Yesterday I met an old man on the train - during the conversation it turned out that he's birthday was coming up on Friday (today); I joked with him by asking if he was turning fifty... "No," he said, "I'm turning 90!"
He had remnants of a British accent so I asked if he was from the UK; turns out that he came to South Africa in 1947 after the war.
"Did you serve active duty?" I asked.
"I was in the Mosquito squadron," says he.
The Mosquito was a wooden frame fighter / bomber / reconnaissance plane and the man I met was a navigator.
In most dual seat planes the navigator sits behind the pilot, but in the Mosquito and the Vampire (both built by de Havilland) the Navigator and the Pilot sit (or used to sit) next to each other.
He told me a story of his friend that had received a DFC for successfully crashing his Mosquito...
In case of a water landing the pilots were trained to lift the nose of the plane, the theory was that as the tail touched the water the plane would belly-flop onto the water and float - not so for the Mosquito - being a wooden frame plane the tail simply broke off and then the Roles Royce engines pulled the wreckage under.
This young pilot's plan, if he got shot down over the water, was to dive straight into the water. He got his chance while flying in the Mediterranean and the experiment proved correct. The plane dived about 12 foot (3m) then then bobbed up to the surface intact and floated there. That daring move changed how Mosquito pilots executed emergancy landings in the water and earned him the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross).
There's an entire site dedicated to the plane: http://www.dhmosquito.com/
Darryl's paintings are beautifully executed - here's one of my favorite planes painted in the glorious colours of the South African Air force. Pop over to his site for more on SAAF war planes.