by Philip E. West
Overall size 71cm x 50cm
image size 63cm x 37cm
Lysanders of 161 Special Operations Squadron turn onto their final course to a clandestine landing field somewhere in central occupied France during a full moon period in 1943.
Based at Tempsford, Bedfordshire and often operating from Tangmere to shorten the flight, the pilots flew a dead reckoning course to their first turning point,
usually on the River Loire, using rudimentary navigating equipment.
The moonlit town of Blois is easily distinguishable by its chateau, churches and bridge with the Forest of Chambord beyond.
The agents in the rear cockpit prepare themselves by torchlight for the forthcoming landing.
250 Prints in the Primary Edition signed by 4 Lysander pilots
Flight Lieutenant Murray Anderson, DFC*, US Air Medal, flew Spitfires with No 1 PRU then moved to No 4 PRU in Algiers before returning to England and joining 542 PR Squadron at Benson.
While here he brought back pictures of the “Prince Eugene” in Kiel Harbour.
Having trained on Lysanders in late 1940 he was happy to move to 161 SD Squadron at Tempsford in 1943 to be re-united with his favourite aircraft.
Among other difficult operations, he flew six double Lysander missions, all except one with his friend, Leslie Whittaker,
who had moved from PR work with him and who was killed during an operation in May 1944.
Andy’s navigational skill was obvious and on one triple operation he was able to recognise where an accompanying pilot was from his description of the ground below and return him to the correct course to the pick up. He is also remembered for his records of sentimental French songs and his performances on the bag-pipes.
In June 1944 he transferred to 2nd TAF to fly Mustangs after D-Day.
Flight Lieutenant Peter Arkell, OBE, USAF Medal Of Distinction, joined the RAFVR in 1940 and was sent by convoy to Canada and then to Arizona for pilot training.
In 1942 he was posted to 26 Squadron at Gatwick where he flew Mustangs and Spitfires on low level intruder raids and coastline photography.
In 1944 he joined 161 SD (Special Duties) Squadron at Tempsford and in a double Lysander operation saw the second aircraft shot down killing the pilot and the two returning agents.
Peter was then transferred with six Lysanders to India and then flew on to Burma to 357 Squadron.
Here he continued to fly dangerous Lysander operations behind the Japanese lines supplying Force 136.
On his thirty-fifth mission in August 1945 he attempted to land in the mountains during a monsoon and was seriously injured.
The local Burmese mountain people took good care of him and another Lysander rescued him and his passenger.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Lewis Hodges, KCB, CBE, DSO, DFC joined the RAF in 1937 as a Cranwell Cadet and at the outbreak of war served with 76 and 49 Squadrons flying Hampdens.
One of his fellow pilots at Scampton was Guy Gibson, later of “Dambusters” fame. It was then that he had to crash land in Occupied France in September 1940,
but succeeded in evading capture and, with the help of Nancy Wake’s escape route, returned via Spain.
From 1942-4 he flew Halifaxes, Hudsons and Lysanders on many hazardous SOE operations into France and other occupied countries and for a period commanded the Squadron.
He later flew similar missions with Liberators and Dakotas into Japanese Occupied Territories as commander of 357 Squadron.
At one period he served in Bomber Command working as Operations Officer with ACM Arthur Harris at his HQ in High Wycombe during the height of the bomber campaign.
Flight Lieutenant R G (Bob) Large, DFC, Legion d’honneur, learned to fly in Scotland in 1940 and in 1941 joined 616 Squadron as part of the Tangmere Wing,
commanded by the famous legless pilot Wing Commander Douglas Bader. The Squadron flew Fighter and Bomber sweeps over Northern France.
The remains of Bob’s Spitfire lie at the bottom of the sea ten miles off Hythe (where he now lives) after being bounced by eighty plus ME 109Gs over the English Channel.
Having learned of the activities of 161 SD Squadron he was interviewed by the CO, Wing Commander Lewis Hodges, and joined the Lysander Flight.
He then flew many important missions into occupied France in single,
double and a memorable treble pickup when his excuse for being late at the rendezvous was that he had had a haircut “in the firm’s time” because “it grew in the firm’s time”.
After D-Day he returned to Fighter Command and later flew Meteors.
(Bob’s dog, Patrick, became the first dog in the Allied Forces to fly in a jet which took place in a Meteor 3 on 11th May 1946 and is now recorded in the Guinness Book of Records!)