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Radio Operator Remembers

The 101ST Squadron Lancaster bomber during Operation Manna, the food drop over German occupied Holland in the spring of 1945.

Two Lancasters were chosen for the test flight into Holland. An Australian pilot named Collett was detailed to fly one Lancaster and Canadian R.F. Upcott from Windsor, Ontario was to fly Bad Penny, the other.

Unfortunately, before we could get airborne, severe weather moved in to delay the operation. Three times we went to the aircraft expecting a slight break in the weather. Each time to see the trip cancelled. Finally, early on the morning of April 29, 1945, weather still minimal, we got the go signal.

Weather still bad over England. The Lancaster was popping in and out of heavy clouds when an American Flying Fortress appeared on the starboard wing on a collision course. Fortunately he chose to pull as we dived, missing a crash by inches.

We flew this trip at an extremely low altitude, as very low seemed the safest way to get passed the German guns. No pact had been signed. We were going in only British “bravado.”

Over the continent, the sky cleared, both planes could now see each other and got together, with R. Upcott’s plane leading the way. Navigation was strictly map reading but we had been well briefed as to landmarks such as chimneys and churches. Finding the big red cross was easy but looking down several gun barrels was uncomfortable. Two loads of food were released and two Lancasters hustled back to the Dutch coast, now, breathing a little easier.

On our return to our base and knowing that the trip had been successful, “Operation Manna” was activated. The major operation began about 12:30 pm that day. Alerted by radio messages that food was coming, thousands of Dutch citizens came out to cheer the 250+ bombers that flew over throughout the day. We appreciated the waving Dutch and English flags on later food drops but on that first trip in, few people knew we were coming.

Someone else in Bomber Command had experience with food-drop methods but it was IOI Squadron that got the job of going in to test the German reactions. Every crew on that first day’s trip thought they might get shot at. None of them were aware that two planes had gone on a trial run, without Pathfinder Crews going ahead to mark the drop sites with smoke flares.

After a few days, Germany finally signed a pact not to defend that specific track used by the food-dropping aircraft. After which, the American Flying Fortresses joined the operation, which they called “Chowhound.”

It was an experience that the crew will always remember.

Stan Jones, Radio Operator, Bad Penny

Operation Manna / Chowhound

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starRadio Operator Remembers

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