Weapons of World War Two
The strange aircraft illustrated here is probably unknown for many because it had a secondary role in the war theater. It had not exceptional qualities, as the Spitfire, nor was it built in large numbers, as the C 47 Skytrain, neither it transported very important personages as the Fieseler 156 Storch did. Despite of this, the small Westland Lysander ("Lizzie" for its crews) immediately demostrated to be a multifaceted aircraft, albeit in some occasions it was forced to be such, and it had a rather long operative life, from 1938 to the late 1944.
When in June 1936 it effectuated its first flight, the Royal Air Force had not yet outlined well its physiognomy. The Spitfire had flown for the first time in March of that year, and there were in service aircraft such as the biplane seaplane Walrus, bombers which aged early, such as the Vickers Wellesley or the Fairey Battle, and fighters of outdated formula, such as the biplane Gloster Gladiator. Within these companions the Lysander, which was clearly a transition aircraft, was initially classified as fighter, to be promptly passed to the more adequate role of liaison aircraft.
At the beginning of the war it formed a certain number of small squadrons, some of which were sent to France, where they were soon bled in the unequal fight against the German aircraft, of more modern conception, acting generally for liaison, but also as transporters, and sometimes as fighters. During the tragic days of Dunkirk they gave, as much as they could, air cover to the encircled British troops, and they were the last aircraft that left the continent before secluding themselves in an England sieged by Hitler, who seemed about to disembark his troops in British land.
The Lysander would soon return to the European skies, but not like their "large brothers", which arrived roaring to bombard Germany. On the contrary, these aircraft would try to arrive to occupied territories on the most anonymous and silent way possible. The Lysander would become a famous "air bridge" for spies and saboteurs, and a tireless "mailbox" for the members of the Resistance in every corner of Europe. The aircraft had the possibility of landing in very short terrains, of barely some dozens of meters, and its robust landing gear allowed it to take off even in unprepared runways.
When later the engine, a radial Bristol Mercury XII of nine cylinders, which developed 890 horsepower, was replaced by the smaller model XX of 870 horsepower, and it was applied to the fuselage a supplementary deposit, like in the aircraft depicted in the illustration, the Lysander got to have an operational range of more than 1500 kilometers. Structurally it was a single-engined high-winged monoplane with fixed landing gear. This one was a characteristic element, for inside each fairing there was one 7.7-millimeter machine gun, whereas in the exterior, in the side opposite to the engine, the fairing was linked to a small wing surface fitted on its lower part with clamp points for transporting antipersonnel bombs.
An orientable machine gun in the rear part of the cockpit, served by the telegraphist-machine gunner, completed the armament. In the models destined to serve as liaison for the Resistance, the drop armament was removed, and in the left side it was attached a ladder, to ease the access into the cockpit. In the spacious cockpit, gifted with wide visibility, could be accommodated a passenger, generally with "one way ticket". The Lysander, of which 1368 exemplars would be built, would operate until the first days of 1945, when it would be replaced by more modern aircraft, giving with its flights a very valuable contribution to the fight of the members of the diverse resistance movements.
First flight: June 1936
Wingspan: 15.23 meters
Wing area: 24.15 square meters
Length: 9.32 meters
Height: 5.45 meters
Full load/Empty weight: 2865/1979 kilograms
Payload/Crew: 886 kilograms/2 plus one passenger
Engine: Bristol Mercury XX of 870 horsepower
Time to reach 1500 meters of altitude: 4 minutes 11 seconds
Maximum speed at 1500 meters: 341 kilometers/hour
Service ceiling: 6500 meters
Defensive armament: Two Browning 7.7-millimeter machine guns and one orientable Lewis 7.7-millimeter machine gun firing backwards
Drop armament: Up to 227 kilograms of bombs
Operational range: 965 kilometers
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