DeHavillands – mainly during and after WW2

`From Tiger Moth to Comet 4′

Alan Constantine – 10th March 2009

On the 10th March 2009 Alan Constantine gave a talk entitled “De-Havillands- mainly during and after WW2 from Tiger Moth to Comet 4. The speaker discussed the history- of the company and the influence Sir Geoffrey de Havilland had on the development of aircraft design, in the U.K.

At one time Sir Geoffrey was one of DH’s main test pilots. Later his son Geoffrey de Havilland Junior was also a test pilot for the company but sadly he died in September 1956 when the DH 108 experimental jet aircraft he was flying broke up in the air. The Tiger Moth and its derivatives have been used throughout – the world as a training aircraft. An early version of the DH 4 was used as a bomber in the First World War. In 1934 the DH8 Comet Racer, a most advanced aeroplane of its day won the famous England to Australia Air Race. It continued to break records and in 1938 it flew from England to New Zealand and back more than 26,000 miles in eleven days. The aircraft was the forerunner of the wartime Mosquito.

Very little Government contract work had been placed with de Havilland since 1919 hut in the autumn of 1938 in the critical days of Munich, de Havilland tried to interest the authorities in his idea for a twin engined, high speed, unarmed bomber. The Air Ministry showed very little interest in his idea but fortunately Air Marshal Winfred Rhodes Freeman, who, as the Air Member of-the Air Council for Development and Production insisted in ordering 50 Mosquitos off the drawing board.

The Mosquito was designed at Salisbury Hall; a stately home near St Albans and the first proto-type was completed in November 1040 and taken by trailer to Hatfield for trials. The aircraft was constructed of balsa wood imported from Ecuador, sandwiched between layers of birch much of which was imported from Canada. Various furniture makers from High Wycombe including G- Plan helped to construct the bodies.

The aircraft was made in two halves, which enabled the controls to be more easily assembled before the two halves were glued together for final assembly. The Mosquito was powered by two Rolls Royce 12 cylinder Merlin piston engines

In all nearly 8000 Mosquitos were made during the war of which 3299 came from Hatfield, 1134 from Toronto in Canada, 208 from Sydney Australia. The Standard Motor Car Company also produced over 1000 Mosquitos in Coventry.

The Mosquito was involved in many famous exploits during WW2. On the 30 January 1943, on the tenth anniversary of Hitler’s seizure of power Reich Marshall Goring was scheduled to
address a large assembly of the Wehmacht at the German Air Ministry at 11 00 am A few minutes before eleven o’clock three Mosquitos swept across the city at 350 mph and bombed
the radio station off the air. At 4.00 p.m. Goebbels was due to make a follow up speech in Berlin and again three Mosquitos bombed the capital.

On 25 September 1942, a special target was selected for a daylight attack at low level by four Mosquitos. This time the target was the Gestapo H.Q. in Oslo which was successfully bombed.

In Feb 1944, 120 French prisoners who had been condemned to death for helping the Allies were being held at Amiens Prison. Three waves of Mosquitos bombed the walls of the prison
enabling some of the prisoners to escape. This raid was later made into a film called “Target for Tonight”

The de Havilland Mosqmto was a highly versatile fighter-bomber and one of the most outstanding aeroplanes of WW2.

After the war de Havilland developed the Comet 1, which was the worlds first jet airliner. In 1952, 10 were delivered to BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation). They cut flying times in half, but a series of disastrous accidents led to the grounding of all Comet 1’s by 1954. Lengthy investigations showed that the accidents were caused by metal fatigue. The improved Comet 4 had a longer range and in 1958 made the first Jet-powered passenger crossing of the Atlantic.

Ken Lane