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The People’s Mosquito Advances!

8 April 2020

To Fly To Educate To Remember — The People’s Mosquito — graphic art by Nick Horrox for The People’s Mosquito

08 April 2020: The People’s Mosquito launches fundraising campaign to complete fuselage moulds

As work continues on returning a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito to UK skies for the first time in a quarter of a century, The People’s Mosquito is offering supporters the opportunity to add their name to the story of the Wooden Wonder.

Through the charity’s restoration partners, Sussex-based Retrotec Ltd., rapid progress has been made towards the completion of the first de Havilland Mosquito fuselage moulds to be built in the UK for more than 70 years.

With the exciting launch of this fundraising initiative, The People’s Mosquito is offering five levels of exclusive rewards for supporters, ranging in value from as little as £25 up to £5,000. Each level of support offers its own unique rewards package, including from as little as £100 the opportunity to add your name – or that of a loved one – permanently to the mould itself. In doing so, supporters can physically add their name to the story of one of the most famous and versatile aircraft to emerge from the dark days of World War Two.

For those warbird and Mosquito enthusiasts able to do so, higher reward levels, starting at Gold Level and £500, offer backers the chance to enjoy a visit to Retrotec’s facility and witness history coming alive as Mosquito FB.VI RL249 takes shape.

Elite Diamond and Platinum packages will see donors receive a VIP invitation to Retrotec to tour the facility, meet the team and personally sign their own mould infill, as work draws to its completion. And that’s not all. Diamond or Platinum backers will have the opportunity to join The People’s Mosquito and invited guests to witness the first public flight of a de Havilland Mosquito in the UK for well over 25 years, as well as receive a guided tour around the aircraft. Subject to all necessary and relevant permits, permissions and insurances to enable the carriage of fare-paying passengers, Platinum supporters will also gain priority access to a flight in The People’s Mosquito.

“As the country faces is toughest battle since the end of World War Two, efforts to return a Mossie to UK skies continue to gather pace, backed by British industry and public donations from all over the world,” said John Lilley, Managing Director of The People’s Mosquito. “During times of adversity, incredible stories often emerge – the Mosquito being one such example from our history. We’re incredibly excited to be writing the next chapter in that story. The drive towards returning RL249 to flight serves as a reminder, if one was needed, of what we can achieve when we come together.”

The aim of the campaign is to fully fund the completion of all 22 infills that constitute the pair of 11m-long fuselage moulds. The campaign target is to reach £250,000 by the end of summer 2020. Each complete mould will be used as the former over which the Mosquito’s unique composite wooden construction, featuring Canadian spruce, birch and balsa wood, is bound, glued and cured. The result is the lightweight, extremely strong airframe that underpinned the Mosquito’s famed war-winning performance.

The campaign, named Operation Jericho 2020 in honour of the famous February 1944 raid on Amiens prison, in which extremely low level flying of Mosquitoes breached the jailhouse walls to free French resistance fighters, aims to break down the final funding barrier for completion of the moulds.

You can support the campaign at

Notes to editors/broadcasters

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito remains one of the most influential aircraft ever designed and an exemplar of British engineering. It played a pivotal role in the Allied war effort from 1941-1945, and continued to serve with the Royal Air Force until the mid-1950s, well into the jet age. At the height of World War Two, the Mosquito was the world’s fastest production aircraft; it was the world’s first true multi-role aircraft and helped to pioneer the use of composite construction techniques, now ubiquitous in today’s aviation industry. Its ground-breaking construction also included the first use of radio frequency heating (similar to a microwave oven) in the construction of the aircraft.

About the People’s Mosquito Ltd

The People’s Mosquito is a registered UK charity and full member of Aviation Heritage UK, whose aim is to inform and educate the public and future generations on the Mosquito and its place in history. Its motto is ‘To fly, to educate, to remember’ as it works towards restoring and returning this important aircraft to the sky.

The charity is publicly backed by Airbus UK – an international reference in the aerospace sector, whose own heritage history includes manufacture of the Mosquito between 1948-1950. More than 80 de Havilland Mosquitoes, including the last ever ‘Mossie’ to roll off the production line, were completed at Broughton, now home to Airbus UK.

