It was 80 years ago this week that one of Britain’s most famous wartime aeroplanes made its maiden flight - but the prototype Mosquito has had to go without any celebrations marking the historic event.

Instead, the aircraft, W4050, had the company of only two other Mosquitos in the display hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, standing just a few steps from where the iconic multi-role 'Mossy' was both designed and built in 1940.

“It made its first flight on November 25, 1940 and it was very disappointing that because of the coronavirus lockdown we have not been able to celebrate the event at the museum, as we did for its 75th anniversary,” said museum marketing director Mike Nevin.

Watford Observer:

W4050 makes its maiden flight from Hatfield airfield (BAe)

When the museum is allowed to reopen after the lockdown is lifted, visitors will once again be able to see the largest collection of the multi-role Mosquitos in the world, and even book a special ‘cockpit experience’ of one of the trio, the B.Mk35 bomber version that shares the same hangar as the fighter-bomber variant, the FBVI.

W4050 is the only surviving World War II twin piston engine prototype of a combat aircraft to be preserved in the world. It was one of four versions which were fully built in special, long-since disappeared hangars built on the site of the museum entrance and Aeroshop.

It was disassembled and taken by road to the de Havilland Aircraft Company’s headquarters and airfield at Hatfield on November 3, 1940, just over a year after the company moved its design team from its Hatfield base into the remote Tudor mansion, Salisbury Hall.

Watford Observer:

W4050 – five days to go as final checks are made on November 19th 1940 (BAe)

After reassembly, it made its first flight at 3.45pm on Friday, November 25.

At the controls was Geoffrey de Havilland Jr, a son of company founder Sir Geoffrey de Havilland who was among those watching.

It was never to see combat, instead it took part in nearly three years of various development trials during which it attained a maximum altitude of 40,000ft and, fitted with increasingly more powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, reached a highest-ever speed for a Mosquito of 439mph.

Watford Observer:

W4050 with camouflaged topsides replacing its all-yellow finish (BAe)

“The prototype made a truly remarkable contribution to the development of a wonderful aircraft and it is even more remarkable that it has survived and is here now for everyone to see,” said Mr Nevin.

When the museum reopens visitors will continue to have to observe the coronavirus rules of wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, and using the sanitising sprays around the museum as they see nearly a score of historic de Havilland civil and military aircraft on display and under restoration by the museum volunteers.

Watford Observer:

W4050 at its permanent home at the museum (DHAM)

“We will be putting news of the reopening on the museum website and we are really looking forward to welcoming lots more visitors,” said Mr Nevin.

The museum is signposted at Junction 22 of the M25 and on the B556 and is fully accessible. There is free parking.

Full details and pre-booking can be found on the museum website at where a new range of virtual tours of the museum and its aircraft can also be viewed.