

          Re: The Mossie

          I think you would find that they tries and failed. The Focke/wulfe TA 154 Moskito fits the bill exactly, down to the purloining of the name.

      3. jason 7
        Facepalm

        Re: The Mossie

        I always felt that bomber command should have removed all the guns and turrets from the heavy bombers. Their effectiveness was questionable.

        It would have reduced the weight, made them more aerodynamic, faster and if a plane went down you'd have lost half as many men.

        1. Number6

          Re: The Mossie

          The B17 was heavily armoured because it had to fight its way through in broad daylight against the massed ranks of the German fighter squadrons. The Lancaster was intended as a night bomber, so it had a lot less armour. Probably not all squadrons, but 617 was flying without a mid-upper turret and then with only the tail gunner as they took out the front guns too, because they needed to reduce the weight to get the 6- and 10-ton bombs a decent distance.

          You also need to consider the psychology of giving the aircraft a means to shoot back. Even if it was mostly useless, it probably made the crews feel marginally better.

      4. J__M__M

        Re: The Mossie

        "I have a sneaking sympathy for Goering, despite everything; he was about the only Nazi who wasn't totally unsympathetic, and he did know his aeroplanes"

        Goering? Sympathetic? To whom? The dude's top priority besides his regular morphine fix was looting and plundering on a continental scale.

        Rommel, maybe. Hermann Goering, no way in hell.

    2. Captain Mainwaring

      Re: The Mossie

      My Grandfather worked at the De Havilland factory during the war, working as an armourer on the Mosquito. He often said that the Mosquito's greatest asset was it's wooden airframe that gave it lightness and subsequent speed advantage over all metal designs. Bizarrely, the wooden airframe could also take more punishment from enemy fire than stressed all metal aircraft and could still fly on with many bullet holes in it's fuselage without catastrophic break up.

      As an interesting footnote, many Mosquitos became completely unserviceable after the war due to rotting of the wooden fuselage. Still, they survived just long enough to wreak havoc on Goering and Co!

      1. Roger Greenwood

        Re: The Mossie

        Anyone feeling flush can bung these guys a few quid to get one flying again in UK:-

        http://peoplesmosquito.wordpress.com/

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: The Mossie

          There is another point though; Strategy. The British strategy for WW2 was basically the same as WW1 and the Napoleonic Wars. Blockade the enemy and starve them of strategic materials from abroad.

          Germany was constantly on the brink of running out of petrol, as they only had a small supply of synthetic fuel and what they could buy from other people. Invading Russia was meant to resolve this by capturing the Russian oil fields; they got the fields but the plants were totally wrecked by the soviets when withdrawing and the Germans didn't get one drop of oil out by the end of the war.

          From the German point of view, building a vast army of cheap tanks would have been stupid because they would have ran out of fuel faster than they eventually did anyway. Note that several of German projects in 1944 when fuel shortages started to bite were rocket powered.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Mossie

            There is another point though; Strategy. The British strategy for WW2 was basically the same as WW1 and the Napoleonic Wars. Blockade the enemy and starve them of strategic materials from abroad.

            Germany effectively ran out of materials, but this was more down to loss of territory than blockade. Iron ore was in plentiful supply from Sweden, many other mined materials from Poland and elsewhere, while oil was mainly from Romanian oil fields. There was an aborted British-French plan to occupy Sweden under the pretext of assisting Finland against the Soviet Union (at the time aligned with Germany after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) during the Winter War but that stalled when the Finn's capitulated. The plan was still under consideration, before finally being shelved after the German occupation of Norway.

            Germany was constantly on the brink of running out of petrol, as they only had a small supply of synthetic fuel and what they could buy from other people. Invading Russia was meant to resolve this by capturing the Russian oil fields; they got the fields but the plants were totally wrecked by the soviets when withdrawing and the Germans didn't get one drop of oil out by the end of the war.

            They got a fair bit of oil out of Azerbaijan, but as I mention above that ended with the Soviet advances.

