Bomber Command aircrews from bases across Lincolnshire carried out an unusual mission between April 29 and May 7, 1945. Their orders were to drop food not bombs for the population of western Holland who had been cut off by the Nazis during the freezing winter of 1944/45.
The mission was organised by British and American forces at the request of Prince Bernhard of Holland whose people were dying from hunger. Three million people were at risk and crews dropped around 12,000 tonnes of food saving them from certain death.
The Dutch people were desperate – they were eating tulip bulbs, sugar beet and licking rubbish bins. Some were dying in the streets. But the young aircrews who flew on those missions to Holland had no idea how bad things were. As they flew off from Lincolnshire, the BBC was broadcasting a message to let the Dutch people know what was happening. As some of them listened to the broadcast on their hidden radios, they didn’t dare believe what they were hearing.
Maurice Snowball’s crew had been told to fly very low and to follow a pre-arranged route so that the Germans didn’t fire at them. A truce had been agreed with the Germans to allow them to carry out the food drops but wasn’t signed until a couple of days after Maurice’s mission.
The people on the ground were waiting patiently, straining their ears for the sound of the Lancaster bomber. The sound came faintly at first and then grew louder and louder until, out of nowhere the plane appeared, flying so low they thought it might land on the roof of one of the houses.
Maurice and his crew weren’t expecting the crowds of people that were waiting for them. As they got nearer they could see them all on their roofs, cheering and waving flags – it was a very emotional day and the people of western Holland will never forget what the aircrews of Bomber Command did for them.
LSJ News reporter, Anne Hall talked to Maurice Snowball about his memories of the food drops.