Bernard Harris' father was a tailor.
His mother ran a sweet shop.
Family moved a couple of miles east of Bow.
Where Bernie went to school and at fourteen he
began work for the clock manufacturer, whose job
it was to service Big Ben.
In 1942, aged seventeen, Bernie volunteered for
The R.A.F. and he underwent aircrew training,
qualifying as an air gunner.
In early 1945, he transferred to 622 Squadron
at R.A.F. Milldenhall in Suffolk.
This Squadron had been equipped with Lancaster bombers
and in that spring, Bernie was involved in Operation Manna.
A series of humanitarian flights dropping through to the
Dutch population starving under German occupation.
Now, named after the biblical food which was God's gift
to the Israelites in the wilderness, Operation Manna
involved thirty three Squadrons flying thirty three
hundred sorties, each flying slowly and between three
and five hundred feet, dropping a total of
around seven thousand tons of tinned food, dry food
such as flour, sugar, coffee and chocolate.
And the planes had to fly low because they were
dropping sacks of food without parachutes.
An agreement had been reached with the German
authorities said the British crews would receive
safe passage, and apart from a few bullet holes
found in a few planes, the Germans kept their word.
Bernie, whose Squadron flew over western Holland,
remembered the Dutch citizens leaning out of their windows
and standing on their roofs, waving, greeting him.
This was in fact the first use of combat aircraft
for large scale humanitarian purposes, and once the war
was over, Bernies Squadron was transferred to Italy
to bring troops home and repatriate prisoners of war.
Bernie himself was then placed in charged of
an Italian hotel, used to house R.A.F. personnel.
He returned to Britain in 1947 and he was de-mobbed.
He married Mildred in April 1950, and he had a
son and a daughter.
After the war he went into the vending machine business,
and there's a certain irony in the fact that Bernie
saved the lives of so many people by dropping food,
later make his living selling food to people
who really didn't need it quite so badly.