By far the majority of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) pick-up operations conducted during the Second World War from Tangmere by No 161 Specials Duties Squadron were undertaken by Westland Lysander aircraft. The Lysander had originally been designed for Army cooperation work. It was described by pilots as “a beautiful little plane to fly and very maneuverable and ideal for getting in and out of small landing grounds”. For SD work, Westland was awarded the contract to modify Lysander Mk IIIs into dedicated ‘Special Duties’ aircraft. The RAF designated MkIII (SD)s or Mk IIIA (SD)s were modified by a Westland sub contractor, Fairfield Aviation which had works at Odham’s Press, Watford, Hertfordshire. About 40 SDs were produced, the test flying being carried out at nearby Elstree aerodrome.
All armament was removed and the normal variable pitch propeller was replaced by a constant speed three bladed version. A 150 gallon, permanently fixed, fuel tank was added under the fuselage which increased the aircraft’s range from 600 miles to about 1000 miles with an endurance of 10 hours flying. The normal gunner’s compartment was modified considerably for the SD task. The canopy was replaced with a one-piece unit that slid rearwards on rails to allow quick entry and exit. A ladder was permanently fitted to the port side to allow ease of access and the floor was lengthened and strengthened. The bulky radio was replaced with a much smaller one and a rearward facing bench for two passengers was installed with a locker underneath. A shelf was also built at the rear of the compartment which could also serve as a seat.
The Lysander Mk III model shown in the photographs was built by Colin Cahalin (standing by the model) and was constructed using photographs and original plans found in a 1935 book. The model is scaled down to 4.2 scale with a twelve foot wing span and took Colin nearly five years to complete in his spare time. It is fully radio controlled even down to all the front leading edge slats working. The model is finished in the markings of V9673 (MA-J) ‘Jiminy’ Cricket, Squadron Leader Hugh Verity’s aircraft he flew when at RAF Tangmere during 1943 as Commanding Officer of No 161 (SD) Squadron’s ‘A’ (Lysander) flight.
THE MODEL OF SQUADRON LEADER HUGH VERITY’S LYSANDER CAN BE SEEN DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S MERSTON HALL.