The Westland Lysander was designed to replace the Hawker Hector as an army cooperation aircraft as part of the frenzied pre-war RAF expansion. Designed by Teddy Petter the Lysander was a typically innovative design and featured a high lift wing which gave the Lysander excellent STOL characteristics. In the army co-operation role the Lysander featured stub wings attached to the wheel spats to which bombs and other ordinance could be carried.
The prototype first flew in 1936 and the first production version flew in 1938. The Lysander was operated by 30 British and Commonweath squadrons, the first combat use of the Lysander being during the Battle of France during May 1940. Although Lysander losses during this time were pretty awful it did at least prove it's versatility, being used for ground attack and supply drops, by night as well as day. A Lysander was even credited with shooting down a Heinkel 111. The Lysander went on to serve in most theatres of war during the next five years.
Although the Lysander was pretty much a failiure in it's intended role, (a role more appropriate for the first world war than the second) the Lysander gained fame for it's clandestine operations with the SOE. Using the Lysander's excellent short field capabilities the 'Lizzie' pilots were able to land and remove agents from occupied France with minimal losses. These so called 'Black Lysanders' were fitted with a large overload tank beneath the fuselage and a step ladder attached to the fuselage.
A surprising number of Lysander's remain in existence, some of them in flying condition. Most of these are Canadian built examples which were used by the gunnery and bombing training schools. The Shuttleworth Collection maintains a Lysander in flying condition and is painted in the all black scheme used by the 'special' Lysanders operated from nearby RAF Tempsford.