Somewhat ironically the Mosquito FB VI fighter bomber saw most of its early service with Intruder squadrons of Fighter Command. It was only after the formation of the 2nd Tactical Air Force on 1 June 1943 that bomber squadrons began to receive the Mosquito fighter bomber. Here we will concentrate on the six squadrons of Mosquitoes that performed daylight raids with the 2nd Tactical Air Force.
The 2nd TAF inherited No 2 Group’s Boston, Ventura and Mitchell squadrons. The Ventura, which equipped Nos. 21, 464 (RAAF) and 487 (RNZAF) squadrons, was clearly obsolete by 1943, and so the first priority was to re-equip those units with the Mosquito. Between August and September 1943, all three squadrons were converted to the Mosquito FB Mk VI, forming No 140 Wing. A second Mosquito wing, No. 138, was formed over the winter of 1943-44 as Nos. 613 (October 1943 from the Mustang), 305 (December 1943 from the Mitchell) and 107 Squadrons (February 1944 from the Boston) converted to the aircraft.
The squadrons of No. 140 Wing gained their first operational experience with the Mosquito on 3 October 1943, when they took part in a raid against transformer stations in France. This was part of the prolonged campaign against targets that would help the upcoming invasion of Europe.
Both wings were involved in the campaign against the V-1 launch sites in the Pas de Calais early in 1944. The Mosquito was the ideal aircraft to attack these small targets, needed only a quarter of the explosives required by any other aircraft to destroy each site.
These squadrons were involved in two of the most famous of all Mosquito raids, pinpoint attacks on Amiens Prison and on the Gestapo records in The Hague. Amiens Prison contained over 700 French prisoners, many from the resistance. When it was discovered that the Germans were planning to execute a number of the prisoners, Nos. 487 and 464 Squadrons were sent to knock down the walls of the prison, and give the prisoners a chance to escape. This required some of the most precise bombing ever attempted, but the Mosquito crews were up to the task. On 18 February 1944 the walls of the prison were duly destroyed, and 255 prisoners escaped, of whom 73 remained at liberty. 37 prisoners were killed, many while trying to escape. Only one Mosquito was lost.
The second raid hit the Kunstzaal Kleizkamp Art Gallery in The Hague. This building was being used by the Gestapo to store the Dutch Central Population Registry. Destruction of these records would be a great help to the Dutch resistance. Accordingly, on 11 April 1944 No 613 Squadron was sent to attack the Gallery. Once again, the required building was hit, and most of the records destroyed.
These were only the most famous of many low level daylight attacks on specific buildings. Many of these raids hit buildings being used as barracks by the Germans.
While many of these squadron’s raids took place during the day, in the immediate aftermath of the D-Day invasions they also mounted many night time sorties in direct support of the fighting in France. Allied control of the air forced the Germans to move their troops at night, so the Mosquito squadrons were used to patrol behind the German front line, attacking troop movements and transport links, and generally disrupting German movements.
As the Allies advanced towards Germany, the two Mosquito wings relocated to France. No. 138 Wing was first, arriving at bases near Cambrai in November 1944. No. 140 Wing followed by February 1945, moving to Rosiäres-en-Santerre. This reduced the distances they needed to travel to reach their targets. The war was now moving into Germany. Nos. 138 and 140 Wings were heavily involved in attacks on the German transport system. Daylight operations tailed off after Operation Clarion, a concerted attack by over 9,000 allied aircraft designed to destroy what was left of that transport system. After the war these attacks on the transport system were credited with causing the virtual collapse of the German war economy in the last months of the war.
One unusual use of the fighter-bomber Mosquito was as a pathfinder aircraft outside the Pathfinders group. Leonard Cheshire, the commander of No. 617 Squadron, did not feel that the Pathfinders were accurate enough for the high precision raids that his unit performed. At first Cheshire used his Lancaster to drop flairs (almost turning the four engined heavy bomber into a dive bomber!), but in April 1944 he was given a Mosquito. He was so successful with this aircraft that No. 617 Sqn was given four more Mosquitoes, and formed a Pathfinder flight within the Squadron. These aircraft were then used to mark targets for No. 5 Group. The low level marking system allowed Bomber Command to hit Munich successfully for the first time on 24/25 April 1944.
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