John Williamson continues the story of the secret RAF Special Duties Squadron based at Tempsford during WW2
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.
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 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.
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
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)
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As this is an American documentary most of the archive footage is American
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
Clare Mulley tells the extraordinary story of Krystyna Skarbek (aka Christine Granville) – the first, and the longest serving, female special agent working for Britain in the Second World War. Part of the Lunchtime Lectures series – a programme of free talks that takes place at the National Army Museum in London.
In 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Denmark from German occupation (1940-45), Museum Vestsjaelland hosted an international seminar on 2nd May 2015 attended by historians, WWII veterans, descendants of allied airmen, descendants of Danish resistance fighters, and members of the public. The four key lectures are available here on the Museum Vestsjaelland’s Youtube channel. Historian and SOE specialist Mark Seaman describes the establishment and organisation of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the Danish resistance movement.