Ted Leaviss's account of 40th anniversary of Operation Manna visit



Ted Leaviss's account of 40th anniversary of Operation Manna visit


Account of the visit to Holland arranged to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Operation Manna. The visit took place From Friday April 26th until Friday May 3rd 1985.




Temporal Coverage

Spatial Coverage





18 page handwritten document


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This account really started on the 29th April 1945 – a typically showery April Sunday – when some 300 Lancaster bombers from various Squadrons based in England took off on a very unique operation. Instead of bombs being ferried across the North sae the bob-bays of each aircraft were filled with life giving food, for the starving Dutch population of Western Holland. Operation Manna was underway!!


Friday April 26 th 1995 saw some 100 ex aircrew members and their wives, coming from all parts of the U.K., converging on the Port of Hull. This was to be the start of a never-to-be-forgotten week as guests of “The Forty Years Food and Freedom Committee” under the chairmanship of Colonel Arie P. de Jong R.N.L.A.F.

Waiting to greet us at Hull were some of the Committee members and it was not difficult to pick out the tall figure of Lieutenant William Geneste R.N.L.N. who with Wim Latenstien van Voorst and Joop Theonsen attended to all the formalities before we boarded the North Sea Ferries “NORSTAR” which was to take us to the Europort at Rottadam. Prior to this we had all formed ourselves into a tight huddle for a group photograph.

Once on board we found our respective Cabins, which were first class, and then made out way to the Snug Bar where we were welcomed with drinks by the Captain who told us that he was a nineteen year old at the time of the

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food dropping and could vouch for his life being saved by the operation. I’m not sure if he was pulling our leg or not – he certainly did not look that old!!

Then Willem Genesto welcomed us on behalf of the Committee and gave us a brief run through of the intinery [sic] . This was followed by a short speech of welcome by Mr. Joop Thoonson on behalf of North Sea Ferries.

We were all sad to hear the news about His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard who was admitted to hospital quite suddenly, and a collection was taken during dinner so that flowers could be sent to His Royal Highness together with a Get Well message.

The evening was spent chatting and meeting up with those in the party who had attended a similar but somewhat smaller reunion in 1983.

After a comfortable night on board we were awakened with a morning cup of tea about 06.30 and after showering and brushing up enjoyed a wonderful breakfast. The party then collected in the forward lounge waiting to disembark. Once inside the terminal where the rest of the Committee were waiting to greet us, Col. Arie de Jong addressed the party and read to us a letter from His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard in which he expressed his disappointment at not being able to be with us during this coming week but expressed his strong desire for a very comfortable stay in Holland. In apologising for the very inclement weather Col. de Jong said this was the only thing that was outside the organising ability of the committee but could promise us plenty

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of warmth from the Dutch people and also plenty of food. He then introduced Lt. Col. Mike Woodcock the Military Attaché to the U.K. who welcomed us most warmly and followed up Col. de Jong’s [deleted] words [/deleted] words by advising us to top up on the anti-freeze and keep taking the Alka-Seltzers. This remark was naturally greeted with much laughter and applause.

The party then moved outside for another photograph which left us all feeling somewhat chilly; which made boarding the coaches so much quicker. We were soon on our way to the Van Ghent Barracks which was to be our sleeping quarters for the next week.

We were then shown to our respective rooms by the young men of the National Guard some of whom had been using this wing before our arrival. It is at this point one must pay tribute to these young men who looked after our well being so magnificently. We were told that some 90 volunteers were needed to help in meeting the needs of our party whilst in Holland, and over 200 volunteered for the Job: that, I think, said it all!!

Each room was immaculate with an orchid spray placed on the table as well as lots of useful literature to help with necessary information.

It is now 12.00hrs on Saturday 27th and we start on our first outing to meet the Dutch people. As our coaches drew up outside Rotterdam’s largest department store, the Bijenkorf, we see large crowds waiting by [inserted] the [/inserted] roadside and surrounding the entrance to the store. The Dutch Royal Marines band, beautifully

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turned out, played us from the coach to the store and the crowd of waiting Dutch people, both young and old, waved, clapped and cheered us on our way; many were in tears. After settling down for a marvellous lunch inside this vast store during which time the band had also come inside and played to us during lunch. When it came time for the band to leave they were given a great ovation by us all. During lunch Willem Geneste introduced the store manager who welcomed us most heartily. At this point we were joined by two Americans, two New Zealanders and three Polish guests – all had taken part in Operation Manna 1945.

