Dennis Thompson [COSFORD]

Denis_Thompson3Dennis Thompson, Cosford Volunteer and his role in Operation Manna during World War II

Can you tell us what you do at Cosford?
I was a tail gunner on Lancasters. I come in and explain what happened during that time and talk about some of the operations I was involved with. Sometimes I will go and visit local schools. I think there is at least one that has almost adopted me! I am 90 now.

As a Bomber Command veteran, can you tell us some of the things that you did?
I was with 170 Squadron at Hemswell. I took part in 8 sorties before the war ended. We bombed Berchtesgaden on a night raid but I take most satisfaction from the ‘Manna’ campaign.

The Dutch people were suffering from starvation towards the end of the war. There was a lot of flooding caused because the Germans had broken open the Dykes to slow down our advance. The railways did not work either. The Dutch were surviving on a diet of tulip bulbs and sugar beet. Nearly 22000 died.

We dropped food into 3 drop zones that were negotiated with the Germans. We were meant to fly in at 500 feet but our aircraft flew in at 200 feet! I visited the site after the war and pointed out a church steeple that we flew around. We had been lower than the steeple!

I think our crew pioneered home delivery. We had a sack of food that was hung up. The skipper rocked the aircraft to make it drop and I watched it go straight through the upstairs window of a house.

I was kept in the RAF until 1947. I think that was because I managed the RAF boxing team. I was meant to be on the Tiger Force that went to the Far East, but the war ended when they dropped the bomb so I did not get there.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at Cosford?
I like the opportunity to talk to people about what had taken place. The children are very interested. I take in a model of a Lancaster to show them. Lots of them know what it is. The Lancaster is a fabulous aircraft. It still makes a shiver go down my spine when I hear it fly over.

Have you met any famous or interesting people when you have been volunteering? I met the Dam Buster Johnny Johnson at a function. He had not been involved in the Manna campaign and knew nothing about it. I have met quite a few other veterans too.

Have you taken part in any other events related to your wartime work?
The other week I attended a service at Lincoln Cathedral. It marked the 70th anniversary of Operation Manna. There were dignitaries from all over Europe and there were 18 veterans from ‘Manna’. We were presented with a floral tribute from the people of Holland. It is made up of 40000 bulbs. I was interviewed for a film that has been made about it. They played it in the Cathedral and my bit appeared!