Guy Harvey reports from Duxford on the roll-out of the IWM's refurbished Mosquito TA719
After a year of refubishment, Mosquito TA719 has been restored to its former service colours of 3 CAACU (Civilian Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit), Royal Air force in which it served as a Target Tug. TA719 was built as a B35, the last bomber variant of the Mosquito, at the de Havilland factory in Hatfield in June 1945 but never saw active service in the war. It was subsequently converted into a TT35 target-towing version that could carry targets towed behind the aircraft at the end of a steel cable (up to 6,000 ft long), giving pilots and gunners a real moving target in the air. TA719 served with 3 CAACU at Exeter from June 1954 until its retirement in November 1962, being one of the last Mosquitos to leave active service.
Its next role was to be its most famous - a star performance in the classic war film '633 Squadron' in which TA719 was used for many of the flying sequences, together with four other recently retired examples. Flying under the CAA registration G-ASKC, it was painted with the code letters 'HT-G' and serial 'HJ898' in a typical standard camouflage pattern of the time. Flying from Bovingdon airfield during the early summer of 1963, the five Mosquitos were the stars of the film - some critics say the actors were as wooden as their flying counterparts!
airworthy after the film and relocated to Staverton Airport, having been
acquired by the fledgling Skyfame museum on 31 July 1963, the plan being
to keep it flying for as long as possible. Sadly it was severely damaged
in a deadstick landing at Staverton on 27 July 1964, in which the port
wing outboard of the engine was destroyed, along with the nacelles and
fuselage underside. This effectively ended her flying career. However,
you can't keep a good movie star away from the silver screen and it was
to re-appear in the 1968 film 'Mosquito Squadron', being used for crash
and ground scenes, albeit with a dummy wing. Further damage was caused
to the airframe, but not sufficient for it to be scrapped, thankfully.
The Imperial War Museum acquired the aircraft in 1978 on the closure of the Skyfame museum and moved it to Duxford, where a lengthy restoration bgan including the fabrication of a complete new wing to replace the dummy one. Finished in 1989, TA719 was painted in an anonymous night-bomber scheme and placed in the Superhangar for the next fifteen years. Many pictures of her time at Duxford can be seen at Martin Claydon's site here.
A second restoration began in January 2004 to prepare the Mosquito for display in the proposed AirSpace development, where TA719 will be suspended from the ceiling, re-enacting her Target Tug days. Unofficially unveiled to the public on 14 January in hangar 4, it was presented to the press on Wednesday 9 February on a dull and cold morning, with many former Mosquito pilots and navigators present.