A little later we were addressed by Mr BROWN who as a thirteen year old boy in 1945 had witnessed the food droppings at that time. It had always been his desire to show his gratitude for that event and [inserted] he [/inserted] had designed and had struck a medal which on one side depicts three Dutch people waving as three R.A.F. Lancasters drop food. The other side depicts the head of Queen Wilhelmena with the head of a crewman in the centre. To the left is depicted the head of General Eisenhower and to the right Sir Winston Churchill. Each aircrew veteran received one of these medals. A magnificent gesture greatly appreciated by each and everyone.

Each veteran also received a book dealing with the rebuilding of Rotterdam after the war. In 1940 the German Luftwaffe bombed and devastated the centre of Rotterdam so that all the buildings there are now new ones.

Lunch over we were shown up to the “Manna” Exposition where there was a wide

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collection of photographs and exhibits showing most aspects of Bomber and Fighter Command with lots of emphasis on Operation Manna.

It was good to witness the reception of the book “OPERATIE MANNA” by the Dutch people, which was being sold at the Exposition. This was an account of the entire operation from start to finish written by our good friend and Committee Member Hans Onderwater and the author was certainly kept very busy autographing copies. Our three and a half hours at the Bijenkorf has certainly been most entertaining. At [deleted] 3 [/deleted] 15.45 we boarded our coaches for a quick dash back to the barracks which allowed just enough time for a quick wash and brush up before once again boarding the coaches which then sped as quickly to the SIJTHOFF PERS at Rijswijk. We were cordially welcomed here by MR Hans Hoefnagels, a member of the Board. The accompanying aperitifs were greatly appreciated by one and all. Peter Sarll very ably gave a vote of thanks on our behalf and, I think, hit the nail right on the heard [sic] when he remarked that this whole feeling of warmth between us and the Dutch people could only be described as something quite Spiritual.

At approximately 18.30 we were invited to take our seats for dinner, and what a delightful meal it was indeed. Somewhere in the region on 20.00hrs. the “MAN VAN MANNA” arrived. I speak of course of Air Commodore Andrew J.W. Geddes who as we all know played such an important part in the setting up of the whole

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operation. He was escorted into the hall by Hans Onderwater and what a welcome we gave him!! A standing ovation together with a lusty “For he’s a jolly good fellow”. He received an official welcome from Col de Jong and in his reply Andrew proved to all [deleted] of us [/deleted] how happy he was to be with us and his wit, humour and above all his memory, was quite remarkable. A most enjoyable evening ended at around 21.00hrs and by the time we got back to barracks most of us could hardly believe it was till only Saturday – it was more like two days rolled into one.

[underlined] Sunday 28th April [/underlined] .

After breakfast we left for a tour of the area of Wassenaar. I think we experienced every kind of weather today – rain, hail snow and even a little sunshine.

We then made our way to Duindigt race course, which was one of the original dropping zones in 1945, for a reception by the board and Chairman of the Dutch Horse Race Sports Association. Again we received a most cordial welcome and were provided with many drinks and snacks. The racing programme for the afternoon was very much enjoyed by all and the “punters” were able to place their bets in the greatest of comfort whilst watching for the jockeys outside battling against the elements which, to say the least, were most unkind. Our enjoyment was further enhanced by the arrival of the American veterans and their wives and they received a truly hearty welcome. Both Dutch

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and British Television covered the afternoon programme. At approximately 18.00hrs we made our way to the coaches and we had a slight delay caused by the non-appearance of our Police Motorcycle escort. However this lone motor cyclist certainly made up for any delay by getting us through the rush hour traffic at an incredible rate of knots. He held up traffic in all directions even at traffic lights, so that our coaches [deleted] col [/deleted] could get through unhampered. We finally arrived at the Duinrell Recreation Park to find another fantastic welcome waiting for us. The band of musicians with their leader dressed in “Trad” fashion were in very good form and proved very popular. One of the most enthusiastic Dutchmen I’ve ever seen was waving a “Welcome” banner. He later made a welcoming speech when we were inside the large hall.

We were asked to try a type of bread made from wheat and tulip bulbs which was the sort of bread eaten by the Dutch in the Starvation years. It was not bad, but I’m sure after a while one could easily go off it!! Later a huge cake was brought in by eight men and was a replica of [deleted] Duig [/deleted] Duindight [sic] race course and was most beautifully decorated. We were all able to partake of a portion later than evening.

The evening saw us seated upstairs above the various swimming pools where we enjoyed another lovely meal, but not before those who wished to enjoy the pleasures of the pool had done so. The water slide down the tube was most exhilarating – there was no getting off once

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you started. Our second day in Holland had turned out to be almost as full as the first and quite as enjoyable. We finally said Goodbye to our hosts and made our way back to barracks.

