Westland Lysander III
Battle of Britain Hall
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The Lysander was designed to operate closely with the Army and had a remarkable performance which allowed it to get into and out of extremely small fields. A radical change in Army co-operation tactics meant that its lasting fame is not in this role but as a Special Duties aircraft ferrying Allied agents in and out of enemy occupied Europe.
Four Lysander squadrons went to France in 1939. On 10 May 1940 the Germans began their Blitzkrieg in France and the Low Countries and the Lysanders were soon heavily committed. Despite some notable successes the Army Co-operation units suffered extremely high casualties. Over 170 Lysanders were sent to France; only fifty came back.
After the withdrawal from France Lysanders patrolled the coastal areas of south and east England at dawn and dusk as an anti-invasion reconnaissance measure. It was planned that in the event of an invasion the Lysanders would bomb and machine gun German troops on the beaches.
Late in 1940 Lysanders began air-sea rescue duties in the Channel and North Sea. Not only could the Lysander spot airmen in the sea, (an extremely difficult task, see Wings Over Water exhibition) and bring surface vessels to them, it was able to drop a life saving dinghy and supplies.