Operation Manna and OperationChowhound:Ending the Dutch famine



The southern parts of the Netherlands,below the rivers, were liberated in September 1944. However,due to the failed Opeation Market Garden(a Bridge too far) the northern parts of the country remained under German occupation, resulting in the hunger winter. The dutch famine which killed about 20,000.



The 29th of April marks the 73rd  anniversary of Operation Manna and Operation Chowhound, the humanitarian relief operations for the north of the Netherlands.

Operation Manna and Operation Chowhound were humanitarian food drops, carried out to relieve a famine in German-occupied Holland, and undertaken by Allied bomber crews, during the final days of World War II in Europe.

Manna was carried out by British RAF units, as well as squadrons from the Australian,Canadian, New Zealand and Polish air forces, between 29 April and 7 May 1945.


Chowhound (1–8 May) was an operation by the U.S. Army Air Forces, which dropped, together with Operation Manna, a total of over 11,000 tons, of food into the still-un-liberated western part of the Netherlands, with the acquiescence of the occupying German forces, to help feed Dutch civilians in danger of starvation.

After it was realised that Manna and Chowhound would be insufficient, a ground-based relief operation named Operation Faust was launched. On 2 May, 200 Allied trucks began delivering food to the city of Rhenen, behind German lines.

By early 1945, the situation was growing desperate for the three million or more Dutch still under German control. Prince Bernhard appealed directly to Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, but Eisenhower did not have the authority to negotiate a truce with the Germans.


While the prince got permission from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eisenhower had Air Commodore Andrew Geddes begin planning immediately. On 23 April, authorization was given by the Chief of Staff, George Marshall.


Allied agents negotiated with Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart and a team of German officers.


Among the participants were the Canadian future writer Farley Mowat and the German commander-in-chief, General Johannes Blaskowitz. It was agreed that the participating aircraft would not be fired upon within specified air corridors.



The British operation started first. It was named after the food which was miraculously provided to the Israelites in the Book of Exodus. The planning of the operation was initially done by the Royal Air Force.

The first of the two RAF Avro Lancasters chosen for the test flight, the morning of 29 April 1945, was nicknamed Bad Penny, as in the expression: “a bad penny always turns up”.


This bomber, with a crew of seven young men (five from Ontario, Canada, including pilot Robert Upcott of Windsor, Ontario), took off in bad weather despite the fact that the Germans had not yet agreed to a ceasefire. (Seyss-Inquart would do so the next day.) Bad Penny had to fly low, down to 50 feet (15 m), over German guns, but succeeded in dropping her cargo and returned to her airfield.

Operation Manna then began in earnest. British aircraft from Groups 1, 3, and 8, consisting of 145 Mosquitoes and 3,156 Lancaster bombers, took part, flying between them a total of 3,298 sorties




These bombers were used to dropping bombs from 6,000 metres (20,000 ft), but this time they had to do their job from a height of 150 metres (490 ft), some even flying as low as 120 metres (390 ft), as the cargo did not have parachutes.The drop zones, marked by Mosquitoes from 105 and 109 Squadrons using Oboe, were: Leiden (Valkenburg airfield), The Hague (Duindigt horse race course and Ypenburg airfield), Rotterdam(Waalhaven airfield and Kralingse Plas  and Gouda. Bomber Command delivered a total 6,680 tons of food.

John Funnell, a navigator on the operation, says the food dropped was tinned food, dried food and chocolate.

As we arrived people had gathered already and were waving flags, making signs, etc., doing whatever they could. It was a marvellous sight. As time went on, so there were also messages, such as Thank you for coming boys. On the 24th April, we were on battle order at Elsham Wolds. We went to a briefing and were told the operation was cancelled because Bomber Harris thought it was too dangerous for the crews. The idea was we would cross the Dutch border at 1,000 feet, and then drop down to 500 feet at 90 knots which was just above stalling speed. On the 29th, we were on battle orders again. There was no truce at that point, and as we crossed the coast, we could see the anti-aircraft guns following us about. We were then meant to rise up to 1,000 feet, but because of the anti-aircraft guns we went down to rooftop level. By the time they sighted on us, we were out of sight. A lot of people were surprised we went without armaments, in case of any trigger-happy tail gunner. Originally, it was going to be ‘Operation Spam’ which was in my log book. We also went to Lyden, but dropped the food at Falkenburg. We navigators are interested in the latitude and longitude of the place, rather than the name.

The idea was for people to gather and redistribute the food, but some could not resist eating straight away, which caused some people to get sick and vomit, (and some died) a result that fatty food can have in starved bodies known as Refeeding syndrome. On the other hand, distribution sometimes took as long as ten days, resulting in some getting the food only after the liberation. Nevertheless, many lives were saved, and it gave hope and the feeling that the war would soon be over.

Earlier, there had been a distribution of white bread made from Swedish flour that was shipped in and baked locally. A popular myth holds that this bread was dropped from aircraft, but that is a mix-up between the two events. Also, the food was not dropped with parachutes, as is often said.

On the American side, ten bomb groups of the US Third Air Division flew 2,268 sorties beginning 1 May,delivering a total of 4000 tons. 400 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers of the United States Army Air Forces dropped 800 tons of K-rations during 1–3 May on Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.



Recently published in 2015, Operation Chowhound is well-documented as to the statistics behind these operations (with a focus on the US side of it)

On 28 April 2007, British Air Commodore Andrew James Wray Geddes was honoured when a hiking trail in the Rotterdam district of Terbregge, the Air Commodore Geddespath, was named after him. This path goes past the Manna/Chowhound monument in the soundwall of the northern ringroad around Rotterdam. The official unveiling of the plaque was performed by Lieutenant-Commander Angus Geddes RN (son of Andrew Geddes) from England and Warrant Officer David Chiverton from Australia (grandson of Geddes)


More people died during the honger winter then throughout the war.

The whole of the Netherlands was liberated on the 5th of May, with the exeption of Texel where the war continued for a few weeks more between Georgian and German soldiers.



I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you. To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.




  1. Jan Brouwer says:

    Liberation of the Netherlands indeed on the 5th of May 1945 on 08.00 hours.Then the unconditional surrender of the German troops in the Netherlands, Northwest-Germany and Danmark came into force.


Leave a Reply to Jan Brouwer Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.