R.A.F 51 SQUADRON, SNAITH
'C for CHARLIE'
leader of 51 Squadron based at Snaith was Squadron Leader Peter Ling. At
six feet two inches, he was a very tall and a well-built man, good looking
with rosy cheeks (a typical farmer Joskin type) and whenever you saw him
he carried this very large round basket, similar to a ladies sewing
flew in ‘C’ for Charlie (the planes were all marked with
letters of the alphabet) and one night my friend and I got off the
train at Heck railway station after visiting the cinema in
Doncaster and the squadron leader was the only other person to get
off at that stop. He was returning from leave and had arranged for
a staff car to meet him.
airman put his luggage in the boot and he was holding his basket.
We knew him very well as we both worked in the Officer’s Mess
and he told us to get in the back as far as the main gates, and he
put the basket down at my feet. There wasn’t a great deal of
room at the front once he got in.
officer rarely came into the bar where I worked. It was called the ‘Hole
in the Wall’ and it was very small. We always had a tin of Ronsanol at
each end of the bar for anyone to fill their lighters, and usually that
was the only time he came in.
dinnertime, shortly after he had given us the lift back from the station,
he came in to fill his lighter. There was no-one drinking in the bar as
there had been an operation late that night, and I was on duty on my own
– the other airman staff was having his dinner. He had the basket with
him as usual and he stood it on the bar. No one in the mess had ever asked
him what it contained but everyone was curious so I thought it was an
opportunity to find out. I
asked him, "Excuse me Sir, but is it a secret what you carry in that
it’s only Charlie, my lucky mascot", he said, and as he opened the
basket a snake wound itself up. He put his hand on its head, pushed it
back down and closed the lid again.
aircrew flew a tour of operations, 30 in all, although not very many got
to reach that goal. They were then stood down for a time (I can’t
remember how long) before beginning again.
Leader Ling successfully completed his tour, but was moved on, so Charlie
must have been lucky for him, although if I had known what was in that
basket when he offered us that lift from the station I think we would have
walked the two miles to the W.A.A.F. site despite the blackout!