Operation Manna Lancasters
The winter of 1944-45 was long and harsh in the Netherlands, and because of the German occupation fuel and food were scarce. It became known as the Hongerwinter (Hunger Winter). Thousands starved to death.
By May 1945 the war was almost over but the Germans were clinging on to the bitter end. In a most extraordinary episode, the Allies negotiated a partial truce so that their heavy bombers could be used to drop food.
Flying low and slow, unarmed British Lancasters and Mosquitos dropped some 7,000 tonnes in what was called Operation Manna, including 1,800 tonnes of flour, 50 tonnes of yeast and 170 tonnes of milk powder. Reluctant initially, the Americans joined and delivered another 4,000 tonnes. There were 10 designated drop zones.
The aircraft were so low they could easily see German anti-aircraft guns following them, but apart from some small arms they were not fired on. They could also see crowds of grateful civilians waving up at them.
In my picture, Lancasters from 625 Squadron are depicted dropping sacks and boxes. In the foreground is Lancaster B.III PB580, CF-U2. Parachutes were not used because simply there would not have been enough. The whole thing was a massive change for the aircrew, more accustomed to pouring death from the sky, and having the operation in their log books was a lasting source of pride.