The Mosquito, or the De Havilland DH-98 Mosquito to give its full name, almost wasn't. First proprosed to The Air Ministry in 1938, by Geoffery de Havilland himself, obviously worried about the situation in Europe. It was proprosed that the aircraft be so fast that it could go unarmed and just outfly any enemy craft. The Air Ministry was not happy with this, and turned the request down, saying that the best thing De Havilland could do was to continue building wings for anothers' bomber programme, utilising a more conventional design.
De Havilland, however, realising the possibilities of such a craft, kept at it, as a private venture. He lightened the aircraft by removing the weapons and most of the crew. He also brought innovative construction techniques to the party, another sticking point with the Air Ministry, in that the plane was to be predominantly wooden. This was genius, most metal was in short supply, and metal workers already overstretched. However there was a whole bunch of woodworkers who were not in much use, everything from 'proper' carpenters and joiners through to the specialists, such as piano makers and furniture makers.
Almost the whole plane was wooden. The fuselage was a plywood-balsa-plywood laminate, built round spruce stringers - a horizontal length used to support the uprights. It was built in two halves, moulded on some concrete formers and, once all the wiring and control sytems put in, glued together. The wings were basically plywood skins over a couple of spars. The control surfaces were an alloy, light and strong, covered with a metal skin on the ailerons, and a simple fabric on the tail.
De Havilland was convinced that even with twice the weight, twice the wetted area the two Rolls-Royce Merlin engines that the Mosquito would still fly 20mph faster than the Spitfire. The Air Ministry was sceptical, but even so they ordered 50 in March 1940, sight unseen. This was cancelled due to the fallout from Dunkirk, but after several more attempts they finally confirmed the order at the end of November that year.
It was Feburary the following year that the first official test flight took place over Boscombe Down. The sceptics were there, but even they were impressed when the plane reached a top speed of 392 mph, even the newest Spitfire could only manage 374 mph. It became the fastest plane that Bomber Command had, and it stayed that way until 1951. The demonstrations impressed the American contingent, but when General Henry Arnold took the idea back to the US and proposed it to a group of their aircraft manufacturers, again the opposition was unanimous - 'It appears as though this airplane has sacrificed servicability, structural strength, ease of construction and flying characteristics in an attempt to use construction material which is not suitable for the manufacture of efficient airplanes'. Ha, more fool them.
Once official approval was gained, production went ahead and the first 50 aircraft were ready by the summer of 1941. These photo-reconnaisance planes and were incredibly able. Some became unarmed bombers, carrying a respectible 2000 lbs worth of explosives, and development on the next generation of Mosquitos was pushed forward. The wings were lengthened, the tail made larger and the engine nacelles were made larger. The development also turned up some intresting things.
The Mosquito was a very powerful machine, so powerful that the 'unarmed' idea could be updated, weapons could be fitted to the 'plane and they were. All kinds of different weapons, in all kinds of different ways. Large bombs could be carried - like the Cookie, a 4000 lb monster. The aircraft had showed that it could lift several times the weight that it was designed for, and there are stories of planes being massivly overloaded - a ballast of 10,000 lbs - and still being able to fly. This meant that it could, not only, carry the bombs, but that it could also attack enemy aircraft with machine-guns or even cannons (Really BIG machine-guns).
This power was the major reason that it became one of the most versatile crafts in the Second World War. There are 43 known varients, designed for almost any mission that a 'plane can be used for. The only aircraft that had more uses was the Junkers JU-88, with upto 60 varients. It got to be dive bomber, which the Mossie missed out on.
The Mossie did some special things in its time. Low level, prescision (for the time) bombing and rocket raids. Some were set up for the 'Highball' - a development of the dam-busting bouncing bomb designed to destroy ships - they were the first two-engine aircraft to land on a carrier, they carried out U-boat sinkings, with a 57mm cannon and destroyed an incredible number of doodlebugs. They were used to talk to, and transport equipment to the secret armies in the main European landmass. They flew with impunity across Germany, almost to the end of the war, as the Germans never had anything that could catch them. However, by the end of the War the next generation of planes was arriving dooming the Mossie, and its kind, as the Jet Age was upon us.