Bahamas - Cabin bags and Elephants, by Tony Russell (1966)

I was the duty officer one evening in Nassau when the 707 from London came through en route to Miami. On board was the usual mix of passengers getting off and in transit, plus a selection of animals in the belly hold of the aircraft that were bound for a zoo somewhere in Florida.

Included in this menagerie was a baby elephant. During the transit I made my way to the aircraft to see the animals first hand and to check on their condition – there are a host of rules and regulations that accompany the carriage of animals on international flights.

Little miss baby elephant was located in the forward hold, together with some small deer, alongside a shelf of stowed suitcases. Her cage had bars that were a good six inches apart.

After the cargo team had carried out their checks (adequate water and straw, etc.) I was kneeling down, with my arm through the bars, giving her a little scratch on her forehead, and in the half light of the hold I happened to look further into her cage to see a BOAC cabin bag – squashed absolutely flat! She had obviously become bored during the flight and, with her little trunk, removed this bag from the adjacent shelf and proceeded to “play” with it.

On retrieving it from the cage the only discernible feature of the bag – and its now unrecognisable contents – was that it appeared to have been the property of a lady.

The flight was just about ready to depart at this stage. So, not having enough time to seek out the owner, I placed the bag at the entrance of the hold and phoned my opposite number in Miami to explain what appeared to have occurred.

I can still clearly recall how bizarre my words must have sounded to him, which were, “ When one of the passengers asks the whereabouts of her cabin bag, you will have to produce it and tell her that an elephant stood on it!”

As a postscript, the owner of the bag took it all in tremendous heart and had the bag framed and mounted - now holding pride of place on her living room wall!

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