[underlined] Monday [/underlined] [underlined] 29 [/underlined] th [underlined] April [/underlined] [underlined ROTTERDAM [/underlined] [underlined] DAY [/underlined]

at 09.45 the five coaches were making their way to Crooswijk Cemetery with the weather looking very ominous – low dark clouds and rather windy with showers on and off. By the time we reached the cemetery the rain has stopped – much to the relief of all!! Ted soon had all the male members of the party in marching order, five abreast and with medals clinking we set off with our lovely ladies following. We were a bit out of step at the start but fortunately it was a good distance to the cross which gave us time to improve. [deleted] How [/deleted] As we passed the line of graves of the R.A.F. aircrew, each one flanked by flowers in red white and blue, together with the national flag of the interred, one had a feeling of great sadness at the thought of such young lives being ended so abruptly.

By skilful wheeling right; left and right turns, Ted finally had us all in place [deleted] d [/deleted] waiting for the Reverend Squadron Leader G. Edwards to conduct the service. The rifle party of the Dutch Marines looked immaculate. After the Bidding Prayer we sang that marvellous hymn “All People then on Earth do Dwell.” The [deleted] Scipture [/deleted] Scripture readings were beautifully read by The British Ambassador and Air Marshall Sir Michael Knight followed by the address from the Rev. Geraint Edwards his theme being Helping one another and carrying on where others left off.

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Then “O God our Help in Ages Past” gave more exercise to our lungs and the sun shone through during the hymn. In remembering those who had given their lives in the war I was thinking of my brother Len and his crew in particular and I was able to see their graves from where I stood. After the wreath laying ceremony by the Ambassadors of the various countries and later by representatives of various organisations it was very touching to see the young Dutch children bringing their tribute of flowers. The Last Post was followed by a minute silence – The Lords Prayer and the Final Blessing ended a most memorable service. Whilst the party were able to walk along the rows of graves to pay their respects, this allowed time to place the small white crosses each with a poppy attached, on the graves of my brother and his crew. I’m sure we all left that cemetery with a great feeling of sadness but no one could fail to notice the caring and respect that the Dutch people held for our dead comrades.

We once again boarded our coaches to be taken to the Spido where we were to board a boat for a conducted tour of the Port of Rotterdam, or rather the dock area of Rotterdam. Our welcome aboard the Erasmus was another experience for us all. Col de Jong introduced our host, the director of Spido, who made us feel so welcome. We were lavished with drinks of all sorts and the most delicious meat filled rolls followed by a great assortment of fruit. The bananas looked is if they had come [indecipherable words]

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indeed a great treat for our Polish friends who hardly see them in Poland and when they do the price is quite exorbitant. Our tour of the docks was a well informed and most interesting experience and one marvelled at the ingenuity and purpose of the Dutch engineers at overcoming the many problems they must have faced. By 1300hrs we all made our way up the stairs to the open top deck to await the arrival of the many aircraft which would soon be arriving travelling the same flight path taken by the Lancasters forty years before. Dead on time we saw them coming from the West led appropriately by three Fokker 27 followed by C130 and Orions. What a magnificent spectacle they presented, coming in low with all lights on. Well behind them we got our first glimpse of the unmistakable thin outline of the Lancaster coming in head on. As it drew closer we could see the outline of the Spitfire and Hurricane on either side. Everyone had handkerchiefs, shirts, towels whatever ready to wave a greeting, first as the Dutch people had done for us forty years previously. The cheers that went up as the trio flew overhead was quite something. We watched as they flew well away from us in the distance, turned and came back for an encore before going on to their next venue. There were more than a few damp eyes as we made our way below in readiness for our final return to disembark. We once again boarded our coaches and made our way to the Town Hall in Rotterdam where it seemed half of the city were waiting outside to greet

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us. How they clapped and made us feel so welcome!! – another tear-jerking experience. We made our way up the entrance steps with hands being thrust at us from all sides. It seemed everyone wanted to shake our hands and say “Hello”. Once inside we were offered drinks and refreshments from the Burgomaster of Rotterdam Dr. A. Peper.