            From the German point of view, building a vast army of cheap tanks would have been stupid because they would have ran out of fuel faster than they eventually did anyway. Note that several of German projects in 1944 when fuel shortages started to bite were rocket powered.

            The problem started earlier, when fuel was still pretty plentiful. The German economy was not put on a real war time footing until 1944, as the Nazi regime hoped to keep morale high by not having too much austerity. Industrial output actually peaked in late 1944, despite the bombings, although it then rapidly declined. The problems of fuelling an increased number of tanks would have been offset at least partly since simpler models like the Panther and StuG that could have made a difference were more efficient than the massive and overly complex Tiger I and II.

            1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

              Re: The Mossie

              The Panther was a great tank. Probably WW2's best tank all around. But compared to a Sherman, it was pretty hard to build. Mind you, a Sherman was fairly weak compared to a Panther, but it had it's advantages.

              1. jason 7

                Re: The Mossie

                Regarding WW2 tanks, a German Tiger Tank commander said this about the Sherman.

                "The Tiger tank I controlled was worth four Sherman tanks. Unfortunately, the Americans always had five of them!"

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: The Mossie - @jason 7

                  Not much fun for the Sherman crews, though.

                  What seems to have mattered after D-day (and there is anecdotal evidence of this in Stuart Hills's book) was Allied air superiority. Once a Tiger had been detected, it was often possible to direct an air strike onto it. Hills wrote that one of his regiment's most skilled German tank killers used to stalk them on foot.

                  The biggest risk to Shermans was the Panzerfaust, probably in the hands of a fanatical 14 year old who had no understanding of what getting killed actually meant.

              2. Lapun Mankimasta

                Re: The Mossie

                "The Panther was a great tank. Probably WW2's best tank all around." I've always thought the T-34 was just as good.

          2. Heathroi

            Re: The Mossie

            the Germans did have bunch of cheap tanks at the start of the war mark 1 and 2 and even the 3s which were completely useless at the start of the war.

        2. J__M__M

          Re: The Mossie

          You might need to explain to some of us dumb yanks how to bung, because without a paypal link we're pretty much lost...

          "Anyone feeling flush can bung these guys a few quid to get one flying again in UK:-

          http://peoplesmosquito.wordpress.com/"

      2. Tim Jenkins

        Re: The Mossie

        "the Mosquito's greatest asset was it's wooden airframe that gave it lightness and subsequent speed advantage over all metal designs"

        Perhaps not so good in some other theatres though; my grandfather, who was a photographer with an RAF recon unit in Burma, had a lovely story about two Mossies arriving there, only to be eaten by the local insects before they could be suitably housed...

        1. Captain Mainwaring

          Re: The Mossie

          " Perhaps not so good in some other theatres though; my grandfather, who was a photographer with an RAF recon unit in Burma, had a lovely story about two Mossies arriving there, only to be eaten by the local insects before they could be suitably housed... "

          Perhaps they should have sprayed them with insect repellent upon first arrival!

          Just a thought...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: The Mossie

            "Perhaps they should have sprayed them with insect repellent upon first arrival!"

            ...or draped them with mosquito nets?

            Yes thanks, the one with the DDT can in the pocket.

        2. J__M__M

          Re: The Mossie

          Did he ever mention any buried Spits? Talk about a lovely story...

          " Perhaps not so good in some other theatres though; my grandfather, who was a photographer with an RAF recon unit in Burma, had a lovely story about two Mossies arriving there, only to be eaten by the local insects before they could be suitably housed... "

      3. Brian Morrison

        Re: The Mossie

        The early Mosquitos were glued together using casein glue, which is pretty much made by boiling up cattle remnants (hooves etc) after they've been butchered for meat. It's organic, and bacteria like it, and it absorbs water making a delicious meal for the little buggers.

        Later on the Mosquito was built using formaldehyde-based glue, it had none of the problems seen with casein glue and so allowed the aircraft to fly in the tropics without falling apart in a couple of months.