Collaborating with East Sussex-based restoration company Retrotec Ltd., the charity is working towards restoring a Mosquito lost on a training flight from RAF Coltishall, Norfolk in 1949. In doing so, the project will deliver the first UK-built Mosquito in more than 70 years: the last UK-built example rolled off the line at Chester on 15 November 1950.

C-19 distractions

6 April 2020

The National Naval Aviation Museum as well as the Smithsonian are providing these welcome options to enjoy during lockdown in our homes.

National Naval Aviation Museum will go live on Facebook, at this link,  Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am CST (12pm EST) for their History Up Close series. Tomorrow (07 April) Hill Goodspeed (the NNAM Historian) will talk about the Doolittle Raid (the museum has a B-25 Mitchell restored as a raider complete with the purpose built boom aiming device). Hill will answer questions made on the Facebook events page along the way. Thursday (09 April) is is slated for LtGen Thiessen (Pres. and CEO of the NNAM Foundation) will tour the Grumman F3F (biplane ancestor to the F4F Wildcat)—using the same Bat Time and Bat Channel.

The Smithsonian Magazine (much of the following is quoted directly from them and with thanks) recently published a list of ten museums across the planet which can be visited virtually in the comfort (or confines) of your home:


On Desperate Ground: the Epic Story of Chosin Resevoir—the Greatest Battle of the Korean War

5 April 2020

On Desperate Ground: the Epic Story of Chosin Reservoir—the Greatest Battle of the Korean WarHampton Sides, 2019, ISBN 978-1-101-97121-5, 402 pp.r


On Desperate Ground: the Epic Story of Chosin Reservoirthe Greatest Battle of the Korean War by Hampton Sides

I thought I knew about this battle—I was wrong.

At first I despised the glad-handing comment regarding “advancing to the rear”—but I had that wrong, very wrong.

I thought I had read all about bravery, endurance and drive—I was wrong again.

Hampton Sides corrected all the above for me and provided so much more in On Desperate Ground. His book is about the desperate and brilliant action at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. USMC General Oliver Prince Smith saved his Marines as well as many US Army and other attached UN forces—and lost many. He foresaw the poor strategy of General MacArthur, and his right-hand-man Edward Almond, of stretching out his men over 120 miles along a single mountain road—not to mention dividing his forces in a way that denied their mutual support. So he prepared for a defense contingency should the march to the Yalu River be interrupted.

And interrupted it was with China’s infiltration of a quarter million troops. A surprise that was foretold but incredibly ignored by General MacArthur’s direct interventions over the previous month. Yes, ground forces knew the Chinese were coming into North Korea for a month before the “surprise invasion” but these signs were dismissed based upon unfounded beliefs. And why wouldn’t China interfere to keep opponents off their border as well as to protect hydroelectric power plants supplying priority electricity to Manchuria though located just south into North Korea? Further criminal action on the part of MacArthur as he later tried to rewrite his legacy by stating he knew it all along and the thrusts up the Korean Peninsula were an armed reconnaissance.

Smith knew he’d have to fight his way back to a friendly harbor since he’d be surrounded—by definition he’s be attacking in whichever direction was selected—hence advancing to the rear. The path to the sea would not be a retreat as the vanguard would be bashing through enemy forces while the rear guard and flankers would also see intense fighting—along the miles and miles of mountaineous travel and in intense cold.

Sides tells the overview interspersed with individual decision making as well as actions. And what actions they were! Marines immediately volunteering as drivers though snipers were killing drivers quite quickly. A blinded Marine loading rifles for his buddy to keep up a volume of fire—these two held a small draw between two units which plugged a gap the Chinese were trying to exploit. Men fighting with entrenching tools since there often was not time to reload their weapons. Airmen taking off from a slightly prepared airstrip 1000 feet shorter than required. Men giving their lives so their fellows might live a bit longer. Engineers replacing a destroyed bridge segment in a matter of hours while under fire so that a thousand vehicles and thousands of men could continue their “advance” to the coast—one they had left such a short time, but seemingly a lifetime, ago. The silent 10 miles cross terrain trek of 450 Marines to relieve Fox Company.

Sides tells these stories so well that the book is difficult to put down. A defeat turned into a victory since Mao lost thousands upon thousands of combat troops to destroy the “Frozen Chosin” and failed, as the USMC (with attached units) came out with their gear (destroying what they couldn’t save) and their wounded. Mao payed too high a price to be called a political victory though he had his military achievment.

