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Westland Lysander



Westland Lysander

At the outbreak of the Second World War the RAF's successor to the RE8 in the army cooperation, reconnaissance and artillery-spotting role was the Westland Lysander.

Nicknamed by some "The Flying Carrot", thanks to the shape of its fuselage, the Westland Lysander was first flown in 1935 but when war broke out it proved to be too slow for action in the face of modern enemy fighters. It went on to do excellent work in other fields, especially in air/sea rescue and carrying agents and supplies between Britain and Resistance Forces in the Occupied countries. The latter role won the Lysander pilots the nickname of 'The Pimpernels of the Air'.

Several units operating Lysanders went to France with the British Expeditionary Force in September 1939 and in November a 'Lizzie' shot down the first Luftwaffe Heinkel bomber to fall in BEF territory. During the evacuation of Dunkirk in May and June of 1940, Lysanders were employed in dropping supplies to beleagured troops defending Calais and made several attacks on German positions. Many Lysanders were lost during this period.

Later on the Lysander found its true element. With its excellent short and rough field performance and fitted with a long range fuel tank and fixed ladder, they were widely used as special night mission aircraft to ferry agents and supplies to and from the occupied Continent. In this role the aircraft served until the end of hostilities, thus deserving itself a rightful place in aviation history.


Two-seat Army Co-Operation aircraft.

Power Plant:

One 870-h.p. Bristol Mercury XI I engine.


Span, 50 ft. 0 in. Length, 30 ft. 6 in. Height, 11 ft. 6 in. Wing area, 260 sq. ft.


Empty, 4,160 lbs. Gross, 6,015 lbs.


Max. speed, 230 m.p.h. at 10,000 ft. Range with full load, 600 miles at 150 m.p.h. Service ceiling, 21,500 ft.


Two fixed 0.303 machine-guns forward and one 0.303 gun manually operated in rear cockpit. Six light bombs on stubs attached to wheel pants.



Lysander 161 Squadron

A Lysander in the guise of 161 Squadron based at RAF Tangmere.

No.161 Squadron, based at RAF Tempsford, was responsible for flying agents into and out of occupied France. This special duties squadron, equipped with Lysander aircraft, used RAF Tangmere, on the English south coast, as an advance base for flying highly dangerous night-time missions into occupied France. Pilots needed to exercise flying skills of a very high order indeed as they were required to fly at night during full moon periods across hostile territory, locating and landing at a pre-determined rendezvous for a drop or a pick-up on ground which was typically illuminated by only three hand-held torches. Landing on and taking off from muddy ground could be very hazardous indeed, even for the most competent pilots.

Headquarters for the crews and SOE agents at Tangmere was Tangmere Cottage; incoming SIS agents went to Bignor Manor before being transferred to London for debriefing.




A Mk III Westland Lysander adapted for agent pick-up duties with long-range fuel tank mounted between the wheels and the fixed ladder on the port side.


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