The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito is a multi-role aircraft designed by the de Havilland Aircraft Company in the late 1930’s. The Mosquito is remarkable in many ways, not least of which is its all wooden frameless monocoque construction, which resulted in a very light, fast aircraft while sparing strategic materials such as aluminium, a significant advantage for an aircraft produced in wartime Britain.
The Mosquito’s speed and maneuverability are the stuff of legend, and its success in target marking with the RAF Bomber Command’s Pathfinder Force, as well as its use in famous raids such as the low-level attack on Amiens Prison known as Operation Jericho have assured its place in the history books.
Over 7700 Mosquito were built with production spread between a number of factories in the UK (including furniture manufacturers – another advantage of the wooden construction), as well as in Australia and Canada. Variants included bombers, fighter-bombers, night-fighters, trainers and photo-reconnaissance aircraft.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force operated two squadrons of Mosquitos in Europe during the later stages of the Second World War. 487 Squadron flew the Mark VI fighter bomber version and 488 Squadron the Mark XII, XIII and XXX Night Fighters. RNZAF crews took part in many notable actions such as the famous Operation Jericho raid to free members of the French resistance held by the German Gestapo at the Amiens Prison.
In 1947, back in New Zealand the RNZAF took delivery of 85 Mosquitos (76 Mark VI fighter bombers from the United Kingdom and four Mark III trainers, four Mark 43 trainers & a lone Mark 40 fighter bomber from Australia). Only 22 of these aircraft were eventually used (serving with 14 & 75 Squadrons), with the remainder placed in storage. The type had a relatively short service life with the RNZAF, being superseded by the de Havilland Vampire fighter in 1952. Most of the RNZAF Mosquitos were scrapped, however remains of a handful of aircraft and a single intact example have survived to the present day.
The Ferrymead Aeronautical Society holds the remains of two airframes, which will be combined to complete a single aircraft to static display standard. – one of only about 30 surviving worldwide.
HR339 was built by the Standard Motor Company at Coventry in the UK in mid-1944 and was allocated to 487 Squadron RNZAF on the 23rd of November that year with the squadron code letters EG-J. She was flown on 30 combat operations between December 1944 and May 1945, first from Thorney Island in West Sussex, UK and later from Rosières-en-Santerre in northern France.
On 22 February 1945 her regular crew of Flight Lieutenant R.J. “Jack” Dempsey (a New Zealander from Goodwood, near Palmerston) and Australian Flight Sergeant E.J. “Ted” Paige (RAAF) flew HR339 on Operation Clarion, an attack on communications and transport targets across Germany. While attacking a stationary train near Bremervorde they were hit by light flak, with one shell passing through the nose before exploding, showering the starboard radiator and propeller with splinters and a second blowing a two-foot square hole in the starboard tailplane. The starboard engine soon had to be shut down but Dempsey and Paige were able to limp HR339 back to Rosières-en-Santerre. They were very fortunate – 487 Squadron lost 5 other aircraft that day. After a month and extensive repairs HR339 was back flying with 487 Squadron and saw out the remainder of the war wearing the squadron code EG-H.
Following the end of the war and the disbanding of 487 Squadron HR339 was returned to the UK and overhauled by Marshall of Cambridge before being placed in storage at RAF Hullavington. In late 1947 HR339 was sold to the RNZAF (she was allocated, but never marked with, the serial number NZ2382) and flown to RAF Pershore from where she left the UK for the last time on 14 October 1947, flown by Flight Lieutenant F. J. Adams and Flying Officer M. J. Fry.
The normal ferry route for the 76 Mosquitos acquired from the UK was via Bordeaux, Malta, El Adem, Fayid, Shaibah, Bahrein, Karachi, Butterworth, Singapore, Surabaya, Darwin, Townsville and Sydney. HR339 was delayed enroute at Malta for an engine change and was flown onwards by Flight Lieutenant Bailey and Warrant Officer R.M. Cattermole, arriving at Ohakea on 24 March 1948.
