A 1950s milk run over the Eder Dam

Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick. [Pic: Frank Pleszak]

Frank Pleszak has sent me a lovely story he heard from a family friend, GC, who served in the RAF in the 1950s. He was based at RAF Wahn, which is now Cologne-Bonn international airport.

At that time the British High Commissioner for Germany was a career diplomat called Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick. He had been based in the Berlin embassy before the war, where he apparently believed that no business could be done with the Nazis, and after the war became the Foreign Office’s Permanent Under Secretary for Germany. He sat on the Allied High Commission, based in Bonn, which had been established by the USA, the UK and France to regulate and supervise the development of the new Federal Republic of Germany.

Kirkpatrick liked his tea made with fresh milk. However diplomats in the Bonn area were not allowed to drink the local fresh milk as it caused illness, so powdered milk had to be used. Kirkpatrick refused to drink this and when he heard that fresh pasteurised milk was available in the north of Germany he was given a twice weekly 400km round trip milk run from RAF Wahn to RAF Bückeburg (between Osnabrück and Hannover) using his RAF-provided De Havilland Devon aircraft. A milkman’s wireframed four-pint milk bottle carrier was acquired for the purpose.

Normally the flight would just involve Kirkpatrick’s personal pilot, an ex-WW2 Squadron Leader with a significant set of medals. GC got talking to the pilot one day and he invited GC along for a jolly, happy for the company. On the 200km flight north-east from Wahn to Bückeburg the topic of the Dams Raid came up. The pilot asked GC if he would like to see one of the dams from the air. Who would turn down that opportunity? GC wasn’t about to.

On arrival at Bückeburg the pilot retired for lunch in the officers’ mess whilst GC had to make do with the NAAFI. The pilot returned a few hours later complete with the four pints of fresh milk. As they got back into the Devon GC was entrusted with the precious cargo and told in no uncertain terms “Look after the milk. Don’t spill a drop”.

On the way back they diverted to the Eder Dam and flew very low along its lake and over the dam at about 60 feet. They then pulled round for another view, where GC was able to see the damage from 1943, now repaired.

A great story. Read it in full on Frank Pleszak’s blog.