© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons
459 RAAF Squadron Desert Air Force in the Middle East
Flying Officer Charles "Chuck" COLLINS - Nav B - RAF
Service No. tba
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Died - 1990 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A four man crew:
L-R: R. Lee WAG RAF, Bryan Rostron Pilot RAF,
Jimmie Craig WAG RAF, Charles "Chuck" Collins NAV B RAF
Charles Collins joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1940 as it dawned on him - along with so many others - that the war would not be "all over by Christmas". Opting for training as an Air Observer, he followed the usual RAF path through training before completing his OTU at Silloth. There he crewed up with Bryan Rostron as his Pilot and Jimmy Craig and Lee Barrat as WAGs.
Together they languished in Britain for several months before setting off in their Hudson and ending up on 459 Squadron at Abu Suweir. The story of that journey has been well told by Bryan Rostron on his page, where he also recounts the tale of their first blooding on operations. It was probably a sortie that Chuck would choose to forget, for he lost an hour in his navigation, applied variation the wrong way and ended up navigating the crew back across the German side of the front line. However, he seems to have learned very quickly, and together the crew subsequently flew many successful operations.
While on an operational deployment to Aden Chuck developed what his medical records call jaundice, and what he called "sand fly". The symptoms sound very like those of Yellow Fever, and they put him in hospital in Aden for the last three months of 1942 while Bryan and the crew returned to Egypt.
When at last Chuck was well enough to rejoin 459 Squadron he found that the rapid progress of the war in North Africa had seen the Squadron move to Gambut near Tobruk. Here, after sick leave, he rejoined the crew and they flew together for another few weeks before being posted to 75 OTU for instructional duties. The lifestyle at Gianacles, however, did not appeal to Chuck and after two and a half months there he talked himself into a posting to No. 177 Squadron RAF flying Hudsons and Dakotas in the transport role. In that job he flew all over North Africa, from Casablanca to Cairo, and into Sicily and Italy supporting the invasion of Europe during the second part of 1943.
No. 117 Squadron was then moved at short notice to India to support the Chindit operations, but after completing all training for that role, Chuck was sent to hospital in the foothills of the Himalayas for an operation on his eye. That operation was unsuccessful, and in mid-1944 he was posted back to UK for further treatment.
To his lasting regret the subsequent operations were also unsuccessful, and he lost his operational flying category. He did a tour in training command as an instructor, but realised that he had little future in flying if he was to be confined to non-operational flying in UK only. He opted therefore to become an Administrator, and finished the war as Adjutant at RAF Eastchurch near his home on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. In 1946, married with one son, he decided to leave the RAF and to become a teacher - a career that he followed till he retired in 1975. In November 1989 he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and he died eight months later.
A. Newton & Chuck Collins taken in Alexandria 1943
Accordian player Jimmy Craig - late 1942
This pix. was taken probably on leave -
Palestine Aug/Sept,1942. It has a title Arthur Magnus at Home
The following is from his son Andrew Collins - Lossiemouth Moray - UK:
"While doing some research into the diaries that my late father, Charles Collins, kept during his wartime service I came across the website for 454 – 459 Squadrons RAAF thanks to the powers of Google. Indeed, I was almost overcome with shock when the link I followed popped up with a photograph of my father himself, along with the other members of Bryan Rostron’s crew. I have contacted Bryan Rostron, and he has kindly allowed me to use some of the information that he has placed on the website in the commentary on the diaries which I am writing, and which I hope to have published soon here in UK.
In the event that my book of his diaries completes the tortuous path to publication I would be happy to let the Association know the details of it, for I am sure that those who served on 459 Squadron in those days will recognise many of the incidents described in it.
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