Operation Manna and RAF Binbrook

Orford Bridge and The Patch newsletter are assisting on a project promoted by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire and involving schools from the Netherlands, Binbrook and Scampton.

We are looking to help gather as much information, personal histories and news as possible and not just about the flying. We need to know how the food was collected, transported and loaded, all of which was done in an incredibly short space of time.

Any information will be passed onto the project and credited to whoever donates. Contact Jon.ferryman@gmail.com

These old tins and crates might not look much to you and I in our well provisioned, comfortable lives but to the starving Dutch in 1945 these tins packed with Welfare Biscuits were not just a welcome sight but a lifesaver. These crates were not actually part of the air drop but were delivered by truck as part of Operation Faust which was launched to compliment the air Operation Manna.
Check out this brilliant translation of a Dutch website here 

We are pleased to be assisting Binbrook Primary School in the join project to commemorate Operation Manna and one that will link schools in Binbrook, Scampton and the Netherlands.

We will be doing some articles as soon as details are released but the schools have already been in touch with each other by Skype and already there was an interesting comment by one the children at Binbrook about the school in the Netherlands. 'Oh don't they work hard'!

Operation  Manna Here

A commemorative plate for Operation Manna


Operation Manna

In the spring of 1945, the situation was growing ever more desperate for millions of Dutch people, still under Nazi occupation. The harsh winter was causing a famine, especially in the densely populated areas; 10,000 people had already died and the rest were surviving on a diet of tulip bulbs and sugar beet.

Prince Bernhard, husband of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, could probably have his own article written about him such are the many stories about his life. Exiled in London during WW2 but wanting to help with the war effort he had to be screened by British Intelligence because he was a German by birth. Ian Fleming, (of James Bond fame), carried out the suitability test! As there was no evidence to the contrary, Prince Bernhard was then permitted to work in the Allied war planning councils and was also made a wing commander in the RAF, flying spitfires under a pseudonym.

Knowing the terrible plight his countrymen were in, the prince made an appeal for aid to General Eisenhower, who unfortunately did not have the authority to negotiate a truce without sanction. The prince then sought permission from Winston Churchill and this was thankfully granted on the 23 April, enabling allied agents to begin negotiations with their German counterparts. Amazingly, an agreement was made between the warring factions; participating airplanes would not be fired upon within specified air corridors.

The British operation started on 29 April, codenamed “Operation Manna” after the biblical story of when food from heaven was miraculously provided to the Israelites. (The American operation was code named Operation Chowhound and it began on 1 May.) One of the two RAF Lancasters chosen for the test flight was nicknamed "Bad Penny," because a "bad penny always turns up". Both aircraft were from 101 Squadron based at RAF Ludford Magna and I believe they were chosen because these aircraft were the only ones NOT equipped with the special radio equipment that the Squadron is now famous for.  The pilot of Bad Penny was Bob Upcott from Ontario, Canada and the pilot of the second aircraft was from Australia. The bombers took off in bad weather and in spite of the fact that the Germans had not yet agreed to a ceasefire. The cargo was successfully dropped and the bombers returned safely to base allowing the operation to go ahead that day. The official ceasefire order finally came through on 2 May and then the operation began in earnest with Bomber Command eventually delivering over 6,500 tons of food to the starving people.

Mosquitoes marked the drop zones and the Lancasters flew in at a very low height to make sure their cargos were not too badly damaged. Cargos were dropped without parachutes because the amount of silk needed was too great. Typically the kinds of food dropped were dried egg, milk powder, chocolate, beans and tinned meats. Some of the airmen also dropped their own small parcels made up of items from their rations and usually included sweets or cigarettes. The cargo was loaded into the bomb bay and then literally pushed out by the bomb aimer.  Although there was a ceasefire, the Germans placed anti-aircraft guns near the drop off sites in case men or arms were dropped instead of food.   

Bob Upcott, the Bad Penny pilot, has said: “The orders were to fly in loose, low-level formation. The drop zones were clearly marked. We came in low enough to see the expressions on the faces of the people in the fields. It gave us a real thrill to watch these people as they waved and cheered us on. Of course we couldn't hear them over the noise of our engines, but on their faces you could see they yelled their lungs out. I can speak for the whole crew when I say it brought a lump to our throats. At that time we knew little about the plight of the Dutch people, so we could only imagine what horror it would be to live under the Nazi regime for five years. To see the people waving at us and to see "Thanks Boys" and "Many Thanks" spelled out with flowers gives you a warm glow. Just sitting there and looking at them brought tears to my eyes, and I'm not ashamed of it, either! To think that today we did good instead of blowing towns and people to hell makes me realize that there is still some good left in this world.”

The total number of 460 Sqdn aircraft involved in Operation Manna was 139 and they generally flew to Rotterdam.  The air operation ceased on 8 May but further food supplies to Holland were brought over land. Both Manna and Chowhound are truly remarkable in that even during one of the most hideous periods of human history there were still moments of humanitarianism.

The Australian RAAF 460th website here

A lovely personal Story here

576 Squadron here

A personal account here

Dutch thank Bomber Command in Lincoln here

Operation Manna Rotterdam April 1945

Operation Manna and RAAF 460th Squadron

Operation Manna