Saturday, 8 November 1941


We know about Operation ARBORETUM, for a file in the National Archive tells of the brief clandestine career of Oscar van Impe, but of IRRADIATE we can deduce little. According to a rather muddled and amended Air Transport Form dated December 1941, IRRADIATE is an S.O.2 (SOE) operation: as no packages or containers are mentioned on the Air Transport Form, it may be an agent of unknown identity.

Sergeant Reimer takes the southerly route into Belgium, crossing the enemy coast at the mouth of the Somme at 7,000 feet. They drop to 4,000 feet to map-read, double the normal height used for crossing northern France but probably advisable given the variable height of the Ardennes countryside they are to overfly. Givet is the first pinpoint reached at 22.33, and Oscar van Impe is dropped seven minutes later. Fifteen minutes later Reimer and his crew arrive at the second pinpoint, near the village of Anthée, near Dinant, Belgium. They are met by the lights of a reception committee. The target field is very small, and Reimer has to make several runs before all the packages are dropped on the target, but he still completes the operation inside four minutes. An operation at the end of November, IRRADIATE 3, will have its target a bowl of farmland at Suxy, surrounded by the Ardennes forest, but there will be no reception to meet the aircraft.

After this sortie 138 Sqn (at least, the majority of it in the UK) is stood down from operations due to a poor weather forecast, but three more nights later marks the end of the October-November moon period anyway.


Pilot Officer Sid Firth, Technical Engineering Officer, is posted in to 138 Squadron from RAF Stradishall. Post-war, Sid will be a founding member of the Tempsford Reunion in 1949, and it is substantially due to his efforts that it survives until the Reunion’s ageing members decide to wrap up the Reunion on its 50th anniversary.



TNA AIR 20 / 8334, encl. 94A
TNA AIR20/8306 – ATFs
TNA HS9/1506/7 – Cornelius van Impe


138 Squadron ORB, TNA AIR27 / 956
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