Aviation Historian 33
B.Cahill - Graypea
Mosquito PR.XVI NS708/“M” of the 25th BG’s 653rd BS at RAF Bungay in Suffolk. The Eighth AF’s Mosquitoes retained their RAF serials and in August 1944 were given distinctive red empennages as a visual recognition aid. The rest of the airframe was finished in PRU Blue with standard USAAF insignia.
Displaying the distinctive red tail of the Mighty Eighth’s Mosquitoes, Hatfield-built PR.XVI MM345/“Z” also bears reduced D-Day stripes and Roundel Blue propeller spinners. This aircraft was damaged in a landing accident at Watton on September 8, 1944, but was repaired, ultimately being struck off charge in July 1946.
Mosquito NS651/“F”, nicknamed Woodpecker’s Delight, came to grief in a take-off accident on March 5, 1945, in which the undercarriage collapsed at the beginning of a 25th BG(R) mission while being piloted by Lt James C. Evans. The Mosquito was fast and agile, but could be a handful on take-off and with an engine out.
Hatfield-built de Havilland Mosquito PR.XVI NS748 of the USAAF’s 25th Bomb Group (BG) has its starboard Merlin engine run up at RAF Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire, as part of a check flight from its base at RAF Watton in Norfolk.
Two groundcrew members work on the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine of a 25th BG(R) Mosquito. Maintenance standards within the 25th were extremely high, the Group’s Mosquitoes having no armament and only pure speed and agility to get out of trouble. The 654th BS reported 90 per cent of its assigned 36 aircraft available for operations in March 1945.
Hatfield-built Mosquito PR.XVI NS594 served with the 653rd BS. It is seen here before the Eighth AF’s Mosquitoes acquired their red tails, painted overall PRU Blue with D-Day stripes and white fin letter with a white circle outline, denoting a weather squadron machine. This Mosquito ground-looped at Watton while serving with the 653rd BS on January 28, 1945.
A 653rd BS group photograph at RAF Watton. The pilots and navigators of the 653rd and 654th BSs were unique in that most had already completed a tour of 35 combat missions with other BGs and had volunteered to fly Mosquitoes with the 25th rather than take leave and return to the USA.
Members of 25th BG(R) air- and groundcrew pose in front of one of the Group’s Mosquito PR.XVIs at RAF Watton. The 25th BG(R) comprised three Bomb Squadrons - the 652nd BS, 653rd BS and 654th BS - which were collectively referred to as the “Eyes of the Eighth”.
A 25th BG(R) Mosquito banks over an unknown airfield, possibly while up on a check flight from Watton. Opened as a Bomber Command airfield in 1937, Watton was turned over to the USAAF in 1943, when a concrete runway was built. It reverted to RAF use after the war and flying activities continued there until as late as 2012.
Hatfield-built Mosquito PR.XVI NS519/“P” was one of the 653rd BS’s original chaff-equipped aircraft. Previously fitted with an H2X radar installation, NS519 flew seven operational Graypea missions before being involved in a non-fatal accident during take-off at Watton in the hands of Lt Morton Hunt on December 27, 1944.
Lt Warren Borges flew weather reconnaissance missions with the 25th BG’s 653rd BS and two “Graypea” missions with the 654th BS in late March 1945.
Flak was an everpresent danger for the Mosquitoes of the 25th BG(R). Here Lts Tunnel and McCarthy of the 654th BS pose beside their damaged aircraft with a feathered propeller after a shrapnel hit to the port engine nacelle.
When Lts Gilbert and Spoerl were attacked in RF992/“R” by an Me 262 on March 20, 1945, the latter took the outer section of the port wing off, although the pair managed to return safely. Friendly fire actually posed a greater threat to the 25th BG than enemy fighters.