May 14, 2007
This story was written by Frank Landman, from Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Frank came to Canada with his family from Holland in 1967. Presently, he lives in Swift Current and is retired. He is a widower. He is a volunteer at the Southwest Crisis Centre. Frank is a natural leader and takes a lot of initiatives in helping his fellow classmates. Last summer, he facilitated ESL discussion classes as a volunteer. He is an asset in the ESL class and is always willing to share his expertise and experience with others.
I would like to tell a true story about the food drops in Western Holland during the war from April 29 - May 8, 1945. In my family, at that time, we were three of us. My mother, who was fifty years old, my brother Ben, 7 years old, and me, 15 years old. My father was killed in 1943 by a bomb attack. My older brother and my two older sisters were not at home in 1945.
We existed on a daily food intake of only 580 calories. The food was supplied by central kitchens in the form of soup or porridge once a day.
The winter of 1945 was an unusually harsh winter. All waterways were frozen. So, barges could not get through to supply food for the three larger cities in Holland. We ate tulip bulbs and sugar beets, they were eaten raw, because there was no coal for the stove to cook the food.
The Dutch government in exile in England, with the help of the Dutch Royal family was paying for the food. In an agreement with the occupying German Army, they dropped food packages from the air for the starving population. But in the end, the truth was that more than 10,000 people in Western Holland died of starvation.
The food was dropped by England’s Royal Airforce aircrafts. The drop zones were the cities of Leiden, The Haque and Rotterdam.
Planes dropped 6,680 tons of food flying a total of 3,298 sorties. A Lancaster flew as high as 600 meters, but this time they came in at a height of only 120-150 metres, because the food was dropped without parachutes.
The food dropped consisted of flour, sugar, bacon, butter, crackers and flour. The flour was in sacks and the rest of the food was in tins. The Americans were using B17 to drop the food.
It was a sweet but sad story, when the aircrews found out they were going to drop food instead of bombs, they made their own little parcels with cigarettes, chocolates and other sweets. They threw them out, when the plane circled over the City toward the drop zone. These little presents came down with a speed of 225 miles an hour and some people on the rooftops, watching the food drops got killed or hurt.
The operation in Holland was under control of the German Army, it was far from perfect. On the other hand, the distribution took as long as ten days, as a result of which some got the food only after the liberation.
Nevertheless, many lives were saved by the food drops in Holland. It also gave a feeling of hope that the war would soon be over.