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Flax Mosquito

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The Flax Mosquito was the name given to a version of the DeHavilland Mosquito which used flax, rather than the more usual cotton, to form its doped outer covering.

During World War II, a significant portion of the north east of Scotland was taken over by a huge flax growing effort.

The flax was pulled by both hand and by machine, of which there is believed to have been only one example of active in the area. Locals tell of two occasions when an entire farm crop was pulled by one Gypsy family, which would travel to, and camp in the fields for the duration of the work. At other times, schoolchildren from nearby Kemnay would help gather the crop.

A factory was built at Turriff in Aberdeenshire, to process the flax, which could be used to manufacture various products, such as fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets, and soap.

Part of the the production from this area was used in the production of fabric to cover the DeHavilland Mosquito fighter/bomber, possibly to supplement supplies of the more usual doped cotton material covering, known as Madapolam.

We have been told that since there was no local expertise in the growing or handling of the flax crop, and even less of factory processing, Belgian refugees who possessed this knowledge were drafted into the Turriff area to oversee flax production. Young women from the area were conscripted to work in the factory, and also in the fields to pull, or collect, the flax. Due to the complete lack of face-masks or filtration at the time, almost all of those woman employed in flax processing eventually suffered from respiratory problems and cancer in later life, occurrences which they ascribe to their work in the factory, describing conditions there being like 'working in thick fog'.

After the war ended, a number of the Belgian workers stayed on in the area, and married locally. Sadly, most of these workers have passed away, and at the time of writing (2012), only one was known to be living in Turriff.

This Mosquito story leads to a further Scottish connection, with this quote from Hermann Göring:

In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy.

The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that?
- Hermann Göring, January 1943.


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