  10. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Great!

    That's another place I should take the kids to. The Mosquito has always been one of my favourite planes of all time. I had the privilege of seeing one fly near Bude some time around 1990. Awesome sight.. My other favourite was the Hurricane IID: A tank-buster variant which showed just how amazingly versatile and rugged the Hurricane was.

  11. Triggerfish

    And now for

    some music

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWXQUhBsUVM

    :)

    and don't lie, you know you want to make the flying goggles with your hands like you did when you were a kid.

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: And now for

      Bravo good sir and/or madam! One of my favorite WWII movies ever and featuring the best quote of any flying movie:

      Harry Andrews as the Air Marshall: "You can't kill a squadron!"

  12. bitmap animal

    Also worth visiting

    I've not got to this one yet, it's been on my list for some time.

    There are quite a few fantastic little aircraft museums dotted around.

    The Museum of Berkshire Aviation is well worth a visit, just SE of Reading. They have some really unusual stuff there and the staff are always up for a long geeky chat. Their website is http://home.comcast.net/~aero51/html/

    There is also one between Ashford and Rye which has a lot of WW2 bomb disposal kit in addition to the planes.

    Edited to add the link to the one near Rye - Romney Marsh Wartime Collection at Brenzett. When I was last there the guys were saying they are struggling to get volunteers as the older ones are dying off at a fair old rate. Well worth supporting them.

    http://www.brenzettaero.co.uk/Brenzett_Aeronautical_Museum_Trust/Home.html

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Also worth visiting

      The best is Duxford (IWM), great collection of aircraft.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Also worth visiting

      Must put a plug in here for the museums of the Sunderland Trust in Pembroke Dock. Tiny little things (there are two, separated by a short walk), but the volunteers are brilliant.

      http://www.sunderlandtrust.org.uk/

      Ok, Pembroke Dock is a bit out of the way for many but it's nice to know that there are people dedicated to preserving the memories of one of the lesser-remembered aircraft of WWII, and there are a couple of other tiny museums nearby:

      http://www.guntowermuseum.org.uk/

      My dad did National Service as an engine fitter at Pembroke Dock shortly after the war.

      During the war, of course, the Suderland was known as the "flying porcupine". Sort of the opposite of the Mosquito I suppose - it was a slow aircraft, but so well armed that the "other side" used to keep clear if possible.

      M.

  13. Phil the Geek

    Night Flyer by Lewis Brandon

    A good little book this...

    Before the war the author was an actor, but he ended up as a radar operator in night fighter Mosquitoes. They initially defended Britain from German bombers but later flew over Germany, preying on the German night fighters that were trying to attack British bombers. It's well-written and once I had started I couldn't put it down.

  14. nbc

    If you have an hour to spare

    Here's an interesting documentary:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0w9zfKP85c

    1. moylan
      Alien

      Re: If you have an hour to spare

      a very british documentary with no silly cgi or info pages beloved of american documentaries. and oodles of footage from attacks on targets. plus a demo of the rare mossie fitted with the automatic anti tank weapon designed to hunt down uboats. nice one.

    2. MrT

      Re: If you have an hour to spare

      Spot on - watching it now... and just seen a sidebar link to another hour on the TSR2... thanks!

  15. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Learn something new everyday

    So that wasnt an insect museum like I kept thinking going past :(

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. MJI Silver badge

    Interesting

    The Mosquito could carry a similar load as a B17 to Berlin.

    It was a superb aircraft.

    There used to be a flying one at Staverton years ago in the Skyfame museum.

    I have flown in a Comet when I was a few months old.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought the Queen Bee was intended to be a target tug, not the target itself - waste of a good airframe and engine otherwise.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      No, it was actually a target, it may also be the origin of the term 'Drone' for an unmanned aircraft, because it was a bee...

