Westland Lysander Mk IIIA (SD)

RAF army co-operation aeroplane made famous by its role in resistance operations.


The Lysander entered service in 1938, Four squadrons went to France in the Air Component of the British Expeditionary Force in 1939. Intended for reconnaissance and artillery spotting, the aircraft were also used for ground attack and aerial re-supply - one even shot down a Heinkel 111 bomber.


From 1942 army co-operation Lysanders were replaced by faster type, but the aircraft continued to be used for air-sea rescue, target towing and communications work.


In 1941, the Special operations Executive (SOE), tasked with activating and supplying resistance in occupied Europe, was allocated Nos 138 and 161 Squadrons. Based at Tempsford and Bedfordshire, these squadrons used bombers for parachute drops of agents and supplies. To pick up agents, however, they needed a small aeroplane with Short Take-off and Landing (STOL) capability and for this the Mark III Lysander was ideal.


1,750 Lysanders were produced between 1937 and 1942.



This aircraft (see the photo gallery above) was manufactured in 1940. After an uneventful career in the RAF it was sent to Canada in 1942, after which its history is not known. In the 1980's it was returned to England and acquired by the Imperial War Museum in 1989. Restoration was completed in 1993. The aircraft is painted to resemble that flown by Squadron Leader Hugh Verity of 161 (SD) Squadron at Tempsford in 1943.



Pilots plus two or three passengers


All metal construction with fabric covered fuselage and control surfaces


One 870 hp Bristol Mercury nine cylinder air cooled radial


Armament (when fitted)

Two 0.303 machine guns in wheel spats Two 0.303 machine guns in rear cockpit Two 250 lb (113 kg) bombs on stub wings



Maximum speed

190 mph (306 kph)

Service ceiling

26,000 ft (7,925 m)


1,400 miles (2,253 km)



Wing span

50ft (15.24 m)


30ft 6in (9.29 m)


11ft 6in (3.5 m)

Weight loaded

10,000 lb (4,536  kg)