RAF Special Duties Squadrons during WW2

John Williamson continues the story of the secret RAF Special Duties Squadron based at Tempsford during WW2

Returned Halifax at RAF Tempsford

RAF No. 138 Special Duties Squadron

138 Special Duties Squadron was responsible for dropping agents, weapons, sabotage equipment and other stores by parachute inside occupied Europe and flew  as far as Poland and Yugoslavia from RAF Tempsford. There was  also a detachment serving the Middle East.

Silent film

Missions By Moonlight No. 161 Special Duties Squadron

Hugh Verity was a night fighter pilot during WWII until 1942 when he volunteered for RAF special duties and became involved in one of the most extraordinary and effective operations of the secret war. Flying a single-engine Lysander aircraft he was  landing in German occupied France delivering and collecting  SOE and SIS agents. With only the light of the moon to recognise landmarks whilst navigating hostile terrain 161 squadron had carefully selected pilots with highly developed flying and navigation skills.   

The barn on the site of former RAF Tempsford

The Barn Tempsford Airfield 2014

The barn where agents were fitted with parachutes and issued with equipment. From this barn agents who could not face the possibility of prolonged torture were given an opportunity to take with them  the   ‘L Pill’ (lethal) containing  cyanide. During their training they were informed the ‘L Pill’ would  kill them within five seconds.

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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