Skip to main content

Sometimes a weapon is re-purposed, and makes a major impact in its new rôle. For example, the Lewis gun was designed as a light, portable, squad machine gun; undoubtedly, its greatest impact was in the air, becoming one of the first air-to-air weapons, an application which lasted well into WW2. The Westland Lysander was brought into service just as the task for which had been designed – Army Co-operation – was undergoing major revision. It is fair to say that the Lysander became obsolete (as did its contemporary, the Luftwaffe’s Henschel Hs126) much faster than expected.

The first Lysander was constructed to Specification A.39/34, in 1936, but production Mark 1 aircraft (Spec. 36/36) didn’t reach Army Co-operation Command, and No. 16 Squadron, RAF, until 1938. Orders from the Finnish Air Force, Turkish Air Force, Royal Egyptian Air Force and others, followed. Despite a top speed of only 220 mph, when the British Expeditionary Force went to war in 1939, in France, a Lysander became the very first RAF aircraft to shoot down a Luftwaffe aircraft to fall on B.E.F. territory (an He 111 bomber). Mark I and Mark III aircraft were powered by the reliable Bristol Mercury engine, but the Mark II had the unusual Bristol Perseus sleeve-valve unit. National Steel Car Corporation Limited (eventually Victory Aircraft) of Malton, Toronto, Canada built 225, and Westland built 1,427 Lysanders of all Marks, with production ending in 1942. The B.E.F. and its Air Component fought valiantly, but were overwhelmed, the Lysanders even being used as ground attack aircraft (rather than their usual rôle as spotters for the guns, and short-range reconnaissance). During the Battle of Britain they undertook coastal patrols around Southern and Eastern England, and made ready to attack the expected German invasion. Attempts were made to beef-up the ‘Lizzie’s’ armament. Two 20mm Oerlikon cannon were fitted to the spats and braced to the fuselage, but this trial was not pursued. A Boulton & Paul 4-gun turret (4 x .303 Brownings), as fitted to that company’s Defiant fighter was shoe-horned into one aircraft, but that did not fly. One desperate modification which did fly (but crashed) was the so-called ‘Pregnant Perch’, a radical modification with a broad tailplane (almost like a second wing) carrying a mock-up of a four-gun tail turret. Needless to say, it was almost unflyable. After the Battle of Britain was over, the Lizzie was quickly replaced in Army Co-operation Command by the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk and other fighters.

The RAF were left with a stock of Bristol Mercury-powered, two-seat, high-wing monoplanes, with excellent short-field performance, but limited offensive capabilities (small bombs could be carried on stub wings attached to the wheel spats), and hardly capable of defending themselves in the ‘new world’ of high-speed fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf109. In the short-term, Lysanders were used to perform air-sea rescue duties for Coastal Command, liaison, and target towing duties. However, many Mark III and Mark IIIA aircraft were converted to a much more exciting rôle.

Here we see the Shuttleworth Trust’s, Canadian-built, Lysander Mk IIIA (SD) - G-AZWT - at Old Warden, Bedfordshire; formerly RCAF ’1582′, but painted as ‘V9367′, ‘MA-B’ of No. 161 Squadron, RAF, a unit which specialized in insertion/extraction of agents of the Special Operations Executive for undercover work with the Resistance in France and other countries. The aircraft’s (SD) designation stood for Special Duties, and was an attempt to mask the actual work being undertaken. This aircraft was flown by Pilot Officer Peter Vaughan-Fowler (later, Group Captain, DSO, DFC and Bar, AFC, CVO, Croix de Guerre and Palm, Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur) who made more landings in Occupied France (17) than any other pilot. The aircraft has a dummy 150 gallon belly tank fitted (the real article gave the ‘Lizzie’ an 8 hour range), and a fixed ladder welded to the port side of the fuselage for easy access for the clandestine passengers; a small bench seat is fitted for two people (three in extremis), and the two Browning .303 machine guns in the spats were retained.

When Winston Churchill established the Special Operations Executive, in July 1940, he demanded that it, ‘Set Europe ablaze’. The Lysander’s original rôle might have been overtaken by events, but it truly helped to fan the flames of resistance in Occupied Europe during WW2.

http://peoplesmosquito.org.uk

http://shortfinals.wordpress.com

Originally posted to Kossack Air Force on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 04:00 PM PST.

Also republished by World War Two Aircraft.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  It really was a "Jack of all Trades" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals, billmosby

    and STOL as well.  

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 04:43:44 PM PST

    •  Thank you so much for this.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe

      the 'Bomber Guy' series of aviation videos are excellent, and he has shown civil as well as military subjects. The one on the Typhoon is very thrilling!

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:05:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I thank you too. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe, shortfinals

      For one thing, I now know exactly how to pronounce the name Lysander.

      It brought to mind the time I saw a Storch (or perhaps the French-produced version of it) perform similarly. At an airshow in London, Ontario in the early 80s.

      One other plane with similar performance is the Maule M-4, if I am not mistaken, but of course as a light plane it wouldn't have the same payload capacity. I saw one land in a remarkable short distance in Ann Arbor, MI and tow a glider out. It was a fairly large, open field within the city limits.

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:03:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Antonov AN-2 is also a remarkable STOL (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shortfinals, billmosby

        There was one at our local airport for a long time until the owner sold it.  