Sides doesn’t explain or simply recite all of this history. He has the talent to get the human interest dimension woven into the tale being told in captivating prose. The understanding is comprehensive. The stories, including follow-ups, inspiring. Changing the Korean War into a war that should be studied and honored for its success as a UN action—sorely testing the UN shortly after its creation—from the “Forgotten War” as most of us were taught back in the day.

He also tells readers the details which make the difference. How Tootsie Rolls became a field expedient. Corpsmen carrying morphine ampules in their mouths to keep them from freezing. M-14 Carbines were unreliable in subzero temps but M-1 Garands worked well.

Sides is right stating this is one of America’s most epic of battles and General Smith perhaps the most unappreciated of military heroes in American history. Sides has done his best to show us this character testing, character making, part of our history in a warmly accurate way. And he makes an excellent job of it.


Thank you Hun in the Sun!

4 April 2020

These are strange times with so many of us locked down due to C19 and a few things have become paramount. Food. Cleaning supplies. Social distancing. TP (for some). Cleaning supplies.

Cooking meals, good meals, is always a way to keep up morale as is live streaming as well as books. Cigars and whisky come to mind but we can concentrate, for now, on these unique and wonderful books which Massimiliano “Max” Pinucci will be soon publishing.

Max is the person behind Italy’s Hun in the Sun (his books are published in both English and Italian) and produced the stand alone work Airships: Designed for Greatness in 2016 (reviewed here). The website has them available for purchase—somewhat pricey one may first think but worth every dollar for the skill used in production, rare qualities and size. Its difficult to imagine a more handsome book and there aren’t sufficient superlatives to describe Max’s work which is unique in its artwork, accuracy, precision and visual as well as intellectual appeal. Max is an excellent pilot as well as artful illustrator and works with panels of experts to produce his accurate works—accuracy worth of William Tell.

And Max has been busy since then!

Publication dates have not been set for his future books but they are on the way—posters as well—and all promise hours upon hours of enjoyment exploring this massive lighter-than-air vehicles of a bygone age. Structural details, spectacular 3D illustrative effects and clever use of items to bring the scale of these behemoths to the readers await. Fabric and steel look tactile, as if the finger tips know what to expect to the touch. Colors are of various hue dependent upon the direction of light. Crew life and work is often included, as well.

Simply marvelous!

The next book due to be published, an homage to the airship in artful drawings which are accurate as well as inspiring by Hun in the Sun

A new book in production about the exotic aircraft developed race for the Schneider Trophy by Hun in the Sun

A new book in production concentrating on eight aircraft in 33 versions of WW I by Hun in the Sun

Poster of the various Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawks as they were on their lighter-than-air aircraft carrier by Hun in the Sun

Poster of the USS Shenandoah moored to the USS Patoka by Hun in the Sun

MiG Killer arrival at the NNAM

2 April 2020

MiG killer F/A-18 Hornet awaits the restoration shop of the National Naval Aviation Museum—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

As Sterling Gilliam (Director/National Naval Aviation Museum) has said, “If you haven’t been here in six months you haven’t seen us.”

He meant that the museum is forever adding aircraft as well as moving them about as it constantly is improving its displays. Future plans include acquiring a MiG-21 to pair with this F/A-18 Hornet which was used to shoot down one in the Middle East—therefore modernizing the history represented in the museum.

MiG killer F/A-18 Hornet awaits the restoration shop of the National Naval Aviation Museum—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

Torpedo: the Complete History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Naval Weapon

31 March 2020

Torpedo: the Complete History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Naval Weapon, Roger Branfill-Cook, 2014, ISBN 978-1-59114-193-8, 256 pp.

Torpedo: the Complete History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Naval Weapon by Roger Branfill-Cook

Modern warfare’s first stealth weapon is the submarine and are are armed with the first modern fire-and-forget weapon—the torpedo. Branfill-Cook is a well published history author and has documented the developments, famous uses and incidents throughout the career of the torpedo in every country which has designed them.

