“Mosquito: The RAF’s Legendary Wooden Wonder and its Most Extraordinary Mission” (2024) by Rowland White

June 24, 2024

It has been a while since I did a book review – in fact, since I did any sort of review at all – but I felt compelled to cover Mosquito: The RAF’s Legendary Wooden Wonder and its Most Extraordinary Mission by Rowland White. Firstly, it is, in my opinion, a great book, and secondly it is currently available for an absolute steal, which I will get to in a minute.

This is also the second book I have read of White’s, the first being “Phoenix Squadron”. And that, just like this work, I found utterly engaging.

Now I feel I should point out a couple of things that really need highlighting for anyone thinking about buying this.

Firstly, it isn’t primarily a book about the development and use of the famous De Havilland Mosquito fighter bomber of Second World War fame, which I think could be a mistaken assumption given the title. It does delve into some aspects about those subjects, but the Mosquito is more like a character in a story, which actually accords with Rowland White’s writing style in this work. Because whereas most history books have a much dryer tone, being about facts and dates etc, White sets out to tell the personal stories of those involved in Operation Carthage, the bombing of the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen in March 1945.

So, this book is more like an interweaving of a myriad of stories building up to that event, including elements of the story of the Mosquito but also the creation and history of the Danish resistance movement, which to be honest is the primary subject. White also weaves in a lot of information and details on other subjects, from the recruiting practices of the Special Operation Executive to commando raids in Africa and the Mediterranean.

Naturally, such huge scope means a huge story to tell, hence the books rather considerable length of over 500 pages, and I can see this being an issue with some readers. The cast of characters, for want of a better term, is massive and that can sometimes make it hard to keep track of who everyone is. But this isn’t a novel, despite a similar tone to one, and does need careful reading and digestion to stay with it.

And in my opinion, the effort is well worthwhile.

Though the Mosquito is not the primary focus of the book, there is enough in there on the aircraft  that I think it is worthwhile learning about, for one example that the British dispatched a special team to set up a logging camp in the Darien gap in South America to ensure wood supplies for their new aircraft.

What Mosquito offers is in fact an interesting history of the Danish resistance, which to be frank might be the most complete one in English available, plus insights into the war fought by the SOE and the intelligence agencies, the latter of which really highlights the importance of some of the subtle projects and operations run that may not have been hugely flamboyant, but which could be of critical importance. And as said, it covers the Mosquito’s part in those operations, and the experiences of the men flying it.

Here I must offer the one issue I had with the book – a complete lack of endnotes or footnotes.

To be honest I am not sure if this was an aesthetic choice by White and his publisher, or whether it was because I was reading this on Kindle. I suspect the former, because as said the book in many ways resembles a novel in style and layout rather than the average history text, and so I suspect it was decided to forego endnotes to stop the reader having to keep breaking from the text which, also as said, is very involved and which would probably prove confusing.

Personally, I like notes because when I want to look into one of the absolute mass of interesting details that is including in the book I want to know the source so I can further my own researches on that subject. Though an extensive bibliography is included the inability of the reader to directly follow up on an interest or query and not having the cited source available is somewhat irritating.

But that is my major gripe and it doesn’t detract significantly from the quite staggering amount of work White must have poured into this. All in all, if you are interested in military, aviation or intelligence history this book is definitely worth a look.

Now, here comes the part that will really interest you if you have managed to get this far.

If you have a British amazon account – as in amazon.co.uk – Mosquito: The RAF’s Legendary Wooden Wonder and its Most Extraordinary Mission is available for a brief time for only 99p on Kindle. I am publishing this on the 24 June and I believe the offer runs until the end of the month. So that means you have a week to pick this book up on Kindle for an absolute steal.

Sorry, this offer is no good for anyone without a .co.uk account. However, even if it means paying more for a print edition, I still recommend this book as it really is a very interesting read.

Sources/Related:

“The Hush-Kit Book of Warplane” (2022) Edited by Joe Coles

“The Armed Forces of North Korea; On the Path of Songun” (2020) by Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

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