1/48 Airfix Mosquito B.XVI

 converted to a B.IX. 

'F for Freddie'

by Phil Golding

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LR503 was a De Havilland Mosquito B.IX, built at the Hatfield plant in early 1943 and delivered to 109 Squadron, in May 1943.  In March 1944, the machine was transferred to 105 Squadron, at Marham, Norfolk, to become part of 8 Group, Pathfinder Force.  Fitted with 'Oboe' (hence the painted out nose glazing) Freddie (GB-F) flew weather, bombing and target marking flights.  In the spring and summer 1944, Freddie participated in weather reconnaissance flights for H.M. King George, and for Winston Churchill as well as flying in support of D-Day invasion troops near Caen, France.

Flown by various crews, Freddie's last combat mission was on April 10th, 1945, to the Wahren marshalling yards at Leipzig, Germany.

In early May 1945, Freddie was assigned to tour Canada on a series of one day stops to promote the sale of Victory Loan Bonds.

By this time Freddie had flown a total of 213 missions, thus earning the distinction of being the allied bomber with the most operational missions.

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On the afternoon of May 9th 1945, 'Freddie', crewed by Flight Lieutenant J. Maurice W. Briggs, D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M., Flying Officer John C. Baker, D.F.C. and Bar, and De Havilland engineer Edward Jack, arrived at Calgary airport and proceeded to treat the crowds to a demonstration of a Mosquito doing what it did best, 'beating up' the airfield and surrounding areas at high speed and low level (often at less than rooftop height).

The next day, after an official luncheon, at just after 16:00 hrs, Briggs and Baker prepared to take off to fly to Red Deer and Lethbridge, returning to Calgary for the evening.  Edward Jack stayed behind as he was not feeling well.  After take off, Briggs circled to the North and made two passes over the small crowd which had gathered around the terminal building to see them off.  It was on their third diving pass that tragedy struck.

Freddie struck the top of the tower and a metal pole used for releasing weather balloons, shearing off the port wing, just outboard of the engine, and part of the tail.  Out of control, at nearly 400 mph, 'Freddie' crashed in a field just south of the terminal.  The crew were thrown from the airplane and died instantly.  The petrol soaked Mosquito burned to ashes.

Flight Lieutenant Briggs and Flying Officer Baker were buried in the Field of Honour, at Burnsland Cemetery, Calgary, the following day.

Building 'F for Freddie' 

I was asked to build 'Freddie' by a friend, who had Aeromaster sheet 48-552 'Mosquito Raiders Pt.V'.  As the B.IX is basically a B.IV with two stage Merlins, instead of single stage ones, the Airfix B.XVI kit is the logical way to go, as it is the only mainstream 1/48 kit with two stage Merlins.  The B.IX has no camera ports in the bomb bay doors, and you will have to find a B.IV canopy with 'teardrop' side blisters (I had an old Paragon one).  The Aeromaster sheet depicts 'Freddie' after she had completed 203 missions, and many pictures are available which show her at this time.  This was the guise in which I built her, complete with extra fuel tanks on the wings.  Later photos show changes in the nose art and mission tally.  Also, many of the photos show her without the aerial mast fitted, but later photos of the machine in Canada show the mast fitted.  This is possibly because the 'Oboe' and 'Gee' equipment that was fitted for 105 Squadron operations was probably removed, and replaced with regular radio equipment (Oboe and Gee were very secret until well after the war).

Building of the kit is straightforward, and will pose little problems for the experienced modeller.  The joints will require some filler and test fitting, but the effort is worthwhile.  After priming and checking the finish for blemishes, the Ocean Grey, Dark Green, Medium Sea Grey camouflage was applied, using Xtracrylix acrylic colours.  The nose glazing was painted over on an 'Oboe' equipped machine, with the flat bomb aimer's panel painted black.  The Aeromaster decals were applied, and conformed and settled down well with applications of Micro set and sol.  Once dried, a coat of Humbrol Mattcote was applied and a little light weathering applied with pastels, along with exhaust staining. 

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All in all I quite enjoyed this build, and it only took a week from opening the box to completion.  I hope my Canadian friends will consider it a fitting tribute to two brave men, and a remarkable machine.

As a footnote, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington claims that the American Martin B-26B Marauder called 'Flak Bait' has the most operations of any allied bomber with only 202 missions.

Phil

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Photos and text by Phil Golding