De Havilland Mosquito PR34Although jet aircraft had been introduced into squadron service towards the end of the 2nd World War, in 1946 the principle RAF long-range reconnaissance aircraft was a dedicated photo-reconnaissance development of the piston engined Mosquito. The Mosquito PR34 first flew on 4 Dec 44 and came into service right at the end of the war in the Far East. In the PR34 the bomb-bay was filled with two huge tanks holding an additional 1192 gallons of fuel and, with the addition of two 200 gallon drop tanks on the wings, the range was extended to 3600 miles whilst flying at 300mph and 25,000ft. The PR34 was equipped with four F52 cameras, two forward and two aft of the belly tanks, together with either one F24 oblique camera or a vertical K17 camera for air survey work. A total of 118 PR34’s were built and they were powered by two 1690 hp Rolls Royce Merlin 114 engines. After the war 35 aircraft were converted to PR34A’s this involved replacing the engines with 1710hp RR Merlin 113A’s. This remarkable aircraft was to soldier on in this role into the early 1950’s until it was replaced by the Canberra.
In Europe, even before the war came to a close, Mosquito PR34 aircraft of 540 Sqn were sent on Aerial Survey work on behalf of Government departments and the Colonial Office. This task, invariably with the approval of the country concerned, involved photographing an entire country, enabling highly accurate updated maps to be drawn up by the Ordnance Survey.
In late 1948, during October, November and December, RAF Mosquito PR34s, assigned to No 13 PR Squadron, were detached to Habbaniya, Iraq for special intelligence operations, including penetration flights up to the Caspian Sea area and over the southern states of Russia. RAF Mosquito PR34s were also photographing the southern shoreline of the Caspian Sea in missions flown from Crete at around the same time. These flights were suspended when the MiG-15 began to be deployed in this area.
Finally, in the late 1940’s it is also understood that Mosquito PR34’s from No 58 Sqn took part in Operation Dimple where, after refuelling in West Germany, long-range reconnaissance sorties were flown over East Germany and the Soviet Block. Although official records on these sorties have never been released, there is no evidence that any Mosquito’s were shot down whilst engaged in these activities.