      Bear in mind at the time they probably cost less than a few few shells for a battle ship so the expense wasn't that great and they 'optionally manned' to use the current term so it's not as if you couldn't get some use out of them first.

  19. SiDe

    Great Museum!

    It's a great little museum. My dad took me there when I was little (we loved quite close so went a few times) and I was peering up the ladder of of Mossie prototype when one of the volunteers came up to me and said, "It's quiet, you can jump in and have a look if you want." Made my day! The de Havilland factory in Hatfield also gave birth to the Hatfield Polytechnic (now University of Hertfordshire) which still has a well respected engineering department. There is a statue outside dedicated to Geoffrey de Havilland. When the airfield at Hatfield closed (plunging the town of Hatfield into a decline it took ages to recover from) the university bought some of the land and opened a big campus there. The original hanger is now a sports club. You can play tennis where great airliners and fighters were once built which I think is kinda sad....

    (extra geek fact: Salisbury Hall was also home, for a short time, to Sir Nigel Gresley, designer of the Flying Scotsman and Mallard (fastest steam engine in the world).)

  20. paulc

    Hawker-Siddeley has an interesting history as well...

    n/t

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With which he taught himself to fly

    HTF do you teach yourself to fly? The man must have had balls as big as barrage balloons and needed them for a few bumpy landings.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: With which he taught himself to fly

      > HTF do you teach yourself to fly?

      Pfft. The flying bit's easy... it's the landing that is the tricky bit.

      1. Canocola

        Re: With which he taught himself to fly

        Landing is a piece of piss. Being able to take off a second time, well...

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: With which he taught himself to fly

      "HTF do you teach yourself to fly?"

      To be fair, considering the number of experienced pilots in the world at that time, I suspect there was a lack of instructors ;-)

  22. NedSeagoon

    Mossie Memories

    This is one of my favourite aircraft museums. In the 70's when I was in the Air Cadets, we were allowed to use the .22 shooting range at the Hawker Siddeley site in Hatfield. In the summer we were often treated to a display of 'circuits and bumps' by the only remaining flying Mossie at the time. The roar of those twin Merlins as it hauled the plane back off the runway is something I will never forget.

  23. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    Mosquitos in "Tintin": Good memories.

    Anyone remember the use of Mosquitos bought off a war scrap dealer by an unnamed sand kingdom to wipe out Tintin trundling through the desert on camelback?

    Luckily a miscommunication causes the Mosquito to attack the sand kingdom's armored battalion instead in a 1958 blue-on-blue incident, so our hero lives to see another day. Amazingly, no-one of the armor grunts seems to get killed either.

  24. BlartVersenwaldIII
    Pint

    High speed freighter

    Long-time lurker but registered just to post Yet Another Mosquito-Is-Awesome Anecdote from the family folklore folder.

    Back in WW2, my great grandfather manufactured baking yeast, and under the wartime pressures the centrifuges used to separate out the cultures were driven to within an inch of their lives.

    By about 1943, the centrifuges were shot and needed replacement. The problem was that the manufacturer was based in Sweden - at the time of course under Nazi occupation.

    So a clandestine meeting was set up between the secret services and the local Swedish resistance who found, not surprisingly, that the Swedes were perfectly happy to "lose" some centrifuges out of their inventory and flog them to us. The only major problem was, of course, logistics, since I don't think Amazon or City Link operated in wartime.

    Enter the de Havilland Mosquito. One night my great grandfather was bundled into one of these little beauties, an unarmed photo-recon model that had been kitted out for extreme speed at very high altitude and screamed across the North Sea to an airstrip run by Alfa Laval. Three new centrifuges were put into the "hold", such as it was, and an hour and a half later he was back on home soil. At the time, the luftwaffe had absolutely nothing that could have intercepted this beast other than by accident. I'm glad someone included the Goering quote above, since I was surprised it wasn't mentioned in the article.

