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Mercy Mission to Holland, 5th May 1945icon for Recommended story

by Homecroft

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Robert Forsyth
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
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Contributed on: 
08 December 2003

As the war was drawing to a close and the Allied Army was driving North through Holland they adopted a technique of surrounding but bypassing towns occupied by the Germans, rather than fighting street by street through them, but it inevitably resulted in the already short supplies in those towns being reduced to starvation level for the civilian population.

On the 5th May 1945 the RAF was asked to drop food supplies to Rotterdam, having agreed an arrangement with the Germans that our aircraft would be assured a safe passage.

Since great accuracy was required to drop on a particular spot the RAF Pathfinder Squadrons were asked to lead the way and No 156 Squadron at Upwood, whose motto was "WE light the way" were called upon for this particular mission. In Lancaster bombers we were more used to dropping bombs in the dark of night at a height of 18,000 feet but this operation was to be carried out at 400ft well within sight of the German troops on the ground.

It was an unnerving experience to be flying virtually over the rooftops of Rotterdam and seeing columns of German soldiers marching along the streets but we could also see delighted civilians waving from the roofs of their houses as we made our way to the dropping zone on the edge of the town. So much so that I personally made up my modest sweet ration which we got for each flight and making it into a kind of parachute using my handkerchief and a bit of string and threw it out of the window in the hope that some child would be lucky that day.
I am sure that the people of the town were delighted and it certainly left us with a felling of great satisfaction

On the anniversary one year later we flew over the palace of Princess Juliana in tight formation and dropped flowers to commemorate the occasion

201802 F/O Robert Forsyth

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Message 1 - Mercy mission to Holland 5th May 1945

Posted on: 22 December 2003 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Robert

5 May 1945 was indeed a momentous day for Holland. The complete surrender of all forces in the Netherlands was signed at Wageningen shortly after 4pm, by the commander of all German forces in Holland, General Johannes von Blaskowitz, in the presence of Lieutenant-General Charles Foulkes, the senior Canadian officer. Also present, in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief in the Netherlands, was Prince Bernhard. So you probably made the last flight.

There was another unconditional surrender at Baldham in southern Germany at 2.30 PM the same day, although on 5 May the Red Army was still in fierce combat in East Prussia, although Marshall Zhukov had accepted the surrender of Berlin on 2 May. The day before, 4 May, German officers came to Montgomery on Luneberg Heath and surrendered all forces in North-West Germany, Denmark, and Holland to be effective the next day.

As you know, 55,500 gallant aircrew of Bomber Command, brave men like yourself, had died since 3 September 1939. It is perhaps typical too, of men like you, that you have chosen to write about a mercy mission rather than the high danger of your bombing missions. But even here, at such low altitude, in those last chaotic hours, it would have only taken some vindictive Nazis to open fire and bring disaster upon you.

I enjoyed reading your contribution,


Message 1 - Mercy mission Holland 5 May 1945

Posted on: 23 December 2004 by cornel

Dear Robert,

Could it be that your article appeared in the Rotterdam daily newspaper 'Maasbode' (now defunct) on a Saturday at the beginning of May 1946? I remember as a boy reading an article which had by and large the same content as your posted article, one year after our 'Bevrijding' (Liberation). I still vividly remember the food droppings just outside Rotterdam on 5 May 1945 (a Sunday afternoon?) on the meadowlands around the Van Nelle factory. The tins of 'Meat and vegetables' and the butter began arriving on our tables a few days later, together with white bread donated by the Swedes. Our shrunken stomachs took some time to get used to this new diet but it was delicious at the time.
I wish I could say that I was the recipient of your 'sweets drop' on your homemade parachute. I remember that the newspaper article referred to above ended by asking any 'recipient' to get in touch with the editor of Maasbode, but I gather from your posted article that nobody ever did.

Kees Panhuizen (Dutch by nationality
and upbringing, now living in England).

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