My first job after year twelve was in a large Lawyer’s firm in Collins Street, Melbourne. There were two of the originating partners still alive and the one I knew was Mr Cook. Mr Cook had his right index finger missing and one day he noticed me looking at it and decided to tell me what had happened. Cookie had been a Pathfinder pilot during the War. He flew an unarmed and unarmoured plywood Mosquito over Europe. His job was to fly at great speed into the full horror of war, drop marking flares onto the target and then get the hell out of the way as the bombers flew over to destroy Hitler’s war machine. One night a German Messerschmitt got a bit cross with him and fired his machine-guns. Only one bullet hit the Mosquito passing through the cockpit and blowing the top off the plane’s joystick and Mr Cook’s right index finger. So began my love affair with that most amazing of aircraft, the De Havilland DH 98 – Mosquito.
In 1987 the Royal Australian Air Force – RAAF – acquired a Mosquito – A52-600 possibly the only surviving Mk XVI .
This machine was a photo reconnaissance plane and completed 21 missions over enemy targets on the Indonesian Islands. After the war a further 19 missions were completed in the aerial mapping of Australia. In 1954 it was listed for disposal and was bought by a Mildura orchardist who cut off the wings flush with the fuselage and removed the tail section. His plan was to mount it on a turntable and run the motors at low speed to dispel frost in his orchard. He never got around to it and it was then a children’s playhouse for ten years.
Next stop was to the Mildura Warbirds Aviation Museum where it was kept under covers and then sold 17 years later to a syndicate of three men who had plans for it but decided it would be better in the RAAF and it was transferred it to the RAAF in 1987. Some work was done to restore it fully but a lot was still needed. Then in 1998 it arrived in Point Cook RAAF Base.
Today the Museum told me they anticipate another ten years before the job is done. The main problem is the difficulty finding suitable ‘chippies’ to work on the plane. They are using modern plywood which is the same thickness as the original 3-ply but is a 5-ply instead.
It is difficult to imagine how much work is needed when you look at it now, but I will show you what I saw.
I am not sure if the last photo is a part of the Mosquito, because they are also building a Bristol Boxkite replica.
The Mosquito had two Rolls Royce Merlin 76/77 V12 engines. And I saw one that was built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. (Unfortunately the CAC became a fully owned subsidiary of Hawker de Havilland in 1985, renamed Hawker de Havilland Victoria Limited in 1986 and was then swallowed up by Boeing Australia in 2000.)
Does anyone want to see any more of the RAAF Museum? There are about thirty planes there.
The Mosquito at the top I have taken from Pinterest.
The film below takes about ten minutes if you want to see what some Kiwi enthusiasts have done.