Brief History

A Place of Secrecy, A Place of History

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, no one could have anticipated that a small airfield in Bedfordshire would become a centre of the secret war fought against the Nazi occupation of Western Europe.

From 1942 Tempsford airfield was the Royal Air Force’s main operational base for its most secret operations into Nazi-Occupied Europe. It was the home of the RAF’s elite special duties squadrons, No 138 and No 161. From here their aircraft flew thousands of moonlight sorties, delivering secret agents to a hazardous and uncertain fate and parachuting supplies to sustain Resistance movements throughout the Continent. 

Tempsford was at the front line of Britain’s secret war. It witnessed some of the greatest feats of RAF aviation and was the point of departure for hundreds of brave men and women on secret missions to gather intelligence and to sustain Resistance at the very heart of Hitler’s Europe. The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) were the primary clandestine organisations that the Special Duties squadrons serviced. The RAF aircrew and their passengers paid a high price. Many failed to return but their deeds have not been forgotten.

This airfield holds a special place in the history of the Royal Air Force. It also serves as a potent symbol of an enduring bond established in the dark days of the Second World War when Great Britain and its allies fought alongside each other to achieve the liberation of Europe from tyranny and Nazi occupation.