Although it had originally been developed as a fast unarmed bomber, the de Havilland Mosquito saw relatively limited use as a simple bomber (the majority of Mosquito bomber squadrons served with the Pathfinders late in the war). Only two squadrons Nos. 105 and 139 used the B Mk IV and its successors outside the Pathfinders.
No. 105 was the first bomber squadron to receive the Mosquito, replacing its Blenheims. Their first sight of the new aircraft came on 15 November 1941, when Geoffrey de Havilland Jr, flew Mosquito W4064 to their base, and gave them a demonstration of the abilities of the new aircraft. Needless to say, the Blenheim crews were suitably impressed by their new aircraft, with the exception of the Blenheim’s air gunners, who no longer had a role.
Deliveries began on 17 November 1941, but production of the B Mk IV was slow, and the squadron didn’t fly its first mission with the Mosquito until May 1942. Its first operations came in the aftermath of the first 1,000 bomber raid, against Cologne on 30/31 May 1942. On 31 May four Mosquitoes from No. 105 Squadron dashed over the city, dropped bombs, took photos and returned to Britain. The next day two more daylight raids were launched over Cologne, with the intention of wearing down civilian morale with constant air raids.
This would be the early pattern for No. 105 squadron. Similar raids were launched after the second and third 1,000 bomber raids. For the next few months the Mosquito was used to launch a series of daylight raids against German. While the bombs carried by such a small number of aircraft could never do any serious damage, it was hoped that the appearance of the Mosquitoes over German cities would trigger air raid sirens, disrupting production.
The second Mosquito bomber squadron, No. 139, was formed on 8 June 1942, initially with Blenheims. While it waited to receive its own Mosquitoes (which arrived in September), the new squadron had to borrow aircraft from No. 105.
No 105 soon discovered that the Mosquito B Mk IV was just faster than the Fw 190 at sea level, and just slower at altitude. The basic principle behind the Mosquito, of safety through speed, was proved to be valid – the German fighters would have to be very lucky to intercept an aircraft that could match their speed.
As more experience was gained with the Mosquito the squadrons improved their tactics. In August 1942 Wing Commander Hughie I Edwards, VC, took command of No. 105 Squadron. He decided to switch from high level raids to low level raids, timed to reach their targets twenty minutes before dark. This would allow the bombs to be dropped in daylight, and the Mosquitoes to escape in the dark. Using this system No. 105 squadron didn’t loose any aircraft to enemy fighters. Light flak remained dangerous, although a low fast aircraft was exposed to each anti-aircraft gun for less time.
The two Mosquito bomber squadrons soon established the aircraft’s reputation for spectacular raids. The first of them was a pinpoint raid on 26 September 1942 against the Gestapo Headquarters in Oslo. Although the raid failed to damage the Gestapo building, it did prove that the aircraft could hit pinpoint targets in occupied Europe.
Both squadrons were involved in an audacious pair of raids against Berlin on 30 January 1943. On that day both Göring and Goebbels were known to be giving big speeches. At precisely 11.00am, Mosquitoes of No. 105 Squadron arrived over Berlin exactly on time to disrupt Göring’s speech. Later that day, No. 139 Squadron repeated the trick for Goebbels. These were great propaganda raids – they might not have done any damage to German industry, but they were a severe embarrassment for the German leadership.
20 April 1943 was Hitler’s 54th birthday. Bomber Command decided that they had to mark the occasion with a raid on Berlin, and it was decided that the Mosquito was the right aircraft for the job. Accordingly, No. 105 Squadron was dispatched to the German capital, successfully reaching the city for the loss of only one aircraft.
Although this raid had originally been seen as a one off event, the obvious ability of the Mosquito on any night to reach Berlin impressed “Bomber” Harris. In May 1943, both No. 105 and 139 Squadrons were transferred to No. 8 (Pathfinders) Group, where they would form part of the Light Night Striking Force, combining path finder duties with bombing raids across Germany.
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