Bernard O’Connor’s book tells the story of how the Air Ministry selected this isolated spot in the late 1930s but construction didn’t go ahead until after Dunkirk. It was designed by an illusionist specifically to look as if it was a disused airfield. Overflying enemy pilots had to believe it wasn’t being used. For all intents and purposes the locals considered it an ordinary airfield except that the flights were only the few days either side of the full moon.
It details many of the top secret SOE missions that 138 and 161 Special Duties Squadrons flew from here in Lysanders, Stirlings, Hudsons and other planes to drop supplies to the resistance groups across occupied Europe as well as to drop 'Joes, the slang for specially trained secret agents whose job it was to sabotage Germany’s war efforts and pick up ‘VIPs’. These may have been Joe boys and Joe girls but included downed pilots and crews, military, professional and political figures, their wives, girlfriends and families.
Americans, the Free French, Belgians, Czechoslovakians, Poles and crews from the Commonwealth air forces flew from here. Group Captain 'Mouse' Fielden was in charge and agents like Violette Szabo, Odette Churchill, Peter Churchill and Wing-Commander Yeo-Thomas flew out on some of their secret missions.
Vital operations like the bombing of Amiens Prison, the destruction of the heavy water plant in Norway and the assassination of Heydrich were flown from Tempsford. The book investigates what went on in requisitioned local country houses like Hazells Hall, Woodbury Hall, Tetworth Hall, Tempsford Hall and Gaynes Hall. It looks at what links it had with Bletchley Park. It includes extracts from books written by Joes, RAF pilots and crewmembers as well as maps, poems and personal memoirs. It details many of the air crashes around the airfield and includes reminiscences of local people, ground crew, FANY and WAAFs about the social life down on the airfield, in the NAAFI and local hostelries.
Bernard gives illustrated talks on the subject and, following his research into the lives of the women involved during the war has published a second book: The Women of RAF Tempsford. His novel ‘Courrier de L’Air' is in the wings.
Early editions of all Bernard O’Connor’s books can be obtained at local libraries. The most recent editions can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org (A4 version @£13.00 excl. P&P) or downloaded from the website.
RAF Tempsford, Bedfordshire’s Top Secret Airfield – Now the story can be told
Archive pages by Bernard O’Connor.
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