Mosquito rekindles memories

By Mike Barrington

Two Northland men who flew in World War 2 Mosquito fighter-bombers meet regularly at the Whangarei RSA to have a liquid lunch then fight the Battle of Britain in the afternoon.

One of them, Charles Sharp, 92, of Kamo, was a Royal Air Force pilot who broke his back bailing out of a Beaufighter at 240m in 1941 and was lucky to survive a jump from a stricken Spitfire in 1943.

The Mosquito he later flew on reconnaissance missions was armed only with cameras, relying on its 700km/h top speed to keep it safe as it flashed over enemy territory at 7600m or "on the deck" at 15m.

In teasing pilot style typical of those times, Mr Sharp refers to his RSA friend - ex-RNZAF airman Jim Peters, 90, of Maunu - as "ballast" because he was a navigator.

When the world's only Mosquito now flying visited Whangarei last Saturday it rekindled wartime memories for both men.

"It [the Mosquito] was absolutely magnificent when it swept over the runway at about 250mph (400km/h) before landing," Mr Sharp said.

Both he and Mr Peters had been to the AVspecs Ltd workshop at Ardmore where the Mosquito - rescued from a Russian swamp - was restored over the past eight years for the owner of a military aviation museum in America. Both men said the restored aircraft had taken them back in time.

Mr Peters, born at Whangarei in 1922, was one of nine children of a Waiotira farming couple. He joined the RNZAF in 1941 and was first trained as a pilot and later as a navigator, air gunner and radio and radar operator.

As a navigator in Beaufighters and Mosquitoes, he said he would "pull the trigger and mess with the bombs" on anti-submarine missions over the North Atlantic and on strikes against German ships and bases on the Norwegian coast.

"When the Jerry fighters came out after us, we would get the hell out of it," he said.

"When the fighters went back to their bases to refuel, our bombers would come in to hit the targets."

Mr Peters admired the way Beaufighters could "take knocks", but he was even more impressed by the way the wooden-framed Mosquito could outpace enemy aircraft.

The De Havilland plane annoyed Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering, who complained: "It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. The British have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops."

- Northern Advocate

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