        The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

        by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:06:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm due to write on the AN-2, soon... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Otteray Scribe, billmosby

          ..and must admit that it is a fine aircraft, but one that has a dastardly difficult pre-flight and start-up procedure. You can get a Spitfire in the air in around 2 minutes, if you are in a rush, 5/8 minutes if you are NOT scrambling after a Gruppe of Heinkel IIIs! The AN-2 will take you anywhere between 30-40 minutes!

          The first time I saw the cockpit of the AN-2 I was staggered; it looked like an overgrown Fordson tractor of the 1940s! The switches and other controls were not so much simple as positively agricultural.

          Never the less, they are excellent at doing what they were designed to do.

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:33:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I always assumed it was designed (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            shortfinals, billmosby

            to be worked on by tractor mechanics--using tractor parts.

            People who have only seen photographs of the thing do not realize how huge it is.  There are not many single engine airplanes an average size adult can walk under the horizontal tail without ducking.  

            The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

            by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:52:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Up in Rexburg, ID, I saw an M-18 Dromader, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Otteray Scribe, shortfinals

            a low-wing ag monoplane which Wikipedia says has the same 1000 hp powerplant ASh-82 as the An-2 (although the Polish license-built version). Even that is a real hunk of airplane, I can only imagine what walking up to an An-2 would be like.

            Wikipedia says there have been about 18,000 An-2's produced, compared to about 800 Dromaders.

            Moderation in most things.

            by billmosby on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:57:38 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually, the standard engine on the AN-2 is... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              billmosby, Otteray Scribe

              ....the ASh-62, a nine-cylinder development of a licence-built version of the Wright Cyclone, which puts out about 1,000hp (or the Polish equivalent). The Dromader is powered by the Polish-built version, the ASz-61IR of 980hp.

              The much bigger ASh-82 is a 14-cylinder twin row engine used in the La-5, La-7 etc.

              'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

              by shortfinals on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 08:41:54 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  That's what I originally wrote, (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                shortfinals, Otteray Scribe

                then when I read the wiki again squinted wrong and thought I was seeing an 8. Should have triple-checked, lol.

                Moderation in most things.

                by billmosby on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 10:01:01 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  That's the sort of thing ... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Otteray Scribe, billmosby

                  ........that I do all the time! smile

                  'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

                  by shortfinals on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 03:25:40 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  My most effective proofreading (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    shortfinals

                    occurs right after I publish something. "I get by with a little help from my friends.". lol

                    Moderation in most things.

                    by billmosby on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:17:10 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Anytime someone wants to spot some of my MANY.. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      billmosby

                      ...typos, etc. they are more than welcome to point them out to me! Since I tend to write 'detail-heavy' stuff, the grammar, spelling (and I have to translate into American English!) and other things tend to drift a little at times.

                      Plus, I have the 'day job'...plus the Mosquito project spread across three continents (try a video conference call with about 6 people, some in China, some in Europe and me in New England - the time zones kill you!). If I am granted this one last wish, I will get to see it done.

                      By the way, as we are now a Trust, and a Limited Company, our Paypal button will be up shortly, and we will be delighted if people spread the homepage around via Facebook and other means, amongst all their aviation friends!

                      Cheers

                      Ross

                      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

                      by shortfinals on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 08:42:30 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  My most favorite English lessons (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        shortfinals

                        are those I learned over the years from reading British airplane publications such as Royal Air Force Flying Review, Flying Review International, Flight, Profile Publications, Aero Modeller, Scale Models, Air International, World Airpower Journal, Wings of Fame, International Air Power Review, and so on.

                        As for translating into American English,

                        "There are places where English entirely disappears. Why in America, they haven't used it for years."  from My Fair Lady.

                        So true.

                        Moderation in most things.

                        by billmosby on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 10:07:21 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

      •  STOL aircraft have always fascinated me.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        billmosby, Otteray Scribe

        ...when I was at Wroughton, I had the unique Handley Page H.P. 39 Gugnunc, a biplane designed to WIN the Guggenheim Safe Aircraft Competition (1927/9).

        Win it it did! Except for two small facts a) the American judges prefered the Curtiss Tanager because it had an enclosed cabin and b) the small matter of Curtiss using illegal, unlicensed copies of HANDLEY PAGE leading edge slots!

        Yes, Handley Page took Curtiss to court and eventually won, but they never got the prize money! I love the fact that Curtiss only admitted to a (quote) 'technical infringement' (unquote)

        'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

        by shortfinals on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:22:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Here is the one in your photo (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals

    flying in an air show demonstration.

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 04:46:31 PM PST

    •  The aircraft is actually shown at two locations... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe, billmosby

      the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, and its home base of the Shuttleworth Trust, Old Warden Airfield, to the south of Duxford. I was at both airfields in October, this year....my friend David Lee (who is also involved with the Mosquito project) still does work for Duxford; he was formerly Deputy Director there.

      The REAL problem lies with Mercury engine spares. If I remember correctly, it took 22 scrap Mercury engines to produce TWO flying examples for the Blenheim project!

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 05:27:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Those SOE operatives (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals, pelagicray, prfb

    had stainless steel cojones.  Going into harm's way is almost an understatement.  

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:11:49 PM PST

    •  The whole 'system' of a two-way exchange of... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe

      vital information, secret agents, important refugees and much more was an amazing operation. The Lysander was at the core of this, with other aircraft such as the Hudson making longer-ranger sorties (to as far away as Poland), and aircraft such as the Stirling and Halifax making large scale supply drops. Later, USAAF B-24 would also drop agents and supplies.

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:33:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site