    In a nice twist of irony, my grandfather (who was fluent in german and tasked with interviewing PoWs as he recovered from being shot and catching malaria in Sicily) was taught how to make beer from a luftwaffe pilot (who was also the son of a yeast brewer) from Munich and spent the rest of his working life making beer in both the UK and Germany. I was brought up on Hefeweizen so imagine my shock when I went in to a pub as a wee nipper and tried my first pint of fosters...

    *raises glass*

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: High speed fre ighter

      "Sweden - at the time of course under Nazi occupation" Sweden was never occupied by the Nazi. They probably had plans for that too, but as they got the iron ore they needed, that effort was unnecessary. Having occupied Denmark and Norway they where able to close the Baltic and they got a longer coast to the Atlantic. Sometimes I think is rather funny how historians try to find logic in the WWII. Hitler was a madman after all, did he actually believe he could "run" all the occupied countries for any length of time. An other "funny" thing is that wars are mostly started by some prick at the top and not by the people, not much has changed there.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. silent_count
    Pint

    Nothing useful to add

    But thanks for the article and all of the comments. Fascinating all round.

  26. mjones52

    With no slight to the writers this is one of the few sites I know where one might learn more from the comments than from the article - a great added value.

    My thanks to both the writer, the commenters, and the museum makers for helping to preserve the truth beyond nostalgia of the many contributions - the designers and their many craft that both pioneered the field and bore the operational brunt of the war.

    Looking back it's easy to see the Spit, P51, B17, while eliding the Mosquito, Hurricane, Lancaster, B-24, for example. It ought not be a popularity contest but a balanced appraisal of how it all fit together. The popular histories that make it into schoolbooks focus on the easy sexy, ignoring the realities, glossing the facts, doing disservice to all.

    This museum and the others help keep the balance, as do those who pass on the memories. Thanks.

    1. Number6

      I have a picture of my son stood in front of the Memorial Flight Hurricane at Coningsby, we were given the chance to wander where tour groups normally don't go. The guide who took us there pointed out that there are quite a lot of airworthy Spitfires around, but only a dozen Hurricanes, so it was the better picture to have.

    2. Lapun Mankimasta

      "Looking back it's easy to see the Spit, P51, B17, while eliding the Mosquito, Hurricane, Lancaster, B-24, for example."

      And then there's the brilliant Soviet aircraft, the Yak 3 and Yak 9, the Lavochkin La 5, the Ilyushin Il 2 (Shturmovik), the Tupolev Tu 2, the Petlyakov Pe 2, etc. The Tu 2 and Pe 2, both medium bombers, had the reputation that they could turn with fighters, and with fixed guns fired by the pilot, could make kills like a fighter.

  27. Cody

    Not the whole story about DH

    Its not the whole story. DH was a brilliant engineering company in many ways and had many great successes. But its arrogance led to some catastrophic design decisions. It was a DH aircraft that broke up over an air show. The Sea Vixen broke up in the air over Farnborough killing more than 50 people and needed extensive redesign. The Comet disaster, where sloppy design led to a series of in air breakups of passenger aircraft, had a large part in the collapse of the British aircraft industry. Yes, the Mosquito was brilliant. But the problem with DH in the later years as design became more critical and there was less room for error was that they could not be trusted. They got critical details catastrophically wrong.

    There is a book by the daughter of a pilot killed flying one of the carrier versions of the Venom or Vixen. Another design flaw - they were very very dangerous to land on deck. No, they deserved to go out of business. And of course the ultimate personal tragedy of this kind of thing was the death of the son, flying some prototype that had not been properly thought through.

    Don't glamorize them.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Not the whole story about DH

      'Another design flaw - they were very very dangerous to land on deck'

      No more than any other carrier aircraft of the time to be honest and some of the US ones were worse*. The bigger problem with the Vixen was getting out of it in an emergency, the Observers ejector seat had a tendency to get stuck which lead to quite a high fatality rate even where there was plenty of time to sort things out. It was improved with the later hatch which you could eject through rather than having to jettison, certainly worked for my old man.

