There can be little doubt that de Havilland’s famous Mosquito was the Allies’ most versatile, multi-role combat aircraft of World War Two. Constructed mainly of lightweight plywood and balsa, and affectionately nicknamed ‘The Wooden Wonder’, each Mosquito was powered by two mighty liquid-cooled Rolls-Royce Merlins – the legendary 12-cylinder engine used for the Spitfire, the Hurricane and the Lancaster bombers. Those Merlins made the Mosquito one of the fastest piston-engine aircraft of the war, able to roam almost at will over enemy-occupied territory.
Able to carry practically every available weapon in the RAF’s arsenal, Mosquitos operated in numerous roles from fighter-bomber to pathfinder, intruder, photo-reconnaissance, night-fighter, torpedo bomber, anti-shipping and, thanks to the high-performance of those two Merlin engines, a deadly low-level precision strike aircraft famed for audacious attacks such as Operation Jericho on 18 February 1944 when a force of Mosquitos, including those of 464 Squadron RAAF, attacked and breached the walls of Amiens prison. Or the daylight precision raid carried out by the Mosquitos of 105 and 139 Squadrons on 30 January 1943 when they attacked Berlin’s main broadcasting station in a daring low- level strike just as Herman Goering was speaking on the 10th anniversary of Hitler becoming Chancellor of Germany. Not only was Goering’s speech cut off air in mid-sentence but a second sortie that afternoon interrupted a similar address by Goebbels.
Needless to say, Mosquito crews needed nerves of steel!The Valiant Return
portrays 105 Squadron, its title inspired by the squadron’s motto ‘Valiant in Battles’. In June 1943 they were selected to join Bomber Command’s recently-formed No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group with their Mosquitos equipped with Oboe, the new radar-assisted system that facilitated highly-accurate blind bombing of enemy targets. This was the system that Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett, founder and wartime commander of the Pathfinders, considered to be ‘probably the most effective single instrument of warfare in our entire armory’. In a heart-warming scene set over a beautiful English countryside, Anthony portrays the squadron’s Mosquitos making a safe return to their home base at RAF Bourn during the summer of 1943.
This print is available as a portfolio pair with Raiding the Reich
by Anthony Saunders.