The following article appeared in the Museum’s Newsletter in the spring of 1995.
It was written by Joe English, one of the Nanton Lancaster Society’s founding directors. Joe served with 625 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
“Manna” by F/O Joe English
On the 29 of April 1945, my crew and I participated with other crews of 625 Squadron based at Scampton, Lincolnshire, in a food drop for the civilian population of Holland. This was our first trip to the Dutch Coast in daylight and I recall we were all apprehensive because of the presence of enemy troops despite the “Truce” that we were informed was in effect. The situation for both the Dutch people as well as the Occupation troops was rather desperate regarding food of any kind.
Four days previous to this my crew had taken part in a daylight raid to the famous “Eagles Nest” – Hitler’s Bavarian retreat in Berchtesgaden with many other bombers from many squadrons operating out of Britain. I believe that this actually was the last real raid of the war and we encountered a token resistance from antiaircraft batteries in the run up to the mountain target from the valleys below. So we were a little nervous going into the Dutch city of “The Hague” knowing that there was always the possibility that some dyed-in-the-wool Nasty down below hadn’t heard about the truce.
My recollection of the Dutch trip was that we flew out in very nice sunny weather and there definitely was a holiday atmosphere right from the beginning of the briefing we received. All of us were very happy that we could be a part of something like a Red Cross type program as we had heard that people in Holland were in some extreme cases surviving on tulip bulbs, tree bark or anything with a little nutrition in it. We checked the big gunny sacks being loaded into our bomb bays in Lancaster M2 in which we did two drops. May 2 we went again to drop food at Rotterdam on another very fine sunny morning. I only recently got a copy through another buddy crew member that flew this mission and to my great surprise, my crew were first over the drop site according to the squadron records. We had flown out over the North Sea fairly low by our usual instructions and had dropped down to be at around 500 feet over the city as we lined up and opened the bomb doors. I was on the port side of our leader, Squadron Leader Fry, and as we turned left on the run into the drop zone I gained a little on Mr. Fry and according to the record did do my “bombing” first. Our claim to fame!
But truly it was the ” Best raid of the War” we all agreed. It didn’t take many days before the BBC and the newspapers were able to tell what the results were, of this massive food delivery which I believe went on for only ten days. Although at the time we were not aware of all who took part in these “Spam and Jam” trips as we called them, the American Force also made a large contribution of men and machines to this Manna Drop.
We did hear that one Lancaster was damaged by small arms fire from the ground and I have no doubt that it’s true. No good deed goes unpunished so some cynic put it! The trip into Rotterdam was the last wartime entry in my logbook and the next entry was an exciting trip at Calgary while still in uniform in a deadly “Tiger Moth” which I had rented to impress my younger brothers and sisters. And that wound down our “Tour.”