Solent Aviatrix – here to recall the local aviation history of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight area.
In 1997 while working as an information analyst, I came across a reference to a Second World War woman pilot. I had always been interested in history but knew nothing about this role played by women during WW11. Thus began a journey into the past. A search of libraries for books on the RAF and WAAF revealed nothing about women pilots.
I later placed an information request in a magazine whose readership was the wartime generation. This opened the floodgate to letters and phone calls from men and women all eager to tell me what they knew. One Portsmouth man became quite emotional. I met up with him, a moving experience for me. He was pleased that someone from the next generation was actually interested in what his generation had done. He had been a military crewmember of the Supermarine aeroplane, which made a goodwill tour of the southern hemisphere. Proudly, he showed me a glossy book about the tour, which included a photo of him beside the plane. It should be remembered that this tour was in the early days of flight when aircraft safety was not what it is today. He also shared many amusing anecdotes with me, which still make me smile today.
For me, it put into perspective the triviality of much of what my generation considered to be of importance.
One of the phone calls I had was from Diana Barnato Walker, who told me about her book ‘Spreading My Wings’. She told me about the Air Transport Auxiliary. Next day I received several more phone calls – from her ATA colleagues all wanting to tell me their story. Diana must have told her friends about our conversation!
From that time onwards I began collecting their stories, some of which will be added to this site in the coming months.
I respect and salute them all. We will never see their like again.