138 Squadron in Tempsford

Video from Tempsford: Jan Christensen

In December 1943, deep in rural Bedfordshire, the small village of Tempsford nestled on the banks of the River Ouse, an unassuming place, quintessentially English and seemingly divorced from the turmoil of war that encircled it.

But Tempsford held a remarkable secret, its hidden airfield, designed by an illusionist, was at the very centre of the war against the Nazi regime. Here, under heavy camouflage, agents gathered to be kitted out before being dropped into occupied Europe and groups of young men came together nightly, tasked with the responsibility of delivering them safely to their destination.

Many of these airmen volunteered for service at RAF Tempsford, a Special Operations Executive (SOE) establishment. Their missions were flying alone across the hostile skies of Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Yugoslavia etc.

The squadron’s Second World War activities began in 1941 after the formation of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) – an organisation whose function was to promote sabotage against the enemy by stimulating subversive activities, spreading political discontent, disorganising and dislocating communications. The agents, ammunition and equipment to achieve this were dropped inside enemy territory.