The Secret Wartime Activities
at Tempsford Airfield.

- Winston S. Churchill.

The mysterious Last Flight of Halifax V9976

At two minutes before midnight on 20 April 1942, Hitler’s birthday, German aerial reconnaissance detected an unknown bomber just about to enter the territory of the German Reich, south of Strasbourg. The German listening posts detected an allied four-engine bomber and tracked it as it passed over Ravensburg and Kempten towards Lake Starnberg. They decided not to scramble the Luftwaffe to intercept it for the time being. Suddenly the enemy aircraft veered off to the south at an angle of almost 90 degrees and near to the Bavarian village of Kreuth, it disappeared from the "Geräuschmeldung" of the German air defence. The aeroplane had crashed at an altitude of about 1,800 metres into the Blue Mountains, only a few metres below the summit ridge.

This was the tragic end of Operation "Whiskey" but it was only the start of the huge mystery surrounding it.
Although the 138 Squadron log book hasn't recorded the take off of the mission, on 20 April 1942 the Halifax took off from Tempsford and headed east. What is surprising is that the aircraft’s normal pilot, R.C. Hockey was not sitting at the controls. It was piloted by no less than the commander of the RAF Tempsford airbase himself, Wing Commander W.R. Farley DFC. The SOE and the Royal Air Force were taking a great risk with this pilot: Farley was the most senior bearer of secrets at Tempsford. If he were to be captured by the Germans it would have disastrous consequences for the SOE. But obviously the mysterious mission under the code name “Operation Whiskey” was so important that Farley had to fly it himself.

The RAF Halifax belonged to 138 squadron, but for some unexplained reason, records of this mission are missing from the SOE files that were declassified in 1998. But none of the historians researching the SOE consider this to be a mere coincidence. The Halifax was on an assignment for the Soviet Secret Service with the support of the British S.O.E.

The impact of the aircraft caused a huge explosion that lit up the small village of Kreuth in the valley below. An official rescue team was organised. But Kreuth huntsman Carl Vögele was faster than the Luftwaffe search party (who subsequently identified the aircraft as an RAF Halifax), and reached the wreck first. Amongst the smouldering wreckage he discovered some papers. We can only speculate about the contents of the papers he retrieved, but they must have been of such tremendous importance that they were even brought to the attention of Hitler himself. Carl Vögele was given Hitler's Präsidialkanzlei des Führers und Reichskanzlers, with 500 Reichsmarks and the 2nd class war service cross with swords.

What destination did the ill-fated aircraft have? One possible answer: If we extend the flight path beyond the site of the crash, we come to Jenbach in Tyrol, at that time headquarters of Heinkel, one of Germany’s high-tech armaments centres. The galleries of an old mine had been turned into a secret aircraft factory in which V2 components were later built.
When Farley and the crew failed to return from “Operation Whiskey” the following morning, R.C. Hockey was immediately appointed new commander of the Tempsford airbase. For the ten (?) crew members who perished, there is a brief entry in the log book for 21 April 1942: “Missing in operation”. As well as Wing Commander Farley there was a further British officer on board and six Polish Air Force aircrew, a total of eight persons. At the Commonwealth Cemetery at Dürnbach on the banks of the Tegernsee, set in the picturesque Upper Bavarian mountain scenery, they all now rest in peace. But as a final twist to the mystery, it has now been confirmed that there were two further bodies found, thought to possibly be those of two Austrian agents, Franz Löschl and Lorenz Mraz.

To this day, in Kreuth and the Tegernsee Valley there persists a strong rumour that there was one more person on board the aircraft (not an official crew member of the aircraft) who, although badly wounded, survived the crash and who was given first aid by Carl Vögele, then helped to escape in the direction of Switzerland before the Luftwaffe search party arrived. This strongly held local belief is made all the more credible by those who knew Carl Vögele and who know that he had no time for the Nazis.

This account of the last flight of Halifax V9976 has been donated to this website by Dr. Michael Heim whose assistance is gratefully acknowledged.
Also, following his recent death, we are grateful to the widow and family of Gregor Ruf in giving us special permission display some of the images on this page.

In numerous secret missions the British provided only their logistics to the Russian side. This support was part of the secret operation “Pickaxe”, a cooperative agreement between the two countries. The wire-pullers in Moscow were better informed about the true objective than the British pilots at the controls. Under this agreement the NKWD was not obliged to provide the British with any explanations about the content and objective of the missions. The true purpose of the mission may remain a mystery until the Russian authorities make their records public and true mission of the last flight of Halifax V9976 would only be finally revealed in Moscow with the aid of old NKWD files.

To this day, high up near the peak of a mountain in Bavaria are parts of a Tempsford Halifax (here is part of one of the crankshafts). The mountain looks down on the valley where the Commonwealth War Grave is situated at Dürnbach where the 138 Squadron crew and their "passengers" now lie.
W.R.FARLEY. Wing Commander (RAF)
PULTON J.A. Flying Officer (RAF)
KARBOWSKI Bronislaw, Sergeant (PAF)
MADRACKI Czeslaw, Sergeant (PAF)
VOELLNAGEL Antoni, Captain (PAF)
WILMANSKI Leon , Sergeant (PAF)
WOJCIECHOWSKI Mieczyslaw, Sergeant (PAF)
ZYGMUNTOWICZ Ryszard, Captain (PAF)

Memorials to Franz Löschl and
Lorenz Mraz (the passengers) were added in 2001

V9976 Finally Comes Home 63 Years Later
After considerable correspondence with Dr. Michael Heim in Germany and with the approval of Wing Commander Farley's family, it was agreed that (as an act of reconciliation during the year of the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War 2) a small token part of the V9976 Halifax should be specially brought down from the Blauberg mountain in late June 2005, to be returned to Tempsford (with the kind permission of the current owners of the Tempsford airfield), 63 years after it last left on that moonlit night of 20 April 1942. To formally receive the part of her husband's aircraft from Dr Heim (present on behalf of the German people), the widow of Wing Commander Farley (aged 90) was present along with their daughter at a special small private ceremony held at the airfield in July 2005. CLICK HERE or on the small copy on the right, to see the article about this event that appeared in the Biggleswade Chronicle on 19th August 2005.

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