After a welcome speech by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Dr. R. Lubber, there followed a presentation of Erasmus medals to representatives of the participating Air Forces. Before departure all veterans received a medal. Many Dutch people were still waiting outside the Town Hall as we departed and gave us a great send off. Our next call was to Vlaardigen and to ensure we arrived quickly four police outriders on motor cycles kept the way open for us. By now we were a bit behind schedule. Outside the town hall we were greeted by the [deleted] Bug [/deleted] Burgomaster MR F. van Lier together with a welcoming band of musicians and the fishermans choir (all ladies by the way), who sang an assortment of their traditional songs. Once again the town folk had turned out in great profusion and gave us a tumultuous welcome. Afterwards we were invited inside for a reception by the Burgomaster and Eldermen of the City. A small exhibition had been arranged with relics from the food droppings in 1945. When we finally said goodbye to our hosts we were given a banner and a postcard to mark our visit and as a final gesture we were treated to a guided coach tour of the City.

The evening was spent at the Van Ghent barracks as guests of the Dutch Marines

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where we enjoyed an excellent meal with speeches by Air [deleted] Comm [/deleted] Marshal Sir Michael Knight and the Head of the Dutch Marine Corps. By 2300 I think most of us were ready for bed.

[underlined] TUESDAY [/underlined] [underlined] 30 [/underlined] TH [underlined] APRIL. [/underlined] THE QUEENS BIRTHDAY.
and a National Holiday. We breakfasted early to leave the Barracks by 08.15, with our male members sporting medals on our way to the Hague. Our coaches dropped us at Parliament Square and we walked about half a mile to the Town Hall at Groenmarkt. Hundreds od Dutch people were lining the streets waiting to shake our hands and saying Thankyou for what you did in 1945. It was quite overwhelming. A great crowd had gathered outside the Town Hall and the welcome was most moving – many were in tears. A reception inside the Town Hall by the Burgomaster and Eldermen of the City was another emotional experience. All veterans received [deleted] a [/deleted] the Liberators Medal which we all wore with great pride. Leaving the Town Hall amid a mass of waving and cheering Dutch people [deleted] we sped quickly on by an old fishing port and seaside resort of Schreveningen where once again great crowds of people were waiting and we had a much better opportunity to meet some of them [/deleted] . We made our way [deleted] into [/deleted] to the Church of St Jacob where the assembled choirs and musicians gave us a magnificent welcome. The oranje [sic] concert was superb, the R.A.F band, the various choirs, the piano recitals and the soloists – all were excellent with “Land of Hope and Glory” for the finale.

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Next stop was Scheveningen the seaside resort of the Hague where we were entertained for lunch at the Europa hotel. After lunch we assembled outside the Kurhaus hotel to await the start of the air show. There was adequate seating to ensure we watched in comfort. The weather was far from ideal but this did not stop all the aircraft that were scheduled to fly [deleted] from put [/deleted] [inserted] putting [/inserted] on a good performance. The C130 dropped leaflets over the town which were hastily collected by most of the younger generation.

The Lancaster made two passes with great acclaim. By the time the Red Arrows appeared the weather had really clagged down but despite this they still managed to carry out two manoeuvres with great skill before their Leader decided that visibility was too bad for safety and I for one was not sorry as it was just not on to put both men and aircraft at risk. However it was still a great thrill to watch them.

Then it was time to go back to the Europa hotel for dinner. The tattoo after dinner was, I’m told, a superb show but as Joan and I were by this time quite shattered we went back to the barracks for an early night.

[underlined] WEDNESDAY [/underlined] [underlined] MAY [/underlined] 1ST [/underlined]

Another early start to enable our coaches to get us to Rijnsburg for a visit to the famous flower market. We were given a guided tour of the market which by now was almost empty. If we had been there two or three hours earlier we would have seen a very different spectacle: with buyers using the latest electronic and most sophisticated form of purchasing I’ve ever seen. After the tour of the market we were [deleted] entained [/deleted] invited to

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the restaurant for coffee and cakes – very nice too!! then came the highlight of our day when we were all invited to take a seat in a procession of some thirty horse drawn carts. Some of the carts were quite small, carrying only two persons plus the driver, others were able to carry up to twenty four. When we had all boarded this convoy set off led by a local band with another band bringing up the rear and what a spectacle it was!! The horses were smartly turned out as were their drivers and so we rode through the streets of Rijnsburg, Katwik and on to [deleted] W [/deleted] Valkenburg Naval Air Station. The whole route was lined with Dutch men women and children, cheering, clapping, waving flags. The schools, hospitals, old peoples homes had all been brought either outside or by windows to watch as we passed by. What a welcome we received!! We passed a windmill and the sails had been decorated with the flags of the various countries represented. When I think back to that ride I cannot help thinking of the warmth and friendship that came over to us from that mass of Dutch citizens.

Considering what a bitterly cold day it was the reception to our party was absolutely fantastic. Something we shall never forget. The Orions were busy taking off and landing and an F15 came over and did a Victory roll one to the left and one to the right.

