OPERATION MANNA 2009 - REPORT
After my travails at Texel and Arnhem last year, I returned with fellow Pathfinders from the UK, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, Poland and Portugal to Teuge for the annual basic and refresher course.
Roy appropriately christened the course, Operation Manna, in honour of the Allied food relief drops to the Dutch survivors of the Hongerwinter in April ’45. The course would both give the novices their first taste of rounds (and Ian Marshall!) with a Dutch Military B wing as their prize, and the inexperienced and veteran jumpers the chance to get in-date for Arnhem. For me already qualified, it was a good way to build up both my jump and chute packing skills (the latter task was to take up most of my week). The Cessna 208B was our main jumpship, but Teuges’ Simon Woerlee, in a great coup, managed to get an An-2 on site so everybody would able to practice their Arnhem exits. The Antonov biplane is typically Russian, - ugly, simple, slow, looks like it could fall apart with a good kick, guzzles gas, but built to last and just perfect for paratroop training. An amazing aircraft!
The first 2 days were spent with the refreshers getting the rigs ready for the students, under Brian Aitken and Hervés’ supervision. When they all opened perfectly for their first jump on Tuesday, it was a relief. Myself and other refreshers got in jumps from the Cessna, in addition to packing like no tomorrow to get 3 jumps in for the students that day. The winds caused havoc for some students on their fourth jump from the An-2 on Wednesday, and so a halt was called to the day. It allowed us all to get another viewing of A Bridge Too Far (the lack of wind on our jumps allowed the pilots to bank for our DZ run-ins over Deventer, which had “doubled up” for Arnhem in the film). Next day, winds were down and with the An-2 unavailable after this day, it was critical to get 1 in for Arnhem. I was fortunate to get 2 jumps out of it and with the students now jump qualified, there was more chutes available for us to fill up chalks. 2 more Cessna exits were got in and despite the hard landings, I was happy as Larry with my week. Absolutely fantastic was the organisation by Roy, Ian, Lance and quartermaster Hervé with great credit also to Simon and his Teuge crew for keeping us watered and fed and for the use of their superb facilities and aircraft. And that was just the jumping!
The après-jump in De Wolk wasn’t half bad either with highlights for me, a DVD showing of Ian and 99 other daredevils saving the world over Florida 2 years ago (so good was it that Roy literally begged Ian for an encore!!!!) and a monster browse of the ARRSE site with the senior Pathfinders at a certain walts’ expense (hell, Sgt. Hotspur has more jumps now than that GiT, HA, HA), all washed down with copious amounts of Holland’s finest, though Pawel Moszners’ Polish vodka (rocket fuel more like) would trump that.
All in all, I met some great people who helped me out whenever they could, Denis and Valda, Gill and Dave, and James P for particular mention. All further increasing my respect for the airborne brotherhood and the Pathfinders’ mission to save the art of round canopy jumping from the skygods.