Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Mosquito Aircraft

I met a lovely old gentleman in the book shop today, who was doing research into the Mosquito aircraft from the Second World War. His older brother had flown one during the war, ferrying injured soldiers from airfields in the Burmese jungles back to base - twenty minutes by air, but four days on the ground, by which time some of those men would have died.
But a Mosquito is only a two seater aircraft, and they were ferrying four injured soldiers at a time - in the bomb bay!
The gentleman's brother had been awarded a Burma Star medal, and he wanted to know how he had got it, because his brother had never talked about it.
He knew a lot of interesting things about Mosquitos - for instance, during the Second World War the best makers of ball bearings were in Switzerland, which was, of course, neutral territory. The British sent a Mosquito over occupied Europe with a buyer for the ball bearings travelling in the bomb bay - though this time the trip took six hours rather than twenty minutes! At the same time, German buyers were also going to the Swiss manufacturers to buy ball bearings, and the English and Germans would meet while doing their business there. It's one of those things that you don't really think about, but ball bearings were essential for lots of machinery.
As a boy, in Reading, he remembered a factory being put into the basement of the local department store - he used to go down there and scrounge waste wood and nails. He thought, though it was never said, that the girls cutting the wood to shape there were working on Mosquito frames - it being a wooden aircraft, and something that furniture makers could turn their hands to for the war effort.

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