Coachlines - December 2022

15.12.22 Liveryman Roger Woodbridge

Enlightenment at the De Havilland Museum

Most of the 25 Liverymen, led by the Master, arrived 30 minutes early at the museum as the visitors anticipated a gridlock on the M25 that failed to occur!

We were welcomed by the Chairman of Trustees and our guide for the day, Lawrence Burrage. Alex Wrighton and his daughter Amelia showed us some fascinating family photos of his father’s furniture company, which made de Havilland Mosquito fuselages during WW2. The skill of his staff in carpentry was ideal for the manufacture of the “wooden wonder aeroplane”. While chatting, an amazing coincidence was discovered. Lawrence’s mother actually worked for Wrighton Company and appears in a museum photo.

The Liverymen set off to tour the new hangar with a lecture on the development of the de Havilland aircraft. This included the DH82 Queen Bee, a remote-control Tiger Moth used for artillery target practice. The guests took turns to operate the radio-controlled flaps, simulating how the aircraft would have been flown from the ground.

Next up was the DH 88 Comet developed for the 1930 air race from Mildenhall, Suffolk, to Melbourne in Australia. This was the first use of the plywood and balsa composite later to be used in other aircraft types. The highlight was Judy Mayes operating the manual undercarriage system on top of a high gantry.

A hot lunch was much appreciated, as temperatures in the hangars were falling considerably. Afterwards we went on to visit the highlight of the museum, the three Mosquito aeroplanes. The fast, high-flying Mosquito was for much of the war able to roam almost at will over enemy-occupied territory. Built of non-strategic materials (i.e. wood), it was designed for speed and range as a two-seat unarmed light bomber, unarmed reconnaissance aircraft and long range fighter.

The display also features two High Ball bombs developed at the same time as the Dambuster type ordnance but never used in anger. Alongside these is the impressive 6lb Moulins Cannon used to modify and enhance the Mosquito to become the Mk18 or Tsetse variant.

The party went on to view the last surviving Comet aircraft originally flown by Air France – the museum team has spent 10 years refurbishing the aircraft interior to original specification. After a private viewing of the workings of a Merlin engine and a Link 1927 simulator the day concluded and we all look forward to another Coachmakers’ adventure.