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.

Lonely Courage – the story of the SOE Heroines in Occupied France. A talk by Rick Stroud

Introduction

A talk by Rick Stroud on Wednesday 11 April 2018 in The Kincaid Gallery, The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum. (see link at bottom of page)

“The French Resistance began almost as soon as France surrendered to Germany.  At first it was small, disorganised groups of men and women working in isolation but by 1944 around 400,000 French citizens (nearly 2% of the population) were involved.  The Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up in 1941 saw its role in France as recruiting and organising guerrilla fighters; supplying and training them; and disrupting the Germans by any means, including sabotage, collection of intelligence and dissemination of black propaganda.

Infiltrated into France and operating in Resistance circuits the basic SOE unit was a team of three: a leader, a wireless operator and a courier, many of them women.  This is the story of those women, their selection, training, dropping into occupied France and their attempts to survive on a daily basis whilst being hunted by the Gestapo.  Some survived by luck through the war, whilst others were captured, tortured and executed before the Nazis final capitulation.

Rick Stroud is a writer and television director who has directed such actors as Pierce Brosnan, John Hurt,and Joanna Lumley.  He is the author of several books including Rifleman, the story of Vic Gregg, ex 2RB.  He is currently working on a book about the kidnapping by the SOE of General Kreipe from his headquarters on Nazi occupied Crete.”(Ricard Shroud April 2018)

Talk by Rick Stroud

Odette Churchill, George Cross, Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (SOE French Section)

Odette ABC News

A short video interview of Odette  shown on British television in 1980.

Odette speaks about being a prisoner in concentration camps ,  and how she coped with torture and weeks in solitary confinement under horrific conditions. 

(First shown:14/11/1980. If you would like to license a clip from this interview, please e mail: archive@fremantle.com Quote: VT23965)

SOE during the Second World War and British Intelligence (Full Documentary)

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As this is an American documentary most of the archive footage is American

SOE – Canadian agents working in occupied France

SOE agents arrive home in December 1944: (front, from left) Lieut. J.E. Fournier, Lieut. P.E. Thibeault, Capt. H.A. Benoit; (rear) Major P.E. Labelle, Capt. L.J. Taschereau, Capt. Guy Artois, Capt. J.P. Archambault.

Documentary about Canadian agents working for SOE in occupied France.

Apart from Canadian’s being trained in England SOE also had a training and selection establishment in Canada and the newly formed American OSS received their initial training at this SOE training camp in Ontario.

A short film by CBC where former agents describe their time at Camp X