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WHEN TEMPSFORD AIRFIELD was being constructed the buildings of Gibraltar Farm on the eastern side of the site became isolated within the perimeter track but they were not demolished. The farm barn was later used as the holding point for SOE agents immediately before they were taken to the aircraft that were to transport them into Europe. Here agents were also supplied with their equipment - and poison pills in case of capture. The building has been preserved and carries an appropriate plaque acknowledging its historic past.

The barn (reached by a footpath to the east of the airfield) is on private property and permission to visit should be sought.

Violette Szabo was twice dropped into France, flying out on both her missions from RAF Tempsford. Her last flight, when she was only 23 years of age, was on the evening of 6 June 1944 in a Liberator supplied from RAF Harrington.

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On 10 June she was ambushed near Limoges by the S.S. Wounded and on her own, she fought off elements of the 'Das Reich' division with her machine gun until her ammunition ran out. Following lengthy torture at the hands of the SS she was taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp where she was eventually shot on 25 January 1945.

Nancy Wake, an Australian who had married a French businessman in 1939, was living in France when the Germans invaded in 1940. She commenced a risky involvement with the French resistance movement until her activities were discovered by the Germans. After escaping to England, she joined the S.O.E. On 29 April 1944 she parachuted into the Auvergne District of France in order organise local French resistance before and after D Day.

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Photographs: The barn as it is today (top). Gibraltar Farm in wartime (above left). The barn is shown centre-left in the picture. The recent Ordnance Survey map (right) shows the airfield district. Note the marked row of electricity pylons to be seen in the pictures below. The barn is indicated below and to the right of the lower end of the pointer. Everton village with its church and public house is shown at the bottom right of the picture. The Great North Road (A1) runs parallel to the left edge of the map, and the main LNER railway is to the right of it.

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TAKING OFF from Tempsford in a fully laden Halifax bomber was not without risk in itself. Half a mile to the East of the runway is Everton Hill (from which the picture below was taken).

As one observer has put it: "The trees on the hill in line with the flight path were felled to make take-off just possible. As you stand on the end of the runway today, looking east, the bald patch on the hill is still very obvious!" The picture above is of a runway looking west towards Tempsford. The power lines were erected after the war!


Photograph: Part of a runway as it is today, now used for 'drag-racing! (above).

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In 1963 the hangars and land were sold. Much of airfield concrete was removed for hard core, apart from strips used as farm access roads. All the T2 hangars were removed but the solitary B1 still survives.


Photograph: The surviving B1 hangar near the Everton railway crossing. (right)

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THE FOLLOWING TEXT is taken from the 14th July 1945 edition of the newspaper 'The Evening Standard': The author was James Stuart, then living in Tempsford.

"Tempsford is just a hamlet in rural Bedfordshire. Its inhabitants mostly work on the land, and none of them knew it but Tempsford held one of the big secrets of the war. They knew that down a little side road marked 'This road is closed to the Public' there was an R.A.F. Station. In 'The Anchor' and 'The Wheatsheaf' they saw the R.A.F. men but that was all. They had no idea of the job that they were engaged on.

"Names of the pilots and crews that did that job cannot yet be revealed except for one, the late Group-Captain Pickard, D.S.O. and two bars, D.F.C., the famous 'Target for Tonight'* pilot. When he left Bomber Command, Pickard commanded one of the two 'Special Mission'
GibraltFarm1.gif - 48264 BytesSquadrons which the R.A.F. created as a link with the underground movement in all occupied countries. From Tempsford they delivered arms, ammunition, radio sets, food and other supplies to all underground fighters from the Arctic Circle of Northern Norway to the Mediterranean shores of Southern France. From big bombers, Whitleys first, and then Stirlings and Halifaxes, they dropped their parachute containers.

"Every kind of supply went down from skis and sleighs for the Norwegians to the bicycles and bicycle tyres made in England (but carefully camouflaged with French names) to the resisters of Western Europe. For three years the airfield, built over what had been a large area of marsh, was the air centre of the resistance movement of all Europe.

"Night after night the villagers saw airplanes go off and probably heard them returning in the small hours. But they never saw the people, men and women in civilian clothes, who were driven down the prohibited road from the airfield, the men and women who had been brought to England from Occupied France under the very noses of the Wehrmacht and the Gestapo."

(*A wartime feature/documentary film made for the Ministry of Information.)
Photographs: View from Everton Hill overlooking the Tempsford Airfield site (above left). Plaque near the barn at Gibraltar Farm (above right).

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