Content kindly provided by Kev Moore and Andy Spiret.
Operation Bushel was the name given to Britain’s contribution to the Ethiopian famine relief efforts conducted in the mid 1980s. Some other countries involved with the flying include Poland, Germany, France and Russia.
On the 1st November 1984 (XV186) the first Hercules C130 to operate in theatre left RAF Lyneham together with 2 Crews, Ground Engineers and full Operations Staff arriving in Addis Ababa (the main base of operations in Ethiopia) after flying via RAF Akrotiri. Additional Aircraft, crews and personnel quickly arrived over the following days and then months on a rotational basis. Operational flying began on the 3rd November 1984.
World donations (which mainly comprised Grain, Blankets, Biscuits, Milk Powder and the occasional vehicle) were initially collected from the nearby Port of Assab and were then delivered via Air Land sorties into various strips including Asmara, Axum, Gondar, Makale and Metema. Aid donations also started to arrive into Addis Ababa by air freight as Operation Bushel progressed.
Despite the C130 being fully prepared for strip operations considerable damage to the aircraft was experienced in the early weeks due to the sharp ‘flint’ rocks and stones encountered on the strips. Damage to the aircraft underside resulted in some of the first aircraft in theatre having to be partially re-skinned on return to the UK and it was not unusual to replace brand new main wheel tyres after a couple of sorties due to deep cuts in side walls and treads. Complete failure of main wheel tyres did occur on strip landings and one crew in particular had to resort to an unusual ‘battle damage’ procedure to return their C130 to Addis Ababa from Axum strip using only 3 main wheels after just such an event.
Due to the aircraft damage being experienced with Air Land, Operation Bushel moved to a predominately Air Drop option. Drop Zones (Bure Mudatto, Chisa, Gondo Meskel, Meranya, Rabel and Shillafaf to name a few) were set up each day usually by the Polish Air Force together with a 47 AD Drop Zone Officer to co-ordinate the RAF drops.
A typical C130 DZ delivery comprised 4 pallets (each weighing anything up to 8,500lb) that were delivered in 4 separate runs. The drops were from typical heights and speeds of 30-50 feet / 130-140 kts but this changed slightly as the operation progressed.
Operation Bushel ceased in December 1985.