Farley Mowat
Original caption says food being loaded on to Canadian trucks to bedelivered to starving Dutch, however given thr presence of a German officer, the food is probably being unloaded at a distribution point inside German lines © Alexander M. Stirton. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-134417.
RAF ground crew loading food supplies into slings for hoisting into the bomb bay of an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber of 514 Squadron as part of Operation Manna late April early May 1945. The foodstuffs were not parachuted, rather the Lancasters would fly low and slowly and drop the supplied from the bomb bay. The British, Canadian, and American bombers would drop thousands of tons of supplies, but as that was not enough, convoys of trucks were organized.

History-April 27 1945:

Two crazy Canadians who helped a starving Holland


It was really quite mad. Throughout April, vicious fighting had been taking place as Canadians pushed across Holland, retaking city and village from the desperate German Army. Along the way, they encountered starving Dutch, who were resorting to eating tulip bulbs and dead horses and anything they could.

Then from the Dutch resistance a somewhat nebulous message came into Canadian intelligence offices allegedly from the German Command in Holland. It said the Commander, Gen. Blaskowitz wished to speak to the Canadians about the desperate food situation of civilians in German held territory.

These basically junior Canadian officers, Major Ken Cottam and Captain Farley Mowat, both of whom can best be described as “colourful” characters, and who never did things “by the book” decided that after discussing the situation with Canadian HQ would go see what it was all about.

On April 26, they took off on a lone jeep and headed toward German-occupied Holland in what should have been seen as an extremely risky, and foolhardy mission.

Still, with a crazy sense of adventure and a large white sheet flying from the wire cutter on the front of the jeep, the two officers and a third man, roared off toward German lines. Mowat later would say that he thought they would be riddled with machine gun bullets at any time.

Cottam spoke fluent German and armed with bravado, an authoritarian attitude of importance, and the vague message, they actually succeeded in making it past several checkpoints of nervous soldiers and were admitted to see General Blaskowitz in his heavily guarded compound.

Late that night, they had managed to negotiate a truce with the German forces in order to supply food to the citizens. On this day, in 1945, April 27th, they relayed the message that they had negotiated a truce with the Germans to allow food deliveries. Mowat later said he thought they would either been promoted for their daring, or court-martialled for entering into basically unofficial negotiations with the German command.

As it turned out, neither eventuality happened in spite of similar negotiations were taking place at the Supreme Allied Headquarters at the highest military level, but the two plucky Canadians had sealed the deal quickly, saving undoubtedly many Dutch lives.

On April 29th, the first Lancaster loaded with food made a nerve wracking flight over enemy territory to test the truce. They made the drop and the crew of seven, five of whom were Canadian, radioed “mission accomplished. Regular air drops then began with British and Canadian Lancasters dropping food to the still-occupied areas of the Netherlands, followed by American planes.

When this proved insufficient, convoys of Canadian trucks loaded with food and other supplies were able to pass into German lines to deliver food.

Realizing they were beaten, the Germans in Holland would surrender to Canadian forces within a matter of days.




A Canadian despatch rider leads a convoy of Canadian made 60cwt military trucks all under white flags, delivering food to the starving Dutch.
A convoy of Canadian 60cwt trucks filled with food supplies moving into German-occupied territory along the road from Wageningen to Rhenan, Netherlands, 3 May 1945. © Alex Stirton; Library and Archives Canada a134419
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