Operation Manna



Operation Manna


Details of events leading to Operation Manna.


Temporal Coverage

Spatial Coverage



Three typewritten sheets


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[underlined] OPERATION MANNA [/underlined] [inserted] by David Fellowes [/inserted]

[underlined] 29th April – 8th May 1945, [/inderlined]

The advance of the 1st Polish Armoured Division liberated the eastern parts of the Netherlands, resulting in a very large area in the west still in the hands of the German army. Earlier the Reichskommissar, an Austrian, Arthur Seyss-Inquart imposed an embargo on food supplies for western urban areas. Food stocks in the thickly populated west had already been reduced by German order, leaving insufficient food to help the people through the winter of 44/45. A shortage of coal and other fuels aggrevated [sic] the situation.

In mid January 1945 Queen Wilhelmina sent identical notes to King George VI, President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, saying in effect ‘That if a major catastrophe was to be avoided drastic action had to be taken before and not after the liberation of the rest of the country’. An Allied invasion of western occupied Holland was considered too costly so representatives of the Dutch resistance were allowed to cross the lines and contact the Allies. Following negotiations the Germans would be willing to negotiate and on April 14th Prince Bernhard travelled to Reims to discuss the Allied answer with General Eisenhower. Churchill was opposed to negotiations with the Germans. South African Prime Minister Field Marshal Smuts mediation allowed direct negotiations with the Germans. Ten days later the Governments of the USA, USSR and the UK allowed Eisenhower to contact Seyss-Inquart the German Governor of Occupied Holland. The same day April 24th the Dutch people were advised by radio that food drops were about to begin. The Germans were forced to co-operate, that to assure themselves of POW status was to obey completely, any acts of sabotage would be considered a war crime and treated as war criminals. The Germans were not impressed and angry as all arrangements had been made without prior consultation and were suspicious of Anglo-US action, but broadcast to the Dutch people on the 25th April that the German military commander agreed to General Eisenhower’s plan to supply food to Occupied Holland, but not by the means suggested. Eisenhower ordered the food drops to start on the 27th April whatever the German reaction. On the day previous the German Governor Seyss-Inquart agreed the fastest way to save the Ducth was to send food supplies by air.

The weather on the 27th April prevented the Lancaster bombers from taking off. On the 28th April in the school building in Achteveld German and Allied representatives, including Air-Commodore Andrew Geddes the Air Commodore Operations and Plans of the 2nd Tactical Air Force met to establish as many ‘drop zones’ as possible and overcome any German objections. General Sir Francis De Guingand, Montgomery’s Chief of Staff headed the meeting and advised the Germans the object of the meeting was to come to an

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agreement as to how the Allies could best help the Dutch as they, the Germans, were unable to do so. Reichrichter Dr. Ernst Schwebel headed the four man German delegation and said his terms of reference did not include making any detailed arrangements for feeding the Dutch, but to make arrangements for the Reichskommisar Seyss-Inquart to meet General Eisenhower or his representative at an agreed place on Monday 30th April. General De Guingand went through is [sic] proposals to the German delegates, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands a ‘Linch Pin’ in the complex organisation of the distribution of food to points inside occupied territory advised General De Guingand who then concluded that the next meeting would be held at 13.00 hours on April 30th 1945 and that Lt. Gen Bedell Smith would lead the delegation.

The next day at 08.00 hours 29th April hundreds of Dutch people in hiding listened to the ‘Voice of Freedom’ Radio Resurgent Netherlands with a special announcement that aircraft would come to drop coloured flares the other aeroplanes would drop the food, at 12.10 hours another special announcement reported the first aircraft carrying food for occupied Holland had left Britain. OPERATION MANNA had begun.

That day 29th April the RAF took an enormous risk, no agreement had been signed, as the Lancaster bombers approached occupied Holland at very low height 150-1000 feet they would have been easy prey for the many ACK-ACK guns the enemy could still use. If the Germans opened fire and killed hundreds of RAF crews they would have been in their right to do so. The RAF Commanders, the pilots and their crews knew it, the German reaction would be legitimate. However, the start of this life-saving operation was a success and 239 Lancasters dropped 556 tons of food.

The following day 30th April at the school in Achterveld General Bedell Smith met Seyss-Inquart, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and Air Commodore Geddes participated in the negotiations and following discussions of sub-committees in various class-rooms the two delegations finally reached an agreement. At the same time 482 Lancasters dropped 1005 tons of food again with the knowledge that the agreement had not been signed. The next day 1st May Air-Commodore Geddes and Group Captain Hill with copies of the agreement in English and German met German delegates in the village of Nude. Following the signing of four copies in each language and two marked maps showing the drop zones each side returned to their own lines at 19.00. Air Commodore Geddes advised that the agreement had been satisfactorily signed. Thus the operation which had already started on the 29th April could officially begin on May 2nd. However, on that day the 1st of May the RAF dropped 1096 tons with 488 Lancasters. The 8th Bomber Group of the USAAF with B17’s using the code name Chowhound dropped 776 tons with 392 aircraft. The operation continued by the RAF until the 8th May and

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the 8th Air Force on the 7th May. The number of flights made by the RAF was 3154 dropping 7030 tons, the 8th Air Force made 2189 flights dropping 4156 short tons.

Operation Manna was carried out by RAF Bomber Commands No.1, No.3 and No.8 Groups using Lancasters and Mosquitos. This highly successful operation perpetuated by Bomber Command gave life and hope to millions of starving Dutch people held in the German Occupied area of West Holland.



David Fellowes, “Operation Manna,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 24, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/35486.

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