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Listed below are details of some of the aircraft used by the S.O.E. More indepth material can be found in our Air Operations section.
Whitleys were used from March, 1941 for almost two years and became the primary means of infiltrating agents by parachute. Every month they then brought the agents sabotage material. The Whitleys were augmented by some Halifaxes, operated by 138 and 161 Squadrons in August 1941.
Powered by a Bristol Perseus 900 h.p. engine, the Westland Lysander, affectionately known as the ‘Lizzie’, was introduced into R.A.F. service in 1938 as a reconnaisance aircraft but proved to be too vulnerable, mainly due to it’s slow speed (165mph rising to a maximum of 210mph). For it’s secret role, infiltrating agents into and out of Occupied Europe, it nevertheless proved ideal, having a short take off and landing run as well as being rugged and manoeuverable. Painted all black, for this specialised duty the aircraft was lightened by removing the armament and for extra range a detachable reserve fuel tank could be fitted, allowing a range of 900
Click here to view the Lysander in flight (404k)
Click here
to view a wartime cutaway drawing of the Lysander
miles. A metal ladder, secured to the fuselage, enabled a quick entry or exit by the passenger. In fact if necessary, three passengers could be carried, all with hand luggage. A radio telephone system allowed two way communication between pilot and the agent on the ground and various electronic homing devices, for accurate navigation, were also employed.
An insufficient wingspan - caused by the R.A.F.s pre-war edict that the aircraft should fit into the existing hanger widths - meant that for operational duties as a bomber, the Stirling was rather inadequate. Many were withdrawn from frontline service and stored at aircraft parks, such as that in the grounds of Woburn Abbey. For almost a year, from October 1943, twenty two Stirlings were employed as the last supply planes for the S.O.E. and most of the flights took place in the immediate months before D Day.
More famous for it’s role as a bomber, in August,1941, some twenty Halifaxes were supplied to the S.O.E squadrons, Nos 138 and 161, to assist the ageing Whitleys.
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