Freedom of Snaith Parade Sunday 22nd March 2015
From October 1942 to April 1945, 51 Squadron flew its wartime operations from RAF Snaith, near Goole in Yorkshire. For that period, the squadron operated as part of No.4 Group, RAF Bomber Command, equipped with the Handley Page Halifax. Even though the squadron has since been based at Leconfield, Watton, Wyton and now Waddington, the strong bond between 51 Squadron and the people of Snaith and nearby Pollington still holds firm.
The Freedom of Snaith was bestowed upon 51 Squadron on 22nd April 2012 and needs to be renewed by parading every 3 years. Timing for this, the first anniversary, was dictated by 51 Squadron’s busy Op tempo and work up prior to their next deployment.
Sunday 22nd March dawned sunny and warm and was to remain so for the rest of the day. The MT transport arrived at the Brewers Arms in Snaith in good time and a party of squadronmembers were treated to a perfect demonstration of how to size and form a flight by the 2357 (Goole) ATC. The Cadets under the leadership of Flt Lt Adrian Owen RAFVRT are often an integral part of any ceremony celebrating the relationship between 51 Squadron, past and present, and the people of Snaith and Pollington, keeping the memories of events over 70 years ago alive in the minds of a new generation. Both flights then made their way to the Market Place where, under the command of parade WO MACr Kev Ross, they formed up into their respective flights. The Sqn Standard Party formed at the front of the two flights and the parade commander Sqn Ldr McRitchie took command leading the parade down Main Street towards the Snaith Priory church. The salute was taken by the Mayor Cllr John Staveley- Churton, OC 51 Sqn and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire. Following this, Revd Eleanor Robertshaw conducted a short church service which was well attended by locals, veterans and members of the Pollington Airfield Memorial Garden Committee.
At the end of the church service OIC 51 Sqn Heritage, the 51 Standard Party, and nominated personnel travelled to Pollington for an intimate wreath laying ceremony, whilst the rest of the parade and dignitaries adjourned to the Brewers Arms for food and refreshments. The popularity of the Snaith Brewery’s Red Goose Ale was evident when the Landlord Chris announced that the gathering had exhausted the entire supply available in the town in which it is brewed! How many RAF squadrons out there have their own real ale? Sqn Ldr Dave McRitchie, on behalf of OC 51 Squadron, updated everyone on the recent news from 51, as well as giving his thanks to the organisers and dignitaries for their support on this proud occasion, emphasising that Snaith and the nearby village of Pollington are still the spiritual home of 51 Squadron.
Please see pages 10-11 of Issue 3 for more images of the event.