      It's also worth bearing in mind that the prototype Vixen that crashed at Farnborough was pushing the limits of what was possible at the time and the stresses on the airframe weren't fully understood by anyone. Mind you I still don't get putting square windows in the Comet.

      *There seemed to be a much greater tolerance for fatalities in the '60s, most probably due to a number of personnel having served in the war and being slightly inured to it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not the whole story about DH

      Not trying to justify the engineering mistake made with the (1950s) Comet, but I seem to remember in a recent documentary that the other manufacturers (Boeing et al) reckoned that they may well have made the same mistake (square windows causing metal fatigue weak points on the structure) if DH hadn't made it first.

      The engine intakes, meanwhile, look astonishingly modern for something introduced in the early 1950s:-

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:De_Havilland_Comet_pic_1_REJS.jpg

      Those curves and that almost moulded shape look more like something designed in the CAD-era 90s or later than something that came out almost 20 years *before* Boeing's less elegant looking 747 with the "bolted on" look:-

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ba_b747-400_g-bnle_arp.jpg

      Whole thing still looked quite modern, if not futuristic (not "retro futuristic" but *actually* modern looking) when they showed you vintage footage of it flying in a silver finish.

  28. Faux Science Slayer

    Great article & comments....LOVE the Mosquito....unmentioned facts....the plywood was wet shaped on

    poured concrète molds in half sections, then screwed together....being wooden it was invisible to the German radar.

    Depressing facts about WW II is that it was stage set by bankers and prolonged to the max. The Italian Army captured Mussolini on July 25, 1943 and offered 900,000 Italian troops in Italy and over a million under German command in Russia and the Balkans to switch sides, snubbed by allies. General Patton was benched during the cannon fodder Normandy bloodbaths, but returned in July 1944, quickly surrounded 250,000 Germans in western France and was ORDERED to allow them to escape through the Falaise Gap. This and other intentional blunders caused the American OSS to assassinate our best general, see "Target Patton" by Robert Wilcox and "Overthrowing the Kit and Kaboodle" at the FauxScienceSlayer site.

    Another great aviation read is "Tex Hill, Flying Tiger" on the AVG P-38 fights against superior aircraft and numbers in China. Ace Hill also documents the Dulles State Department with massive supplies to Mao to defeat the free Chinese and abandonment of allied soldiers in Japanese POW camps in North China. History repeats itself because the powerful set the same stage, using the same script, see "All Wars Are Bankers Wars" on youtube. Demand a Modern Magna Carta and an end to feudalism.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      I understand that the wood may have been invisible to radar, but what about the engines, they seem to be mostly lumps of metal with lots of lovely corner reflectors to return a signal. Not to mention the various other metal fittings inside the beast.

      As for being offered Italian troops, I shall refer you to an Admiralty report on the Italian Navy prior to WW1 which essentially said, 'in the event of war we'd rather the Italian Navy was on our side, but on the whole it doesn't really matter'.

  29. itzman

    Great British aircraft of WWII

    Hurricane, for being there in enough numbers and being just good enough

    Spitfire, for not being actually there in enough numbers, but being an icon

    Tempest, for finally showing what an oversized hurricane with a thwacking great engine could do

    Lancaster, for finally showing what a bomber could be

    Mosquito, for extending the 'DH comet' principle to be as wartime legend

    Beaufighter, for being just enough of the right aircraft to do the job it was needed to do.

    Swordfish, for being just enough of an aircraft even though years out of date, to get one or two vital jobs done.

    Lysander, for being a unique response to a unique problem, and making the grade.

  30. dayglo
    Thumb Up

    DH Site

    I used to work on the site of the old DeHavilland factory at Burnt Oak. It was mainly taken over by BT International until the mid 80's , and there were two halves to the site: Mollison Unit and DeHavilland Unit. At the time I was an apprentice, they also had an on-site works bar, "The Amy Johnson Bar". The road down the side, Mollison Way was the original landing strip.

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