Short Feature Article with Gerhard la Crois
Classic Kit Build
Here is a build of a old Airfix Lysander, I made it a Mk. III SD Version of the 161 ‘’Special Duties’’ Squadron RAF Tempsford early 1944.
Here’s a little bit of background on the type…
The Westland Lysander (nickname the “Lizzie”) is a British army co-operation and liaison aircraft produced by Westland Aircraft used immediately before and during the Second World War. After becoming obsolete in the army co-operation role, the aircraft’s exceptional short-field performance enabled clandestine missions using small, improvised airstrips behind enemy lines to place or recover agents, particularly in occupied France with the help of the French Resistance. Royal Air Force army co-operation aircraft were named after mythical or historical military leaders; in this case the Spartan admiral Lysander was chosen.
In August 1941 a new squadron, No. 138 (Special Duties), was formed to undertake missions for the Special Operations Executive to maintain clandestine contact with the French Resistance. Among its aircraft were Lysander Mk IIIs, which flew over and landed in occupied France. While general supply drops could be left to the rest of No. 138’s aircraft, the Lysander could insert and remove agents from the continent or retrieve Allied aircrew who had been shot down over occupied territory and had evaded capture. For this role the Mk IIIs were fitted with a fixed ladder over the port side to hasten access to the rear cockpit and a large drop tank under the belly. In order to slip in unobtrusively Lysanders were painted matte black overall (some early examples had brown/green camouflaged upper surfaces and later examples had grey/green upper surfaces); operations almost always took place within a week of a full moon, as moonlight was essential for navigation. The aircraft undertook such duties until the liberation of France in 1944.
Lysanders flew from secret airfields at Newmarket and later Tempsford, but used regular RAF stations to fuel-up for the actual crossing, particularly RAF Tangmere. Flying without any navigation equipment other than a map and compass, Lysanders would land on short strips of land, such as fields, marked out by four or five torches. Or to avoid having to land, the agent, wearing a special padded suit, stepped off at very low altitude and rolled to a stop on the field. They were originally designed to carry one passenger in the rear cockpit, but for SOE use the rear cockpit was modified to carry two passengers in extreme discomfort in case of urgent necessity. The pilots of No. 138 and from early 1942, No. 161 Squadron transported 101 agents to and recovered 128 agents from Nazi-occupied Europe. The Germans knew little about the British aircraft and wished to study one. Soldiers captured an intact Lysander in March 1942 when its pilot was unable to destroy it after a crash, but a train hit the truck carrying the Lysander, destroying the cargo.
Lysanders also filled other less glamorous roles, such as service as target-towing and communication aircraft. Two aircraft (T1443 and T1739) were transferred to the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) for training and 18 were used by the Royal Navy′s Fleet Air Arm. All British Lysanders were withdrawn from service in 1946.