Runways to Freedom : The Special Duties Squadrons of RAF Tempsford

Runways to Freedom by Robert Body

Based on years of extensive research and many conversations with veterans and family members: this is the true story of 138 and 161 Special Duties Squadrons "from the inside". From the beginning of the Special Duties operations at Tempsford to the end, and with many detailed mission reports and personal experiences, the book tells the human stories behind the statistics, and gives readers a glimpse into a world which has been shrouded in mystery until now.

The Nazi occupation of much of Western Europe in early 1940 posed many challenges for the British Secret Services. A high priority was to find an effective means of infiltrating and exfiltrating agents and, later, reliable methods for supplying the growing resistance movements with arms and ammunition. The work fell outside the normal duties of RAF squadrons so, in March 1940, RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire became the base for No.138 (SD) Squadron and No. 161 (SD) Squadrons. 

Flying mainly by the light of the full moon, these two squadrons operated throughout the length and breadth of Western Europe, delivering agents and supplies. Without the agents the secret services would have been hamstrung, and without the supplies the resistance movements would have been unable to participate in the armed struggle. 

The nature of the work undertaken by these squadrons is reflected in their motto,


By the end of the war, the Squadrons had, between them, lost in excess of 600 men. 
This is their story.

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During recent research into Operation Water Pistol, part of which included Claude Bonnier and Jacques Nancy's drop by Lysander into the Charente on 14/15th November 1943, I contacted Robert Body for any information he might have as the two Lysanders had taken off from Tempsford. He kindly sent me copies of eight pages from the pilots reports of the drop and return. Thanks again Robert.
The two pilots of the Lysanders lost their lives later that month as did Claude Bonnier in February 1944. At the drop off point at Angeac there is a monument in memory to Claude Bonnier and three panels in French and English with his mission's story. One of the panels tells the story of the two pilots that had been based at Tempsford. (link)