The first prototype
(K6127) underwent taxiing trials at Yeovil, Somerset on 10 June 1936,
before being taken by road to Boscombe Down, where it made its first
flight on 15 June, in the course of which it returned to Yeovil. Minor
modifications were made and the prototype was shown at the SBAC Display
at Hatfield at the end of June, and on 24 July it went to the Aircraft
and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath for a week
to under-take handling evaluation.
A production order for
144 aircraft was placed in September, and the second prototype flew on
11 December 1936, spending much of its time at Martlesham Heath before
going to India in 1938, for tropical trials with No. 5 Squadron.
Deliveries to the RAF began in June 1938, when No. 16 Squadron at Old
Sarum received its first aircraft to replace the Hawker Audax then in
service. The School of Army Co-operation was also based at Old Sarum,
and its pilots received instruction on the Lysander from squadron
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During 1939, 66
Lysander Mk Is were completed and of these, No. 16 Squadron received
14, the School of Army Co-operation nine, while other deliveries were
made to No. 13 Squadron at Odiham, No. 26 at Catterick and No. 4 at
Wimborne, the Lysanders in all cases replacing Hawker Hectors. On the
outbreak of war there were seven Lysander squadrons, the others being
No. II, and the Auxiliary Air Force's squadrons Nos. 613 and 614. By
this time most of the home-based squadrons had replaced their 890 hp
(664 kW) Bristol Mercury XII powered Mk Is with Lysander Mk IIs. These
had the 905 hp (675 kW) Bristol Perseus XII engine rated at 2,750 rpm
at 6,500 ft (1980 m), which offered a slightly better performance at
altitude. Many of the Mk Is were sent overseas, for service in Egypt,
India and Palestine. A total of 116 Mk Is was followed on the
production line by 442 Mk IIs, and it was with this latter mark that
Nos II, 4, 13 and 26 Squadrons moved to France in 1940.
A restored Westland Lysander (serial V9367) was a Mk IIIA (SD) that
flew with No. 161 Squadron.
As the German attack
began, No. 4 Squadron moved to Belgium, but such was the fury of the
onslaught that 11 Lysanders were lost between 10 and 23 May, some being
eliminated on the ground. One of the squadron's Lysander crews
destroyed a Bf 110 during a running battle with six Messerschmitts and
managed to return to base. On 22 May an aircraft of No. II Squadron,
flown by Flight Officer Doidge shot down a Henschel Hs 126 while his
rear-gunner accounted for a Ju 87 Stuka. By then the end of French
resistance was near, and the Lysander squadrons were withdrawn to the
United Kingdom, although some sorties were still made over the battle
area to drop supplies to Allied forces. One of these sorties was
decimated when, of 16 Lysanders and Hectors sent out on a supply sortie
over Calais, 14 aircraft and crews failed to return. Of the 174
Lysanders sent to France and Belgium, Eighty-eight were lost in air
combat, another 30 destroyed on the ground, and a loss of 120 crew
members between September 1939 and May 1940.
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The heavy fighting on
the continent, and severe losses incurred by army co-operation units,
indicated that the old concept of this type of operation was outdated,
particularly when air superiority had not been achieved. Accordingly,
Lysanders were withdrawn from the UK-based squadrons, which began to
re-equip in early 1941 with Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks.
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Overseas, Lysanders had
replaced Audaxes in No. 208 Squadron in Egypt in April 1939, and the
squadron's new aircraft saw action in the Western Desert alongside
Hawker Hurricanes of the same squadron which were being used for
tactical reconnaissance. The squadron later took part in the Greek
campaign, its Lysanders being replaced by Tomahawks in 1942.
No. 6 Squadron at
Ramleh, Palestine, operated a variety of aircraft, and was using Hawker
Hardies and Gloster Gauntlets when it received its Lysanders in
February 1940. These were supplemented and later replaced, in 1942, by
various marks of Hurricane and Bristol Blenheim Mk IVs.
In September 1941 No.
28 Squadron at Ambala, India, was the first squadron in the area to
receive Lysanders, replacing Audaxes. The squadron subsequendy took its
new aircraft to Burma, and operated in ground-attack, bombing and
tactical reconnaissance roles before being withdrawn to India in March
1942. In December of that year it converted to Hurricanes, becoming a
fighter squadron. The last squadron to use Lysanders in action was No.
20, in Burma during late 1943, before receiving Hurricanes as
Although withdrawn from
first-line service, Lysanders continued in operation for a variety of
other roles as target-tugs, air-sea rescue aircraft and, least
publicised at the time, with the Special Operations Executive (SOE),
which formed three squadrons (Nos. 138, 161 and 357), using a mixed bag
of aircraft which included Lysanders, maintained contact with
resistance groups in occupied Europe, dropping ammunition, explosives,
radios and other equipment and transporting agents to and from the
continent. It was in these night operations in occupied territory that
the Lysander really came into its own, being able to use its remarkable
short landing and take-off capabilities to the utmost in the small
fields marked out by the resistance. Lysander Mk IIIs and Mk IIIAs were
used for this work, 367 of the former and 347 of the latter being
built, powered by the 870 hp (649 kW) Bristol Mercury XX or 30 engines.
