Commemorative weekend marks duties of squadrons in top secret operations from Tempsford in WW2

Edward Peake School pupils with a WW2 parachute at Tempsford.
Edward Peake School pupils with a WW2 parachute at Tempsford.

Stories and secrets of wartime around Tempsford came alive during a commemorative weekend.

The Stuart Memorial Hall in Tempsford was the venue for the 40th and 70th Anniversary Commemorative Weekend, Now it can Be Told 2015, in recognition of the Allied Special Duties Squadrons and everyone they carried and supported in their top secret operations from airfields in Britain and overseas.

Wing Commander Len Ratcliff doing Q&A at Tempsford.

Wing Commander Len Ratcliff doing Q&A at Tempsford.

The three-day event, held between May 15 and 17, was exactly 40 years to the day when veterans and servicemen who served at RAF Tempsford came to the same venue to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of VE Day.

Visitors travelled from as far as Canada, Holland and France to reminisce and hear first hand anecdotes from veterans and speakers, on life at RAF Tempsford during World War Two.

Pupils from Biggleswade’s Edward Peake School also came along to hear and see short films by those who were there at the time, some who have sadly passed away since being recorded.

The Friday was a day set aside for schools and colleges. Edward Peake School took up the offer and sent along 15 young pupils, who enjoyed watching various short films on all aspects of life in the Special Operations Executive, based at RAF Tempsford.

Wreath laying at the Tempsford memorial.

Wreath laying at the Tempsford memorial.

Pupils were split into groups with each group acting out scenarios of life as a spy or the network that helped to make the agents lives safer or to help in areas of sabotage against the Nazis.

The Tempsford Museum and Archive was open throughout the whole weekend with an exhibition of all they hold in their archive relating to RAF Tempsford. Several other display boards and artefacts were also on display in the main hall. Museum staff also provided refreshments throughout the weekend.

The Saturday was a full day’s entertainment in the Stuart Memorial Hall, with various speakers telling the large audience about Behind the Scenes of Dutch SD Ops 1940-1945 and Africa-France special duties air operations from Blida by 624 Sqn.

The highlight of the day was a Q&A session with 95-year-old Wing Commander Leonard Ratcliff, the last commanding officer of RAF Tempsford.

Len kept the audience both amused and transfixed with his stories and anecdotes, which went on for well over an hour and he was able to answer many questions put to him.

The last talk was by Martyn Cox and Martin Bisiker who spoke about their charity Legasee the veterans’ video archive. Legasee is a charity dedicated to recording on digital film the memories of veterans of conflict, so that future generations can learn about military history from the people who were in the thick of the action.

For those who would like to know more go to their website at www.legasee.org.uk

Sunday was a day for budding authors or those who wanted to know more about the research done by other writers. Clare Mulley, Jo de Vries and Matthew Cobb, all known writers on the various subjects, were panellists who gave advice and shared their knowledge on various aspects of writing and publishing with the audience.

The weekend concluded with a service of remembrance at St Peter’s Church conducted by the Rev Margaret Marshall and wreath laying at the new memorial to those who served at RAF Tempsford and the special agents who flew out on their clandestine work.