Memorable Day at Mary Ellis Memorial Service

Mary Ellis 2017 at RAF Brize Norton. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail

Mary Ellis 2017. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail.

Two months after Mary Ellis slipped her earthly bonds and took her place in the history books of British Aviation, the Isle of Wight turned out to show respect for the Queen of Sandown.

Over 350 people of all ages and all walks of life filled St. Mary’s Church in Cowes, even taking their seats upstairs near rafters.

St.Mary's Church, Cowes, flying the flag for Mary Ellis 24 September 2018

St.Mary’s Church, Cowes, flying the flag for Mary Ellis 24 September 2018. Copyright Anne Grant.

In addition to her family and friends there were local politicians, local press and media organisations, Wight Aviation Museum members, IW Flying Club, young Air Cadets, and many octogenarians and hundreds of her many admirers.

Graham Rose of ATA Association paid tribute to Mary and recalled the long friendship between Mary and his mother, the late Molly Rose.

Vespa scooter decorated with Spitfires and 'bullet holes'. Vehicle parked at Northwood House on Mary Ellis Memorial Service day.

Vespa scooter decorated with Spitfires and ‘bullet holes’ parked at Northwood House on Mary Ellis Memorial Service day. Copyright Anne Grant.

Derek Hermiston Hooper gave his tribute, representing the Aircrew and RFC, RNAS Associations. It was Derek who was the force behind Mary receiving the Master Pilot award.

Group Captain Anne-Marie Houghton spoke of ‘Mary the inspiration.’ She had mistakenly thought her achievements in the RAF in the 1990s were a ‘first’. Then she heard about Mary Ellis and all the other women ATA pilots and she realised they had done it all before she was born.

The assembled even heard from Mary Ellis herself when one of her recent interviews was replayed from a BBC podcast ‘The Last Word.’

Councillor Clare Mosdell reminded us of Mary’s contribution to the Island ever since she moved here after she left the ATA, to work as personal pilot to wealthy farmer Mr. Clark. It was he who started Bees Flight and appointed Mary to run it all for him at Sandown. She built up the Airport into a thriving business, the legacy of which is that the airfield still exists today and still thrives.

Author and poet Alison Hill read her ‘Spitfire Salute’ which recollected some of the outstanding moments in Mary’s final years and happy memories of their recent last meeting.

After the prayers and uplifting hymns, the concluding music was the stirring ‘Battle of Britain’ theme tune.

Biggin Hill Spitfire 'Spirit of Kent' playing with the clouds - Mary Ellis style.

Biggin Hill Spitfire ‘Spirit of Kent’ playing with the clouds – Mary Ellis style.

After the service the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar put on a magnificent display with a flypast over Cowes seafront and Northwood House. The Mark IX Spitfire ‘Spirit of Kent’ performed an acrobatic show of high skill, to the delight of the crowd. The pilot ‘played with the clouds’ and then he was gone.

One of many Mary Ellis Memory Boards which displayed her long aviation career.

One of many Mary Ellis Memory Boards which displayed her long aviation career.

Everyone stayed on in the warm September sunshine to swap personal memories of Mary.
My own is this:
I was brought up in the old fashioned way to respect my elders and betters. This included waiting to be given permission to call them by their first name.  For years I addressed Mary as Mrs Ellis while I awaited her permission until finally I asked.
Somewhat amused she replied, “My name is Mary. It is the only one I have. Please use it.”
Blue skies Mary.   Follow this link to see the BBC coverage of Mary Ellis Memorial Service.

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