The Secret "Moon" Squadrons
and the Special Operations Executive

Among the best kept secrets of World War 2 were the secret nightime activities of 138 and 161 Squadrons, RAF, flying into enemy occupied Europe by moonlight, often landing in torchlit fields, to drop SOE agents and supplies to the resistance forces. Tempsford Airfield has long since been returned to private agricultural use, so passers-by today can be excused for not knowing just what amazing activities went on there between 1941 and 1945. The local villagers were quite ignorant of it's real activities, and many of its secrets were only released from the Official Secrets List in 1998 !

This website is proud to be
linked to the Air Force
Association of Canada.

It was from Tempsford that SOE agents ("Joes"), resistance fighters and their supplies were flown, and dropped into enemy occupied Europe on "moon" nights (the 8 day period each month around the full moon). In some cases the agents had to parachute in, other times the Lysanders ("Lizzies") and Hudson aircraft landed in fields, torchlit by the local resistance, either to drop off or pick up agents (and although it never got offically recorded, to "liberate" countless bottles of French cognac and champagne). From the mist of secrecy still surrounding Tempsford, come names such as Odette & Peter Churchill, Violette Szabo (immortalised in the film "Carve Her Name With Pride"), Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas and "Operaton Gunnerside", the destruction of the Heavy Water Plant in Norway (later the basis of the film "The Heroes of Telemark").

The Memorial in St. Peter's Church, Tempsford.

Visitors to Tempsford are reminded that the official memorial for those who wish to pay their respects to those who flew or served at RAF Tempsford is the Memorial Chapel in St. Peter's Church, Tempsford. The barn on the airfield is a PRIVATE memorial, mainly for veterans and relatives.

Part of 138 Squadron Halifax aircraft V9976, recently returned from Germany, now on display in St. Peter's Church, Tempsford.


Other than public footpaths, Tempsford Airfield is private property and as such is not open to the public. Where possible, small groups of visitors may be allowed access, but only by prior arrangement. Anyone wishing to visit the airfield buildings, (INCLUDING the famous Gibraltar Farm Barn) must E-mail the in advance, to request permission to do so.

Gibraltar Farm Barn was a building on the airfield (adapted to continue looking like a normal farm barn, to fool German air-reconnaisance) where agents were supplied with their equipment...and their cyanide pills, in case of capture. Inside, there are moving memorials to individual R.A.F. aircrews and S.O.E. agents.

"...find this viper's nest and obliterate it." - Adolf Hitler

138 Squadron aircraft, (while still based at Stradishall, pre-Tempsford), flying out of their forward base at RAF Tangmere in December 1941, supplied the Czech resistance, leading to the ambush and assassination of the "Beast of Prague", S.S. Intelligence Chief Reinhard Heydrich (right) on 27 May 1942 (by which time, 138 Squardon had moved to Tempsford). Hitler himself knew of Tempsford's role, but the "Abwehr" (Military Intelligence) never pin-pointed its exact location. During the war, at least 2 German agents were apprehended in the vicinity of Tempsford and were later executed as spies.

"We had some hairy take-offs, often under fire"

German forces often arrived as the aeroplanes were taking off from their secret torchlit fields in occupied Europe and the aircraft regularly returned to Tempsford, riddled with bullet holes. On one occasion in February 1944, after a heavy landing in a French field, the wheels of F/O Affleck's aircraft got so deeply stuck in mud, it couldn't be dug out. Despite the constant threat of passing German patrols, an hour later, local farmers turned up with oxen to pull it out !

The amazing photo on the left was taken (against all the rules !) of a Hudson, piloted by Terry Helfer, on the ground in occupied France on the PAU 2 mission.

"My dog always came with me"

Halifax rear Gunner Jasper Matthews took his miniature short-haired terrier on every trip. One of the WAAFs who packed parachutes at Tempsford, made a special small parachute for the dog to wear ...just in case... When he DID have to bale out though, Gunner Matthews, stuffed the dog in his flying jacket before he jumped, rather than test the dog's own special parachute !

"Please let us have the petrol first, before you destroy the 'plane"

When a Polish Air Force crew of 138 Squadron had to crash land their Halifax in occupied France at night, due to engine trouble, the pilot (F/O Krzehlik), was attempting to set light and destroy the aircraft when the French Resistance turned up and begged him to allow them to drain all the petrol out of the aircraft first ! Once completed, they helped destroy the aircraft before the Germans arrived. The entire Polish crew were spirited through France to Spain by the Resistance, then on to Gibraltar, from where they got a boat back to England !

A list of those who never returned

For members of the Tempsford Veterans and Relatives Association and for any others researching family members who flew from Tempsford, an extensive list of the losses (in date order) of those who were killed in action can be found on Martin Edwards' Roll-Of-Honour Website in year order. Click on any of the following years to see the list for that year.
1941 1942 1943 1944 1945

In all, 995 SOE agents and resistance fighters were dropped into enemy occupied Europe (and a similar number were brought out), but at the cost of 126 aircraft that failed to return, many of the crews and the agents they were carrying being killed

After years of research and months of construction, on 14th November 2005, Mr. Gordon Franklin presented the following models of Tempsford aircraft to the airfield. The decals of the 161 Squadron Lockheed Hudson, the 161 and 138 Squadron Halifax and Whitley are meticulously recreated to match those of real aircraft that flew from Tempsford, many never to return.The Lockheed Hudson (right) for example, is a perfect depiction of FK790 that flew from Tempsford on 6th July 1944, tragically crashing with all on board into the Isselmeer, Holland. The crew of the aircraft were F/L J.W. Menzies, Pilot, F/O K.R. Bunney, Navigator Sgt E.M. Elliot, Airgunner, Sgt D.J. Withers, W/T. The agents on board were Jan Bockma, Peter Kwint, Pleun Verhoef and Johannes Walter. CLICK HERE to read more about this mission from the nephew (Bob Body) of the pilot, Flt Lt. Menzies.

These pages have been visited by people all over the world, so please let us know if you've visited this website and would like your visit recorded, , or sign our guestbook below, especially as the airfield itself is now strictly private property and access to the airfield itself (including the barn) is only granted by special permission of the Tempsford Airfield Estate management, which must be obtained in advance.


This is intended to be a purely non-commercial website about the area we live in. If we have made any factual errors or unintentionally breached any copyright in creating this page, please send us an e-mail by clicking and we shall correct/remove the item.