Operation Manna celebrated its 75th anniversary on April 29th 2020. This heartwarming account of human kindness and fortitude is recalled by choir member, Chris Wren.
Towards the end of the Second World War, the Dutch people were starving to death. The RAF and others mounted a rescue operation to drop food supplies to Holland.
The Lancaster Bombers up to the operation. But to avoid damage to the food parcels the aircraft had to fly at around a precarious 50ft. This would have been quite an achievement for an aircraft of that size.
Operation Manna Anniversary
Many years later, the gesture reciprocated. On the anniversary of Operation Manna, the Royal Air Forces Association of Holland would fly privately owned aircraft across from Holland to Britain.
Dropping Edam and Gouda cheeses over the RAFA nursing and care home of Sussexdown, near Storrington, West Sussex.
Sussexdown is a nursing and care home, formerly a RAFA home for ex-military personnel.
Many of the “greats” have stayed there, like pilot Desmond Plunkett who was No.13 in ‘The Great Escape’.
I knew Des from my visits to Sussexdown. He told me that he took the 13th slot as everyone else had regarded it as unlucky.
It turned out to be a “lucky” choice since he escaped and survived. Many that day captured and executed by the Gestapo.
I was doing some charity work there and met some very interesting people. I also sat on the same bed as Dame Vera Lynn chatting away to one of the patients. She was a regular visitor there.
Cheese from the Skies
On the day of the anniversary, about half a dozen light aircraft would appear just above the treetops. The cheeses would come down on parachutes. At least that was the idea.
Some of the parachutes wouldn’t open properly. Sussexdown telling them to use smaller cheeses in future when some roofing tiles got broken.
Some of the older residents couldn’t move quick enough to avoid being hit.
In conclusion, it was a delightful event on a warm summer’s day. Everyone out on the terrace of this beautiful old building.
The aircraft then flew over and the little cheeses came spiralling down. In the evening, a dinner laid on for the crews. As a result, we’d all have a chance to chat and remember.
Congratulations Captain Tom
Ed. Footnote: Moreover, on this day, congratulations to Captain Tom Moore, who is 100 today. In addition, the former British Army officer raised £30 million for the NHS, and is a national inspiration at a time of national crisis.