Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson

 

Mosquito B-4 – BOAC

Introduction

The DH Mosquito was originally conceived as a fast unarmed light bomber, but Bomber Command insisted that the design must incorporate defensive armament, because opposing fighters would always be faster than any bomber. Prototype production was therefore delayed, and the first flight of E0234 (later given the serial no. W4050) took place on 25. November 1940. On 16. January 1941 W4050 was paced against a Spitfire 2, and it proved to be more than 30 mph faster at altitudes around 30,000 ft.

Throughout the War, Mosquitos could usually outrun Luftwaffe fighters, though losses did occur, for example when recon Mosquitos tempted fate by visiting sites daily at similar times or altitudes, thus losing the element of surprise.

Sweden has had long experience of iron and steel production, focussed on the province of Dalarna, an inland province roughly half way up Sweden's North/South extent. More recently, the discovery of huge ore reserves in the Kiruna area of Northern Sweden, a thousand miles north of Dalarna, has since the nineteenth century maintained the country's importance as a source of metals and metal products, not only steel, but copper is also important.

The Allies and the Axis wanted access to these resources. It was relatively easy for Germany, which controlled Denmark and Norway, and had an alliance with Finland, but Britain had to cross the North Sea to reach Sweden. Shipping bulk cargo such as iron ore was out of the question, and that left air-lifting, which was limited to small, high-value products, such as Swedish ball bearings, among the best in the world.

It was important to respect Swedish neutrality, and BOAC was the obvious choice of civil airline for the job. What aircraft to use? It needed to be fast and agile enough to evade interception, and it needed to have a bomber's payload capacity. BOAC acquired a small fleet of Mosquitos, including several Mark 4 bombers. The crews were RAF personnel, in civilian clothes. Any infringement of the neutrality protocols would lead to the impounding of the aircraft and detention of the aircrew.

The Initial Image

This die-cast model of a B.4 is finished as G-AGFV, one of the bomber variants used by BOAC. It's a big image as downloaded, about 2000x1500 pix, and is professionally photographed, very sharp all over, and with little of the “bug-eye” effect that is a serious plague, especially with larger models. Cast models often have rather gaping joints, but this one has few of them, so the normally needed repairs are minimal.

Treatment of the Image

Apart from some local areas where the edges of mouldings needed to be sharpened up, much of the work was focussed on the engine nacelles. The exhausts, the main-wheel fairing and intakes below each nacelle had to be re-constructed in reference to my archive shots of real aircraft. I did most of this work on the near nacelle only; by measurement I established that the remote nacelle is 10 % smaller than the near one, so the intake and exhaust details could be reduced and pasted across to the other nacelle.

I tried several background images, and the one I liked best shows the plane coming in quite low to its base at Leuchars in Fife after the long flight home from Stockholm.

Conclusions

I should mention that these Stockholm runs had more significance than just bringing ball-bearings and diplomatic mail to the UK. Some Mosquitos had a small passenger enclosure fixed into the bomb bay, and this allowed valuable transfers to be made to and from the UK. One such was the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, whose name is preserved for posterity as the author of the modern Periodic Table. He was flown to Leuchars so that his advice could contribute to the Manhattan Project, the development of the first nuclear bomb.