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The Lysander: Canada’s Unsung Hero

Lysander

Designed as an army co-operation aircraft, the Lysander equipped six Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons in France for artillery spotting, reconnaissance, and other communications tasks during the first year of the war. This role would largely disappear with the fall of France, but the Lysander would go on to become a remarkable multi-role aircraft. Many Lysanders were converted to target tugs helping to train anti-aircraft gunners in Britain. Others, fitted with air-droppable life rafts, formed the RAF’s first air/sea rescue squadrons.

Working with fast motor launches to within a mile of the enemy’s coastline, Lysanders helped rescue hundreds of downed airmen. Today Lysanders are largely remembered for a dangerous clandestine role they filled. Using their superb short take-off and landing capabilities, unarmed Lysanders were operated in and out of unprepared fields, pastures, and forest clearings in the dark of night to pick up secret agents and saboteurs from occupied Europe.

Selected to equip the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) army co-operation squadrons in 1938, 225 Lysanders were built under license by National Steel Car at Malton,just west of Toronto. Like their British cousins, many of the RCAF’s Lysanders were later converted to target tugs. Painted in distinctive yellow and black stripes for visibility, Lysanders were operated by all of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan’s Bombing and Gunnery Schools in Canada. Postwar, four Lysanders were used for crop spraying in Alberta.

See a preview of an upcoming episode of Ultimate Restorations showcasing Vintage Wings’ Lysander.   

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