(Photo courtesy of Anglocreative)
Mosquito ‘F for Freddie’ (LR503) holds a special place in my heart as a representation of its nose art by Farlam Air Frames hangs on my lounge wall (a present to my partner for Christmas, because I’m just that good a girlfriend) unfortunately the art hanging on my wall is not on a piece of Mosquito but on a piece of Dakota…still rather impressive if you ask me.
The impressive production record of the De Havilland factories produced over 7000 of these wooden wonders in three very different countries, England Australia and Canada. ‘F for Freddie’ was produced at their English headquarters in Hatfield in 1943 before moving to Wyton Huntingdonshire and flying her first operation in late May of the same year. She went on to become quite possibly the most famous of all the Mosquitos and was best known for being one of the original Pathfinder Force squadrons and for flying the first radar blind bombing system known as ‘Oboe’ in December 1943. In less than a year from her first mission she had impressively already managed her first 100 operations.
She did not actually start her life with the name ‘F for Freddie’ , having initially been assigned the letter ‘C’ she was known as ‘Charlie’. I am not exactly sure when this letter was changed but it is noted in the log books of navigator John Sampson DFC from autumn and winter 1944-1945 that the individual code letter was now ‘F’.
The impressive and humorous nose art decorating the flank portrays a rather dapper looking gent of a mosquito, complete with top hat and monocle ‘chasing’ a caricature who appears to look rather like Hitler, running full pelt from the approaching 500 pound bomb being dropped by the mosquito. Along side this art would eventually be 203 bomb operations markings painted white (though later repainted black). This style of nose art is seen by many to be a taunt to the enemy and in this case directly to Hitler, it’s a one finger salute, stating ‘we are coming for you’. Sampson remarked “At 105 we did not go in for ‘Nose Art’ or mission credits, but an exception was made in the case of LR503 because of its unique history. I remember this being discussed on the squadron as no one appeared to know what a mosquito looked like. I believe that the assistance of the Station Medical Officer was sought.”
In the summer of 1943 it was equipped with ‘Oboe’ and was painting in the matt black paint of the Pathfinder Squadron. In her illustrious career she was flown by many different crews until she flew her last operation in April 1945 in which she flew to the Wahren railway marshalling yards at Leipzipg Germany. After her last operation ‘Freddie’ was chosen to fly over to Canada as part of their celebrations for the 8th Canada War Bond drive. Though, shock horror, it actually was not the first choice, that accolade belongs to ‘D for Dog’. Unfortunately after setting off she developed mechanical troubles and had to return to England, giving ‘F for Freddie’ her starring role.
In May 1945 Freddie landed in Canada and put on an impressive aerial display through the streets of Calgary, thrilling the crowds with her acrobatics and low flying. It must have been a truly emotive time with the sounds of revelry and relief mingling with the roar of the two Merlin engines, you can imagine people of all ages being caught up in the atmosphere and energy of the day. unfortunately these impressive acrobatics would be her downfall as during another such display two days later she crashed, killing her crew instantly. The irony is not lost that the aircraft and crew survived the worst war of all time, having made it through the many operations and bombings just to meet their end on a beautifully sunny day whilst putting on a show for their adoring fans. One can imagine what a poignant and sad sight it must have been when she went down, smoke billowing into the air with the final sounds of celebration mingling with the gasps of the audience as they realised what they were witnessing.
Though of course this is not quite the end of the story for f for Freddie, for although she would never fly again, after many many years of restoration, her sister Mosquito VR796 was to take to the skies adorned with the art of F for Freddie in homage to her fallen sister.