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variant was the TT.Mk IIIA target-tug, of which lOO were built. Figures
for total Lysander production vary, as a number of aircraft were
cancelled, but around 1,652 were built, including 225 under licence in
Canada by National Steel Car Corporation Lmited (Victory Aircraft
Limited) in Malton (Toronto).
A Westland Lysander Mk II of No. 225 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.
They were easy targets for German fighters and suffered heavy losses
in France and Belgium. Used initially as ground support aircraft, they
were soon relegated to second line duties, where the STOL capabilities
of the aircraft were used to their full potential.
36 Lysanders Mk IIs
went to the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (Turkish Air Force), and six
more to the Aer Chór na hÉireann (Irish Air Corps). The Royal
Egyptian Air Force took 20 (18 new Mk II’s, an ex-RAF Mk I, and a Mk
III for their No. 1 (AC) Squadron). Finland’s Ilmavoimat ordered
seventeen Lysanders, but only twelve were delivered during 1940, one
being lost during the ferry flight. They were used during the
Continuation War for reconnaissance, photographic survey, pamphlet and
message drops, and ground attack. Most of them served in Lentolaivue
16. The Aviátion Militar Portuguesa (Portuguese Air Corps)
received eight Lysanders by cargo ship in September 1943. Three
aircraft were sent to the United States for evaluation.
In 1940, the first
prototype Lysander (K6127) was modified with a shortened fuselage, a
Delanne-type wing (rear wing almost as large as the main one) with twin
fins and rudders, and a four-gun Boulton Paul turret with a huge field
of fire. This was intended as a home defence beach strafer.
Similar in purpose to
the 'Tandem Wing' Lysander, (L4673) was modified to incorporate a
ventral gun position, also for anti-invasion defence. As the name
suggests, it had a ungainly bloated look to it. It crashed on take-off,
and development was abandoned. Another Lysander (P1732) was fitted with
a mock-p of a four-gun Boulton Paul turret. It was soon abandoned and
never flew. Yet another anti-invasion aircraft (K6127) was armed with a
20 mm Oerlikon cannon with 60 round drum magazines mounted above each
wheel fairing, positioned to just clear the propeller arc. Intended to
attack invasion barges.
For research purposes
only, Blackburn fitted (P9105) with a radical new short-span high-lift
Steiger wing. It measured only 38 ft in span, and featured full-span
flaps and slats, a single main spar, and was swept forward 9°. Lateral
control was by wing-tip spoilers. Two more experimental aircraft were
tested. One aircraft featured castoring wheels for crosswind landings.
Another test used tracked landing gear for rough landing grounds.
Another aircraft was fitted with bench-type air brakes fitted on the
wings as an aerodynamic experiment.
At the end of the war
Canada was the only country to have a large Lysander population, some
of which remained in service until the early 1960s. The last
operational use of Lysanders was by No. 3 Squadron Royal Egyptian Air
Force against the Israeli Air Force in the 1948 war with Israel.
Lysander P.8 Prototypes
- A two-seat high-wing monoplane of metal construction mainly covered
in fabric. Powered by Bristol Mercury XII air-cooled radial engine of
890 hp (655 kW) driving a two-bladed fixed wooden propeller. Wing
optimized for low-speed flight, and short takeoff and landing (STOL)
and braced with two pairs of struts. Also equipped with trailing edge
flaps and leading edge slats (both automatically operated). Large fixed
landing gear with spats (fairings), each containing a landing light, a
7.7 mm (0.303 in) Browning machine-gun and 500 rounds of ammunition and
fittings for a stub wing. Stub wings could be fitted with bombs, supply
containers, and/or various other stores. Rear cockpit had flexible
mounting with a single 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Lewis Mk.IIIG or Lewis Mk.IIIE
or Vickers K machine-gun on flexible mounting in rear cockpit (Eight 97
round drum magazines were suppied for the Lewis).
Lysander Mk I - The
original production version with a 890 hp (664 kW) Bristol Mercury XII
radial engine driving a variable pitch three-bladed metal propeller.
Lysander Mk II -
Similar to the Lysander Mk I but powered by a 905 hp (675 kW) Bristol
Perseus XII radial engine. Supplied to France (1), Ireland (6) and
Turkey (36). About 20 RAF aircraft were later transferred to Free
French air force. One supplied to National Steel Car Corporation (later
Victory Aircraft Limited) of Malton, Ontario, as the pattern for
licence construction of 75 with Bristol Perseus XII engines.
