Made of wood, held together with four bolts: de Havilland’s WW2 game-changer

From being turned down by the Ministry of Defence to becoming de Havilland’s greatest wartime aircraft, the story behind the Mosquito – and the incredible engineering behind it – showed aviation ingenuity at its very best.


With the Ministry of Defence on the lookout for an armed, multi-role aircraft by the late 1930s, Geoffrey de Havilland knew he had the answer. But the Ministry didn’t agree, despite de Havilland’s insistence that his company could make a twin-engine bomber so effective that “little defensive equipment would be needed.” His bold claims were ignored, and de Havilland ended the decade making wings for other aircraft.

Thankfully, persistence was one of Geoffrey de Havilland’s many assets, and it led to the secretive design of the Mosquito at Salisbury Hall, situated directly next to the de Havilland Museum in London Colney. With Specification B.1/40 receiving the official seal of approval in March 1940, the next step was for an armed, long-range fighter aircraft.

The very first prototype – flown by Geoffrey de Havilland’s son, Geoffrey de Havilland Jnr, on November 25 1940 – fittingly resides at the de Havilland Museum, a stone’s throw from where it was built. Watch the above video as the museum’s curator, Alistair Hodgson, explains in more detail about how Britain’s furniture factories became the unlikely epicentres of the Mosquito’s production, and how this huge, 41ft-long aircraft was held together with just four bolts…

The de Havilland Museum, just off the M25 near London Colney, is the only place in the world where you can see three Mosquitos under one roof. It’s an amazing place and it’s open for business.