Almost there with Freedom of the Wight for Mary Ellis

Mary Ellis Freedom of the Wight letter to IW County Press 25 November 2016.

Mary Ellis Freedom of the Wight letter to IW County Press 25 November 2016.

Some days are good. Some days are a little bit special.
Today is one such day.

It heralds the possibility that ex-ATA Spitfire Pilot Mary Ellis may just possibly be given the Freedom Of The Wight by the Isle of Wight Council.

The full Council will consider the application which was started by Solent Aviatrix a year ago.

The Isle of Wight County Press published my letter on 25 November 2016 suggesting that the IWC honour Mrs. Ellis. (See the letter above).

Then in April 2017 OnTheWight got behind the campaign and have been instrumental in driving this forward. Since then OnTheWight and Solent Aviatrix have worked closely together on this campaign.

Over the summer months there were small steps forward.

It all seemed to have stalled a few weeks ago as the IWC established criteria for awarding this rare honour didn’t seem to apply to Mary – or so they thought. Solent Aviatrix stepped in to supply the evidence that Mary Ellis had done enough in her lifetime to meet the stringent criteria.

A letter was sent to that effect from this website to Cllr David Stewart, Leader of IW Council, which listed the evidence for consideration by the Council. Today they have announced they will consider the application at Full Council.

So here we are, one year on from the initial suggestion. The wheels of local government move slowly and inexorably forward. We are still not at the finishing line yet.

But if there is any justice left in this world, it is only a matter of time before Mary joins the late, great Anthony Minghella and Dame Ellen MacArthur by being awarded the FREEDOM OF THE WIGHT.
Read the full report OnTheWight.


Joy Lofthouse – R.I.P

Sad news received today 16 November.

Joy Lofthouse ATA pilot

Joy Lofthouse in 2016. Image courtesy of Charles Stewart.

Yesterday Joy Lofthouse passed away at home. Rest In Peace.

 See the tribute to Joy, who was interviewed for Secret Spitfires film, by clicking here :
Secret Spitfires



At Last! The Secret Spitfire Factory Movie Is Released

Secret Spitfire Factories of Salisbury made by Etham Media

Secret Spitfire Factories of Salisbury made by Etham Media

Good news at last about the filming of a local true story from the Second World War.

In July 2016 Gary Roberts contacted Solent Aviatrix after finding the article about Stella Rutter on this website. Gary, associate producer on the filming of Secret Spitfire Factory in Salisbury, wanted to talk to Stella about her autobiography, “Tomorrow Is D-Day”.

Stella worked in the Spitfire drawing office of Vickers Supermarine at Hursley, Winchester.

Supermarine staff outside Hursley Park 1943

Supermarine staff outside Hursley Park 1943. Courtsey Hursley Archive custodian.

Gary was put in contact with Stella and he interviewed her, at home in Emsworth, for the film.

At last the film has been released and for the last week has being showing at The Odeon in Salisbury.

Because it has been so successful, a full house at each viewing, the cinema intends to extend the screening of the film by one week.

Gary Roberts told Solent Aviatrix today (15 November) there is a possibility of other cinemas around the region showing the film if the cinema chain thinks there is enough interest by cinema-goers to see it. In other words we need to create a demand.

Surely it should be shown in Southampton and Eastleigh, home of the Spitfire?

Stella Rutter at Boultbee Academy Goodwood

Stella Rutter meets a Boultbee Spitfire, Goodwood 2017. Copyright Stephen Mosley

As it was the Air Transport Auxiliary pilots at Hamble Ferry Pool, Southampton, who collected all these locally assembled Spitfires and delivered them to the RAF bases, this film has a great deal of interest local to the Solent area.

Some of the Spitfire Girls were Felicity Bragg, Jackie Moggridge, Lettice Curtis and Mary Ellis.

Gary said, “It is also out on DVD now which can be purchased from the film’s Producer Etam Cetintas.”

Go to Secret Spitfire website for full details of the film and to contact Etam about the DVD.

Felicity Bragg – Forgotten ATA Captain

Cassandra Felicity Bradford married name Bragg. Also known as Fay Bragg.

Cassandra Felicity Bradford. Image courtesy of RAeC Trust.

When the Air Transport Auxiliary closed down after the war, six women were honoured by the UK by making them Members of the British Empire.

Much has been written about four of them. Pauline Gower’s leadership of the women’s section is now widely regarded as having been outstanding. Margot Gore’s command of the Women’s Ferry Pool at Hamble has also been recognised. Her Deputy, Rosemary Rees, has featured in many books, including her own biography. Joan Hughes’ contribution to training male and female A.T.A pilots has been acknowledged. So too has her later aviation career including that of stunt pilot for, “Those Magnificent Men In The Flying Machines.”

Of the remaining two women, Miss Roy Mary Sharpe managed to forge a post-war career in aviation as a test pilot, aircraft saleswoman and race competitor.

By comparison the sixth aviatrix, Felicity Bragg, has slipped into history almost forgotten. Yet she rose from junior pilot to Deputy Commander in three years. Quite an achievement.

Go to Cassandra Felicity Bragg’s story