The majority of the Mosquitos that arrived in NZ (3 were lost in transit) were immediately placed in storage on arrival, and HR339 was being ferried to storage at RNZAF Taieri near Dunedin when she was involved in a taxying accident at RNZAF Wigram in Christchurch and was written off. She was probably stripped of parts and in 1952 was sold to Banks Peninsula farmer Mr Bruce Goodwin, who cut HR339 into pieces small enough to fit on his small truck and transported her back to his farm at Pigeon Bay.
In 1972 the remains of HR339 were identified at Pigeon Bay by members of the Aviation Historical Society of NZ and were retrieved by volunteers of the nascent Ferrymead Aeronautical Society. The remains comprised the wing (sawn into four pieces), undercarriage and fairings, engine cowlings, fin and rudder and the aft 10 feet of the fuselage.
HR339 is the last surviving aircraft operated by 487 Squadron RNZAF and the only surviving Mosquito flown by an RNZAF Squadron during the Second World War, and as such it is fitting that the completed restoration will bear the markings of HR339 at the date of Operation Clarion.
The restoration will use the fuselage of NZ2328 (RAF serial TE758), which was built by the Standard Motor Company at Coventry in the UK in mid-1945. Never allocated to an RAF Squadron, the aircraft was stored at RAF St Athan until sold to the RNZAF in early-1947. She was then flown out to New Zealand by Flight Lieutenant White and Warrant Officer H.G. Rennie, probably following a similar route to HR339 above. She arrived at RNZAF Ohakea on March 28 1947 and was brought into service with 75 Squadron (wearing the squadron codes YC-C) where she was the usual mount of the Commanding Officer.
NZ2328’s service was not without incident – on 21 November 1950 she was nearly lost when one of the port landing gear doors failed in flight – but she continued flying up until the type’s retirement in 1952.
Following a short period of storage at RNZAF Woodbourne NZ2328 was one of 19 Mosquitos sold in May 1953 to Aircraft Supplies Ltd. This concern attempted to export a number of aircraft out of New Zealand (the first, PZ474/NZ2384/ZK-BCV made it as far as the US), which quickly drew the ire of the NZ government. The aircraft that remained at Woodbourne were re-tendered and NZ2328 was eventually acquired by Mr Jas Clarke of Oamaru.
The wings of the aircraft were sawn off and burnt, and the fuselage was towed behind a tractor from Woodbourne to Mr Clark’s farm at Maheno (a distance of 570km). The fuselage of NZ2328 then lay under a hedge on the Clarke property until 1972, when it was acquired by the Ferrymead Aeronautical Society along with the fin, rudder and propellors, all of which was moved to Christchurch and eventually to Ferrymead Heritage Park.
In the 1970s a pair of Rolls Royce Merlin XXV engines were acquired from Highcliffe Motors of Dunedin, where they had been intended for use in a powerboat, and in the early 2000s a new-built tailplane was obtained from Mr Glyn Powell, who has constructed the wooden components for a number of Mosquitos and been largely responsible for the resurrection of the type as an airworthy aircraft.
In 2006 the project was moved from storage in the Society’s main workshop to a purpose-built workshop nearby, where restoration could properly get underway.
The restoration is lead by former RN Fleet Air Arm engineer and craftsman cabinet-maker Dag Guest. Restoration of the badly weather-damaged fuselage is largely complete aft of the wings, and the empennage is also substantially complete. The current focus of the restoration is the cockpit area as well as detail work on internal components. The project enjoys cooperation with a number of other Mosquito restorations around the world, especially the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at London Colney and the team under Tony Agar working on the restoration of Mosquito NF.II HJ711 at East Kirkby.
Restoration of HR339 is ongoing. Any donations of money or parts to help complete this project would be gratefully received. Please contact the Society via the contact page if you can help.