Menu Donate Request our help

Helpline: 0300 102 1919

"It was like dropping a shopping basket" - memories of Op Manna 70 years on

For troops involved in Operation Manna, one of the RAF's first humanitarian aid missions, the knowledge they were helping to save lives rather than destroy them was key. Air gunner Warrant Officer Dave Fellowes was one of those tasked with dropping food for the starving Dutch people during WWII. He tells his story in this blog.

Food drops over HollandSupplies are dropped from a Lancaster bomber over Holland. MOD/Crown Copyright.

People were desperate. They were eating cats, dogs, rats – even grinding up tulip bulbs to make flour. Allied Forces were called upon to help end their plight by dropping supplies from the air.

German forces agreed not to fire on the aircraft delivering the aid and the air drops began on April 29. In total more than 7,000 tonnes of supplies were sent to Holland, including 1,800 tonnes of flour, 50 tonnes of yeast and 170 tonnes of milk powder.

Warrant Officer Dave Fellowes served with 460 Squadron in Bomber Command and took part in the mission.

He said: "Now we were doing something totally different, dropping food to the starving people of Holland and it gave us a good feeling that we were doing something humanitarian, something for people rather than destroying them.

"We flew over, opened our bomb doors, dropped the food, out it tumbled like you had emptied a big shopping basket. Which it was! The aircraft was a big shopping basket full of food."

Lancaster and Mosquito bombers were adapted to carry the unusual cargo and air crews were trained to drop at 300ft, so provisions landed on the ground undamaged. The US Air Force joined the mission two days later, codenamed Operation Chowhound, and airlifted an additional 4,155 tonnes of supplies.

Their life-saving mission is remembered at special memorial events in Holland and this year a tulip mural has been planted at Lincoln Cathedral in thanks to the Bomber Boys. Their legacy sees the RAF at the forefront of any Western response to humanitarian need.

Dave FellowesDave Fellowes

Like the RAF, the RAF Benevolent Fund exists to fulfil the needs of those it serves.

This includes ensuring veterans like Dave Fellowes continue to lead independent, dignified lives as they grow older.

For Dave time spent at the Fund’s Princess Marina House care home in Littlehampton is precious.

He said: "It is one of the finest places you can go to. It is five-star treatment, it really is beautiful.

"We say to ourselves we are fed up with cooking. We are fed up with washing up, fed up with making the bed, fed up with everything. So we just go down there and we get together our group of Bomber Boys."

Visit the Operation Manna homepage

Related articles:

Sign up to receive the RAFBF e-newsletter