Lysander Mk III -
Similar to Lysander Mk I but with a Bristol Mercury XX radial engine.
Westland built 367 and 150 licence-built in Canada.
Lysander Mk IIIA -
Similar to Lysander Mk III but with a Mercury 30 engine and additional
machine-gun in rear cockpit. 347 built, of which 11 were supplied to
Free French, Portugal (8) and the US Army Air Force (2).
Lysander Mk IIISCW or (SD)
- Conversions of the Lysander Mk III and Mk IIIA for clandestine
operations carrying agents or VIPs to and from enemy territory. Extra
fuel capacity with a 150 Imperial gallon (682 litre) auxiliary fuel
tank and access ladder to rear cockpit on left side, armoured floor,
improved radio equipment and provision for two 'passengers'. Also
called 'Special Duties' or (SD) aircraft.
Lysander TT.Mk I - The
designation of Lysander Mk Is after conversion for target towing. They
Lysander TT.Mk II - The
designation of Lysander Mk IIs after conversion for target towing. They
Lysander TT.Mk III -
The designation of Lysander Mk IIIs after conversion for target towing.
This designation became standard for all previous marks converted for
target towing. They were unarmed.
Lysander TT.Mk IIIIA -
100 new production target tugs with 870 hp (649 kW) Bristol Mercury 30
Poppet-Valve 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engine rated at 2,650 rpm at
4,500 ft (1370 m) and 820 hp (612 kW) at 2,650 rpm at take-off using
fuel with an 87 Octane rating.
(Westland Lysander Mk III)
Type: Two Seat
Army Co-Operation, Air Sea Rescue, Reconnaissance & Covert Ops
Pilot and Rear Gunner.
Technical Director Arthur Davenport and Technical Manager Edward
'Teddy' Petter of Westland Aircraft Limited.
Westland Aircraft Limited at Yeovil, Somerset (England) and the
National Steel Car Corporation Limited in Malton (Canada). In 1942
National Steel Car Corporation Lmited became Victory Aircraft Limited
in order to expedite the production the Avro Lancaster Bomber. Victory
Aircraft Limited was a wholly-owned by the Crown and responsible to the
Minister of Munitions and Supply. Westland produced 1,427 (including
two prototypes) and National Steel Car produced 225 aircraft.
870 hp (649 kW) Bristol Mercury XX Poppet-valve 9-cylinder air-cooled
radial engine rated at 2,650 rpm at 4,500 ft (1370 m) and 820 hp (612
kW) at 2,650 rpm at take-off.
Maximum speed 212 mph (341 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1525 m); service ceiling
21,500 ft (6555 m); stalling speed 56 mph (90.1 km/h); climb to 10,000
ft (3048 m) in 8 minutes.
106 Imperial gallons (482 litres) in a fuselage tank. On the Lysander
Mk IIISCW an external long-range tank of 150 Imperial gallons (682
litres) could also be carried to extend the range, giving the aircraft
an endurance of around 8 hours.
Range: 600 miles
(966 km) on internal fuel.
4,365 lbs (1980 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 6,318 lbs (2866
50 ft 0 in (15.24 m); length 30 ft 6 in (9.30 m); height 14 ft 6 in
(4.42 m); wing area 260.0 sq ft (14.15 sq m).
7.7 mm (0.303 in) Browning machine-guns. One in each wheel spat with
500 rounds per gun and two on a trainable mount in the rear cockpit)
plus up to 500 lbs (227 kg) of bombs on stub wing attached to the wheel
spats. Special Duty (SD) aircraft usually had the rear cockpit
machine-guns removed. Typical ordnance loadout was as follows:
16 x 20 lbs (9 kg) Mk
I bombs, or 16 x 11.5 lbs (5.2 kg) Mk I or Mk II practice smoke bombs,
or 16 x Mk I aircraft reconnaissance flares or
4x 112 lb (50.8 kg)
Mk.VII bombs (plus four smoke markers on fuselage carrier), or 4x 120
lb (54.4 kg) Mk.I bombs; or
2x 250 lb (113 kg)
bombs (plus four smoke markers on fuselage carrier), or 2x dinghy
containers (plus four smoke markers on fuselage carrier), or 2x SCI
smoke generators, or 2x Mk.VB supply dropper. or 2x LC 17/30 lb small
Prototypes, Mk I, Mk II, Mk III, Mk IIIA, Mk IIISCW (covert ops), TT.Mk
I, TT.Mk II, TT.Mk III, TT.Mk IIIA.
Standard communications and navigation equipment.
flight (prototype) 15 June 1936; first flight (second prototype) 11
December 1936; initial deliveries (Mk I) June 1938.
Britain (RAF), Canada (RCAF - built under licence), Egypt (20), Finland
(9), France (1), Ireland (6), Portugal (8), Turkey (36), USA (3).