Westland Lysander Mk1 – 6 Sqn RAF, Palestine, 1940
Lysander Mk1 – 6 Sqn RAF, Palestine, 1940.
2 in stock
2 in stock
Corgi Aviation Archive 1/72 scale AA36802: Westland Lysander Mk.I JV-W, L6877 of No. 6 Squadron, RAF based in Palestine in 1940. Finished in early WW2 Western Desert livery. Limited edition of 4,050 pieces. Has to be seen to be appreciated and now hard to find.
Length 5.25 inches Wingspan 8.25 inches
The Westland Lysander was 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, unprepared airstrips behind enemy lines to place or recover agents, particularly in occupied France. Like other British army air co-operation aircraft it was given the name of a mythical or legendary leader, in this case the Spartan general Lysander.
In 1934 the Air Ministry issued Specification A.39/34 for an army co-operation aircraft to replace the Hawker Hector. Initially Hawker Aircraft, Avro and Bristol were invited to submit designs, but after some debate within the Ministry, a submission from Westland was invited as well. The Westland design, internally designated P.8, was the work of Arthur Davenport under the direction of “Teddy” Petter. It was Petter’s second aircraft design and he spent considerable time interviewing Royal Air Force pilots to find out what they wanted from such an aircraft. The result of Petter’s enquiries suggested that field of view, low-speed handling characteristics and STOL performance were the most important requirements.
Davenport and Petter worked to design an aircraft around these features: the result was unconventional and looked, by its 15 June 1936 maiden flight, rather antiquated. The Lysander was powered by a Bristol Mercury air-cooled radial engine and had high wings and a fixed conventional landing gear faired inside large, streamlined spats. The spats had mountings for small, removable stub wings that could be used to carry light bombs or supply canisters. The wings had an unusual reverse taper towards the root, which gave the impression of a bent gull wing, although in fact the spars were perfectly straight. It had a girder type construction with a light wood frame around that to give the aerodynamic shape. The forward part was duralumin tube joined with brackets and plates,and the after part welded stainless steel tubes. Plates and brackets were cut from channel extrusions rather than forming from sheet steel. The front spar and lift struts were extrusions. The wing itself was fabric covered. A somewhat similar wing layout was also successfully used in a later Polish LWS-3 Mewa army co-operation aircraft and much earlier RWD-6 sports plane.
Despite its appearance, the Lysander was aerodynamically advanced; it was equipped with fully automatic wing slots and slotted flaps and a variable incidence tailplane. These refinements gave the Lysander a stalling speed of only 65 mph (104 km/h, 56.5 knots). It also featured the largest Elektron alloy extrusion made at the time: a single piece inside the spats supporting the wheels. This a feature of British built aircraft only – Canadian built machines had a conventionally built up assembly due to the difficulties involved in manufacturing such a large extrusion. The Air Ministry requested two prototypes of the P.8 and the competing Bristol Type 148, quickly selecting the Westland aircraft for production and issuing a contract in September 1936.
The first Lysanders entered service in June 1938, equipping squadrons for army co-operation and were initially used for message-dropping and artillery spotting. When war broke out in Europe, the earlier Mk Is had been largely replaced by Mk IIs, the older machines heading for the Middle East. Some of these aircraft, now designated type L.1, operated with the Chindits of the British Indian Army in the Burma Campaign of the Second World War.
Four regular squadrons equipped with Lysanders accompanied the British Expeditionary Force to France in October 1939, and were joined by a further squadron early in 1940. Following the German invasion of France and the low countries on 10 May 1940, the Lysanders were put into action as spotters and light bombers. In spite of occasional victories against German aircraft, they made very easy targets for the Luftwaffe even when escorted by Hurricanes. Withdrawn from France during the Dunkirk evacuation, they continued to fly supply-dropping missions to Allied forces from bases in England; on one mission to drop supplies to troops trapped at Calais, 14 of 16 Lysanders and Hawker Hectors that set out were lost. A total of 118 Lysanders were lost in or over France and Belgium in May and June 1940, of a total of 175 deployed. With the fall of France, it was clear that the type was unsuitable for the army co-operation role, being described by Air Marshall Arthur Barratt, commander-in-chief of the British Air Forces in France as “quite unsuited to the task; a faster, less vulnerable aircraft was required.” It was replaced in the home-based army co-operation role from 1941 by camera-equipped fighters such as the Curtiss Tomahawk and North American Mustang carrying out reconnaissance operations, while light planes such as the Taylorcraft Auster were used to direct artillery. Some UK-based Lysanders went to work operating air-sea rescue, dropping dinghies to downed RAF aircrew in the English ChannelFourteen squadrons and flights were formed for this role in 1940 and 1941.
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 the Lysanders were painted matt black; operations almost always took place within a week of a full moon, as moonlight was essential for navigation.
The 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. They were designed to carry one passenger in the rear cockpit, but in case of urgent necessity three could be carried in extreme discomfort. 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 Lysander was successful in this role, and continued to undertake such duties until the liberation of France in 1944.