DESCRIPTION: "We fly alone, When all the heavies are grounded and dining, 692 will be climbing -- We still press on, "It's every night... We still press on." "It's always the Reich, no matter how far, The crew they are twitching.... It's twelve degrees east"
EARLIEST DATE: 1979 (Hopkins-SongsFromTheFrontAndRead)
KEYWORDS: war technology travel flying
FOUND IN: Canada
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Hopkins-SongsFromTheFrontAndRead, p. 42, "692 Song" (1 text, tune referenced)
NOTES [1030 words]: Hopkins-SongsFromTheFrontAndRead says that the squadron in this song flew the famous De Haviland Mosquito. There is no direct evidence of this in the song, although presumably we know what aircraft were flown by 692 squadron. In any case, the evidence for Mosquitoes is strong.
For starters, the song says the squadron flew "when all the heavies are grounded." In other words, they weren't flying heavy bombers. That leaves only medium bombers. The British had a number of those -- the Whitley, the Manchester, the Beaufort, the Blenheim, the Hampden, the Wellington. Most of them were failures. That leaves -- the Mosquito. It was originally designed as a bomber (Gunston), p. 30, but the design was so exceptional that some two different variants were eventually produced (list on pp. 32-33 of Gunston), which served as bombers, pathfinder aircraft, scout aircraft, night fighters, even day fighters (a claim no other bomber could really make); in all, 7,781 Mosquitoes were built (Gunston, p. 32).
Munson, p. 51, says, "Adapted with conspicuous success to such widely varied roles as high and low level day and night bomber, long range day and night fighter, fighter-bomber, minelayer, pathfinder, rocket-armed ground attack, shipping strike, high and low altitude photo reconnaissance, trainer and transport, the supremely versatile D.H.98 Mosquito was one of the outstanding aeroplanes of World War 2. It was conceived in 1938 as an unarmed day bomber....
Munson, p. 52, has details of two common models. Both were two-man aircraft; the faster had a top speed of 408 miles per hour (which is definitely a fighter speed, not a bomber speed!) and carried up to 4000 pounds of bombs -- not much compared to, say, a Lancaster heavy bomber, but not much short of the earlier models of the American B-17 Flying Fortress (Dunmore/Carter, p. 87). The two models shown on pp. 9-16 of Sweetman both have speeds greater than 350 miles per hour -- not as fast as the fastest fighters, but still speedy, and capable of acrobatic flight as well.
Wheal/Pope, p. 124, say that "For more than two years after its introduction in late 1941, this extremely versatile monoplane was the fastest aircraft in the RAF [although Sweetman, p. 20, says that it is "unlikely that the Mosquito was ever the fastest aircraft in service"]. Privately designed as an unarmed fast bomber and made entirely of wood [properly wood laminates], it was sanctioned with great reluctance by the British Air Staff. When the first prototype flew in November 1941, its performance was so impressive that it was promptly ordered as both a bomber and a fighter," adding that the plane "enjoyed the lowest loss rate of any Bomber Command aircraft." (Dunmore/Carter, p. 87, give an example "during the Battle of the Ruhr, the Mosquitoes flew 282 sorties and lost only 2 aircraft." That's less than 1%, at a time when normal casualty rates were about 4%, and for a raiding force to lose 10% was not rare.)
According to Sir Max AItken, "its origin was almost accidental. When the war began it was obvious that a great amount of material and manpower in the furniture-making industry was not going to be needed. Was it to be allowed to go to waste? Somebody then had the notion of making a wooden aeroplane.... The Mosquito was a sensation" (BowyerEtAl, p. 7). It came to be known to the crews as the "Mossie." "It is rare for any aeroplane on being introduced to the RAF to escape condemnation from some quarter -- yet the Mossie was one. Almost without exception, crews always praised the Mosquito, whatever its particular role" (BowyerEtAl, p. 7). It could also fly higher than any other bomber of the time, which allowed it to do things no other plane could manage (Dunmore/Carter, p. 87).
It is, of course, all these excellent characteristics that account for this song: Since the Mosquito could do anything, and do it well, the squadrons which flew it were called upon for all sorts of tasks. Hopkins hints that the planes in this song were "nuisance bombers," not intended to do major damage but just to tire out the German defenses for when the big raids came. The other possibility is that they were a diversion -- the RAF often sent Mosquitos on "spoof raids" while other raids were going on, dropping chaff to make the raiding force seem bigger and distract the Germans (Bercuson, p. 113); their high speed made them ideal for this.
Despite the Mosquito's excellent record, dealing with it was a somewhat risky business: "The Mosquito was a slightly nervous thoroughbred which would perform impressive feats in the hands of the courageous and competent... but it would occasionally deal out a kick or a bite. Some of its wartime variants were off limits to peacetime pilots, and some of its variants were less pleasant to handle than others" (Sweetman, p. 4).
Hopkins's notes to the song refers to the aircraft of the squadron carrying a 4000 pound "cookie." Based on the way Hopkins wrote, one might be tempted to think that "cookie" was a word for all bombs. But Bowyer, p. 103, says that "cookie" was specifically the term for "the 4,000 lb. High Capacity (HC) blast bomb," first used operationally on March 31, 1941. That a term such as this was used for a particular type of bomb should not surprise us; large bombs had not been developed when the war began, so as each new monster was produced, the temptation to provide a nickname was, presumably, unbearable.
To be sure, the song itself never mentions cookies. If it did, it would be a dating hint, because it was not until 1944 that the Mosquito was modified to take a 4000 pound bomb (Sweetman, p. 43, which also shows the modified plane -- it frankly looks pregnant).
The song also refers to the plane losing "one engine at least" (out of two). I wonder if this might not have floated in from a version about the Mosquito night fighter variant. Because night fighters often attacked at short range, there was a significant risk that debris from the aircraft being attacked would hit the attacking aircraft. Because of the configuration of the engine radiators, a lot of Mosquito fighters would "win" their duel and end up losing an engine even so. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.0
- Bowyer: Chaz Bowyer, The Wellington Bomber, William Kimber and Co, 1986
- BowyerEtAl: Chaz Bowyer, Arthur Reed, Roland Beaumont, Mosquito, Typhoon, Tempest, Promotional Reprint Company, 1995; originally published as two volumes, one by Bowyer on the Mosquito (1973) and the other by Reed and Beaumont on the other two aircraft (1974)
- Dunmore/Carter: Sencer Dunmore and William Carter, Ph.D., Reap the Whirlwind: The Untold Story of 6 Group, Canada's Bomber Force of World War II, 1991 (I use the 1992 McClelland & Stewart paperback)
- Gunston: Bill Gunston, The Illustrated Directory of Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Salamander Books, 1988, 2002
- Munson: Kenneth Munson, Aircraft of World War II, second edition, Doubleday, 1972
- Sweetman: Bill Sweetman (with illustrations by Rikyu Watanabe), Mosquito, Crown Publishers Inc., 1981
- Wheal/Pope: Elizabeth-Anne Wheal and Stephen Pope, The Macmillan Dictionary of The Second World War, second edition, Macmillan, 1997
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