Introduction- Journal 43 – Mosquito Aircrew
The archival material of the Mosquito Aircrew Association (MAA), founded in 1991 by Eric Atkins DFC, was transferred to the care of the Centre with a handover ceremony at the Mosquito Aircraft Museum, London, in August 2000.
The Mossie, the MAA magazine, first published in March 1992, was the catalyst for the establishment of the MAA archive. Many of the men who flew and serviced the Mosquito had the desire to record their experiences and, most importantly, remember and honour those who did not return. Their donation of large quantities of letters, articles, flying logbook summaries and photographs created an archive of great historic value. A part of our preservation strategy, every issue of The Mossie and other content is being digitised, thanks to the efforts of our ‘Mossie boys’ Ian Fleming and Chris Makin.
In this issue of Everyone’s War we pay tribute to all those who served on Mosquito units by republishing some of the articles which appeared in The Mossie.
We begin with an account of the Amiens Prison raid (Operation Jericho) by Mosquitoes of 140 Wing of RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force (2 TAF), written by the editor of The Aussie Mossie, bulletin of The Mosquito Aircraft Association of Australia.
Australian Max Howland is the author of the next article, “Escaping the Ordinary”. Posted to a photo reconnaissance unit (PRU), Max describes his role flying Mark XVI high altitude Mosquitoes in India on mapping surveys and reconnaissance duties.
Another PRU article tells of the remarkable feat of airmanship after Mosquito A52-2 developed engine trouble during a photo reconnaissance run over East Java. Kenneth Ford Boss-Walker and his navigator completed a 1,000-mile trip over open water to the nearest Australian landfall on the starboard engine only. Complications included a single engine landing after a long, traumatic flight of ten hours and twenty-five minutes.
Navigator Marvin Edwards, 856 Bomb Squadron, 492 Bombardment Group, flew clandestine Carpetbagger and Red stocking missions. For the latter, Mark VIII and IX Mosquitoes were adapted for the revolutionary, newly developed transmitter/receiver equipment named Joan and Eleanor, used to contact agents of the Office of Strategic Services on the ground in enemy territory.
In “Getting Away with It,” another navigator, Joseph Townshend of 540 PRU Squadron, gives a humorous account of his misadventures, which includes accidentally switching off his own oxygen supply while at high altitude, as verified by his pilot (and life-long close friend) Hubert Powell.
Night fighter operations
In “Leap to Danger”, R. Bailey writes an account of the loss of his Mosquito aircraft during an offensive night fighter operation over the Netherlands. Finding himself in enemy territory, he went on the run for nearly three months with the help of local Resistance until betrayed and captured by the Gestapo.
Night fighter operations are mentioned again with John Haddon’s recollections of 604 (Auxiliary) Squadron, 2TAF, who tells of how he shot down two enemy aircraft in one night over north- western France.
Forced landings are the subject of “Meiktila Crash” and “An Unusual Accident”. Ronald Wambeek of 82 Squadron tells of his emergency landing behind enemy lines on a satellite airstrip near Meiktila airfield in central Burma. Mosquito K-King, piloted by Philip Back with Navigator Derek Smith, set off for a raid on Berlin. Flying home on a single engine in a snowstorm, the airmen attempted a steep approach, forced landing in Suffolk.
Lastly, we have Reg Davey, on a ‘Cook’s Tour’ to view the bombing damage of Berlin, who flew home on a single, failing engine. His article “Half an Engine Home” is a reminder of the emotion aircrew experienced when imminent disaster loomed.
Different war experiences
Other articles in this issue of the journal cover a wide range of experiences which include that of Mintauts Blosfelds who lived through both the Russian and German occupations of Latvia, and John Chillag who was a victim of the German policy of exterminating Hungary’s Jewish population.
Army Chaplain Nathaniel Nye tells an inspiring story of how one man’s faith was inherent to his survival. As a POW escapee, he walked for two months until he succeeded in passing through the enemy front line to re-join the Allies.
We also have the wartime experiences of two children from our Home Front archive: the memoir of a young boy who lived through the bombing of Liverpool, and an interview with a child survivor of one of the war’s worst maritime disasters, the sinking of the children’s evacuee ship City of Benares.