Torpedo begins with explosive devices placed on the ends of submerged booms to the speedy mechanized automatons (or wire guided) of the current day. Guidance mechanisms, propulsion mechanisms and designers are written about in a smooth educational style characteristic of many United Kingdom authors. Branford-Smith exposes important though subtle details such as why an older model torpedo were used to sink the Argentine cruiser Belgrano instead of the modern day UK Tigerfish torpedo type. He also does remarkably well describing the actions leading to successful torpedo attacks in history as well as runaways which targeted their launching vessels. His research is thorough as are his illustrations (both images and drawings) taken from collections, large and small, to include little known though excellent model makers. The extent is fantastic and even includes the tale of a TBM Avenger delivering a torpedo to an Allied ship but not as blue on blue (friendly fire).

Torpedo is well indexed as well as well cited with a complete table of torpedoes through time.

The Elusive Enemy: U.S. Naval Intelligence and the Imperial Japanese Fleet

30 March 2020

The Elusive Enemy: U.S. Naval Intelligence and the Imperial Japanese Fleet, Douglas Ford, 2011, ISBN 978-1-59114-280-5, 297 pp.

The Elusive Enemy: U.S. Naval Intelligence and the Imperial Japanese Fleet by Douglas Ford

This is an excellent book written by a superlative historian who researched two get the entire story as well as ripple effects of historical decisions. Yes, not everything went according to plan, technology did not provide silver bullets and humans make mistakes of interpretation. But the why and how these occurrences transpired is the meat of Ford’s detailed text.

The Elusive Enemy is not a relaxed weekend read. Ford’s book covers this aspect of World War II in academic detail with a well written, a bit wordy perhaps for the casual reader, well documented (plenty of citations as well as notes) work. Orders and timelines, both (U.S. Navy) USN and Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), have been thoroughly investigated as has each cultural thought processes.

Ford takes care to lay out the cultural thinking of both sides as each had different perspectives and conclusions from the same set of events. Both sides made excellent decisions as well as poor ones.

But why?

That is the beauty of The Elusive Enemy. Ford has the reader understanding how the IJN moved to mount the Pearl Harbor attack as well as why the USN was convinced such an attack would not be reasonable expected. Also detailed is Japan’s use of radar (a subject rarely addressed elsewhere) as well as the trepidations of the USN’s employing the  radar—all was not perfect and required more and more numbers of fighters in the various CAPs as the war progressed to the Home Islands. Interestingly, the Navy did not become confident of eliminating the IJN forces until the wars very end and for good reason—as well as cultural thinking. As interestingly the IJN continued to pursue its original short term strategy until well into the war when plans had gone awry—as well as cultural thinking. Yes, this is a book as much about thinking as it is about facts.

Ford often touches on and realistically tells the story of paradigms that many would prefer not looked into more closely. But these are the ripple effects, unintended consequences of decisions, of history and should be understood to fully appreciate the decisions made by commanders upon which history turned. Spruance during the invasion of  the Marianas was affected by Pearly Harbor and Halsey during the invasion of the Philippines was influenced by the criticism directed to Spruance—but other admirals were operating on a less than perfect understanding of IJN forces and thought processes.

Ford addresses both the IJN’s surface and air forces in this thoroughly informative book. Fascinating, is Ford’s enlightenment of the IJN’s pagoda structures on the major warships which was thought of as a harmful feature by the  USN due to a feeling of cultural superiority of plain misunderstanding. Just as intriguing is the USN’s lack of appreciation of the Long Lance torpedo and its clear superiority until late into the war. USN surface and air forces are equally addressed especially concentrating on progressive radar improvement (especially regarding airborne torpedo attacks) as well as aircraft improvements like the F6F Hellcat.

The Kamikaze threat is addressed in a broad brush approach. Although its altering of USN Navy tactics was not explained in detail (poor AA radar performance and the F8F Bearcat) Ford does go into the numbers which are significant and had to be just this side of terrifying back in the day. In effect radar direction failed the closer the IJN aircraft became and, though many ships were severely hit of sunk, there were entirely too many near misses.

This is a book to better understand how the IJN as well as the USN moved and how designs came the made not to mention the slow but sure comprehension each culture became aware of the other. Military history in not only facts and dates—it is the understands and misunderstanding opposing forces have about one another. Ford accomplishes this aim handily in The Elusive Enemy.