Once inside the main building we were greeted by the Commanding Officer and were invited to take drinks before sitting down to a super Indonesian Rice Table meal. Unfortunately we were somewhat behind schedule and had to rush things a bit, missing coffee to get

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to Soesterburg [sic] where we visited the Aviation museum, where we received another hearty welcome. The museum itself, which is of a Military nature, had not been long built but was very well laid out with aircraft very familiar to all of us – DH82, Harvard and B.25 among them. The highlight of this visit was the handing over of the original Manna documents to the Secretary of State for Holland for a permanent home in the Museum – what better place!! We were all able to spend a great deal of time studying the exhibition of air war paintings what lined the walls of the museum – a most impressive array.

Another kind gesture was afforded us here when each Veteran was presented with a book [deleted] wh [/deleted] written by Hans Onderwater entitled OPERATION MANNA/CHOWHOUND and this edition had been printed in English. [deleted] This presentation took place in the O [/deleted] Each book was signed by the author.

Col. de Jong read out a letter which was to be sent to H.R.H. Prince Bernhard and each veteran signed the blank sheets that would accompany the letter. With the letter would go our good wishes and flowers.

We moved into the Officers Casino at Soesterberg Air Base for a reception with drinks and food presented by the Public Relations bureau for agriculture. The Dutch maidens in traditional costume made a lovely sight as they flitted amongst us carrying trays of drinks and food. before leaving we all received an orchid to end another delightful day.

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[underlined] THURSDAY [/underlined] [underlined] MAY [/underlined] [underlined] 2nd [/underlined]

Today saw us on our way to Schipol airport where we were entertained by the FOKKER aircraft Industry. This took the form of a film show which lasted about 15 minutes and consisted of 1400 slides shown in quick succession which portrayed all aspects of the Fokker Industry. At the end of [inserted] our [/inserted] visit each of the gentlemen received a Fokker tie and the ladies received a [deleted] scaraf [/deleted] scarf. A group photograph was taken here to commemorate our visit.

Then it was on to Amsterdam for a trip on the canals which was quite delightful. I think Jan Dopper was the man responsible for this. He was involved in the Resistance movement during the war and had helped a number of our airmen to escape after being shot down. During the trip we were entertained to a wonderful lunch: in all a very pleasant two hours. Our next visit was to the Amsterdam Shipping Museum, where we were able to see something of Holland’s past Naval achievements. The museum houses the largest collection of books on anything relating to the sea and shipping. Everyone received a double pack of playing cards and a tie pin.

The evening saw us assembled at the R.A.F.A. Club (at the Old Schipol airport buildings for a farewell party as guests of the Amsterdam branch of the Association in cooperation with the Forty Years Food and [inserted] Freedom [/inserted] Foundation Committee. It was good to once again view the many mementoes that cover the walls of the club. We were entertained by three Dutchmen

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in traditional Scottish costume playing the pipes and drums. After dinner the drinks flowed freely, the conversation became somewhat louder. There were many speeches from all sides, some a bit longwinded but for me the presentation to our hard working Ted and Irene was a great joy to witness and much deserved. This was a beautiful Delft tea service and, despite their worries about getting through Customs, I’m sure will be a constant reminder of the feelings of one and all of us towards them.

By midnight we had just made it back to barracks.

[underlined] FRIDAY [/underlined] [underlined] May 3rd [/underlined]

As this was to be our last day in Holland Joan and I took the train from Rotterdam to Utrecht to see our friends Win and Eddie. The time went very quickly and at 2.0 PM we had to make our way back to the Barracks. After our goodbyes to our Dutch hosts and hostesses we boarded our coaches and made our way to the Europoort. The boat sailed on time and what a lovely farewell we had when a van pulled up on the Quay sporting a large white sheet with these words written across. FAREWELL MANNA CREWS. DO COME AGAIN. This was the brainwave of Dr. and Mrs KAAK HOUTKOOPER who had become involved with the Manna 83 visit. A message of thanks was sent from the boat by the Captain.

And so ended our time in Holland – A time of wonderful experiences, some highly emotional at times tearful, but something we shall none of us ever

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forget. It was a week of concentrated visiting to be entertained like Royalty, and our memories will remind us of the gratitude that was afforded to us by so many people. The warmth of affection shown to us has served to weld an [deleted] d [/deleted] even greater bond of affection between the people of Holland and all those who were priviliged [sic] to partake in Manna [deleted] 85 [/deleted] /Chowhound 85.



Ted Leaviss, “Ted Leaviss's account of 40th anniversary of Operation Manna visit,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 3, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/32111.

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