In 1941 the RAF let a contract for about 40 Westland Lysander Mk III/IIIAs to be modified for special duties work under the designation Mk III SCW (Special Contract Westland). Carried out by Westland Aircraft sub-contractor Fairfield Aviation, the work involved removing all the armament and replacing the variable pitch propeller with a constant speed version. A 150 gallon fuel tank was added under the fuselage which increased the aircraft’s range from 600 miles to about 1000 miles along with a larger internal oil tank to allow for the longer engine running. The rear gunner’s compartment was modified by replacing the canopy with a one-piece unit that slid rearwards on rails, lengthening and strengthening the rear floor and fitting a fixed metal ladder to the port side allowing quick entry and exit. A rearward facing bench for two passengers was installed with a locker underneath and a shelf was built at the rear of the compartment which could also serve as a seat for a third passenger. Known in RAF service as the Lysander Mk III (SD), these aircraft served in the special duties role with Nos 138, 161 and 357 Squadrons.
The Museum’s Lysander is a full-size replica built in 2015 by Gate Guards UK Ltd. in Cornwall for the film ‘Allied’ and was acquired with the help of a contribution from the Museum’s Society of Friends. Currently, the aircraft is displayed as V9875, MA-J, the Lysander flown by Squadron Leader Hugh Verity, flight commander of No 161 Squadron’s A Flight in 1943 but will be repainted as V9822, MA-E, as a tribute to Flying Officer James ‘Mac’ McCairns. In the 13 month period between November 1942 and December 1943, ‘Mac’ flew 25 successful pick-up missions to occupied France from RAF Tangmere, most of them in V9822, winning 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses.