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Black Arrow arrival at Sandown Airport 13 July 2018

Black Arrow arrival at Wight Aviation Museum, Sandown Airport 13 July 2018

The replica of the Black Arrow has arrived at Wight Aviation Museum (WAM), minus the red ‘nose’ cone.

This is currently being manufactured on the Isle of Wight.  When completed it will make the road journey to Sandown Airport to finish the rocket assembly.

It will then be situated outside the museum as a distinctive sentinel, visible to all who arrive at the airfield.

There will be no mistaking the location of WAM amongst all the other hangars!

Alfred Buckham - The Sky Traveller exhibition at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater, Isle of Wight October to December 2018

Alfred Buckham – The Sky Traveller exhibition at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater, Isle of Wight

Go to the Notice Board for more details about organised tours from the mainland to aviation sites around the Island, including an opportunity to see the Black Arrow.

If you are already on the Isle of Wight then go to Wight Aviation Museum page for contact details of how to visit WAM.

Also on the updated Notice Board is news of events this Autumn including a fabulous photography exhibition in Freshwater, Isle of Wight. Vintage aviation images taken by Alfred Buckham are absolute gems of history, capturing a moment in time that has gone forever.

Buckham wanted to be an artist, until he saw pictures by JMW Turner. Alfred went home and destroyed his own paintings. He took up a camera instead. What he produced through his lens is of equal artistry to Turner.  The SKY TRAVELLER is not to be missed.

Also listed are details about a talk by a pilot with HM Coast Guard SAR Helicopter based at Lee-on-the-Solent.

What of the big event anticipated for 2019 – D-Day 75?

News that Government funding won’t be made available for Portsmouth, to stage a major event next June around the Southsea D-Day Museum, has come as a blow to Portsmouth councillors.

Bombed out but NEVER beaten !!! Re-enactment group at Southwick D-Day Revival event 2018

Bombed out but NEVER beaten !!! Southwick D-Day Revival showing the British Spirit. Copyright Anne Grant.

If this leaves plans for Pompey somewhat up in the air, the Southwick Revival stalwarts over the Portsdown Hill are almost guaranteed to put on something even bigger and better than their D-Day 2018 weekend. They won’t be beaten.

As the lady in this photo chalked onto her blackboard propped up under the green door of her Anderson shelter, ‘Bombed out but NEVER beaten !!!’    That’s the spirit, girl!

Go to the Notice Board for a review of what Southwick 2018 did to entertain and educate the crowds.

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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.

Tributes to Mary Ellis

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.

Celebrities of the aviation world have posted their thoughts on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, about the death last week of Mary Wilkins Ellis.

Tributes have been coming in to this website, which had the privilege to host Mary’s page, from ‘ordinary’ people who greatly admired Mary. (Is there ever such a thing as ‘ordinary’ people?) Below are some of the tributes.

Statement issued 28 July 2018 from Wight Aviation Museum.

Wight Aviation Museum - WAM - of Sandown Airfield, Isle of Wight, England

Wight Aviation Museum – WAM – of Sandown Airfield, Isle of Wight, England

The Museum was extremely saddened to hear the news of the death of Mary Ellis at the age of 101. The Chair of the Museum, John Kenyon, wished to express the deep condolences of all its members to Mary’s family and friends at this sad time.
“I have known Mary for a number of years now and she will be remembered locally as a heroine who helped to establish the role of aviatrix pilots at a critical time for the nation. Without the Air Transport Auxiliary’s (ATA) wartime efforts the RAF would not have had enough aircraft to put into the sky to counter the war in the Air. Mary was an extraordinary lady and her legacy as a World War II pilot and her pivotal role at Sandown Airport, were key inspirations for the creation of the Wight Aviation Museum. It’s aim is to celebrate the considerable history in aircraft design & production on the Isle of Wight, as well as those individuals on the Island who have made an outstanding contribution to aviation, of which Mary was certainly one. We had been working with Mary and her associates to bring her story to our new museum and we hope our Mary Ellis exhibit will be a fitting tribute to this truly inspirational lady. In 2017 she celebrated her 100th Birthday with a flight from Sandown in her favourite aircraft, the Spitfire, becoming the oldest person to do so. More recently, Mary was awarded the Freedom of the Isle of Wight and, presenting the award the Leader of the Council exalted Mary as a ‘national, international and Island heroine’.”
To read the full tribute to Mary go to the Wight Aviation Museum website.

Captain Sara Frizzera in a Tornado of the Italian Air Force

Captain Sara Frizzera in a Tornado of the Italian Air Force. Image courtesy of Captain Giorgio Catone.

As an example of just how international was Mary’s standing in the aviation world, one of the very few female fighter pilots in the Italian Air Force, has been a fan of Mary Ellis for a while. Captain Sara Frizzera has sent this tribute:
“RIP Mary Ellis, a pioneer among female aviators, a symbol of gender equality. Cieli blu.

Sara’s husband, Captain Giorgio Catone, had been trying to arrange a secret surprise visit to the Isle of Wight for Sara so that she could meet Mary Ellis at Sandown Airport. Mary knew of this, as Solent Aviatrix had been trying to help Giorgio, by liaising with Mary.

Husband and wife Captain Giorgio Catone and Captain Sara Frizzera of the Italian Air Force

Captain Giorgio Catone and Captain Sara Frizzera of the Italian Air Force. Image courtesy of Giorgio Catone.

Sara has said that she would like to attend any memorial service planned for Mary on the Island next year.

The Isle of Wight Council leader Dave Stewart is on record as saying, “I’ve asked council officers to look at appropriate ways in which we can further recognise Mary’s remarkable life.”

Another tribute that has come in is from Philip Sewell. Philip is typical of many of Mary’s fans who wanted to express their admiration to her. Philip said in March this year, “I’m not RAF, simply a life-long fan of matters aviation, UK in particular — although I did have an uncle who flew Halifax aircraft and was KIA in Norway (1942 – Special Operations). I went to university in Norfolk where so many old RAF/USAAF airbases still dot the landscape; a visual reminder of the scale of the aerial conflict in WW2. I first came across Mary on the television when the ‘Spitfire Women’ programme was first broadcast (around 2010). I was absolutely hooked on the story of the ATA and how they coped with flying so many different types of aircraft, often with nothing more than an evening’s perusal of the relevant Pilot’s Notes. Before then my knowledge was limited to a vague idea of their activities and the fact that Amy Johnson was a member. Since then, thankfully, much more of the ATA story has come to the public’s attention, resulting in some very belated recognition and appreciation. This is a chance for an ordinary “civvy” to simply express gratitude and admiration for a damn fine job!”
Philip’s message was relayed on to Mary this spring.

Spitfire P7370 - Southampton Roundel - Southwick Revival 2018. Image copyright Anne Grant.

Spitfire P7370 – Southampton Roundel – Southwick Revival 2018. Image copyright Anne Grant.

On Wednesday of last week when the news broke of Mary’s passing, Philip once again got in touch, “I’ve heard the sad news via one of the Facebook aircraft groups that Mary left us on her final patrol this morning…no doubt she is opening the throttle in order to catch up with Tom Neill and Geoffrey Wellum, in order to form an evening patrol of three Spitfires…. Condolences to all of her family and friends.
Philip.”

Dan Llywelyn Hall portrait artist Dambusters Reunited. Image courtesy of Dan Llywelyn Hall

Dan Llywelyn Hall portrait artist Dambusters Reunited. Image courtesy of Dan.

Dan Llywelyn Hall is a portrait artist who contacted Mary via this website. In February Dan wanted to paint Mary’s portrait. He also extended an invitation for Mary to attend a special fund raising RAF100 dinner at the RAF Club Piccadilly on 7 September.
Dan said, “The event will have ten tables each with a pilot from the particular aircraft. It will be something of a momentous occasion.”

Then on Thursday last week Dan got in touch again, “Sincere condolences for the nation’s loss of Mary Ellis today. I’m sorry to hear the news. What a most remarkable lady.
Dan.”

Kaitlin MacDonald with her grandmother ATA pilot Yvonne MacDonald and Yvonne's daughter

Kaitlin with her grandmother ATA pilot Yvonne MacDonald and Yvonne’s daughter. Image courtesy Kaitlin MacDonald.

Last year Kaitlin, the grand daughter of ATA Spitfire Girl Mrs. Yvonne MacDonald found Mary’s page on this website. Kaitlin, who is in America, wanted to communicate with Mrs. Ellis to ask about her Great Aunt Joy Lofthouse. Joy and Yvonne were the only real ‘Sisters In Spitfires’. Kaitlin was put in touch with Mary.

Pilot Rod Hall-Jones in New Zealand, saw the sad news about Mary. Rod said, “Mary’s interesting life and her death was on our television news and in the newspaper, what a lady.”

Such has been the world wide coverage of Mary’s passing.

Out of the Shadows Spitfire People Secret Spitfire Factories Nuffield Theatres Southampton.

Out of the Shadows Spitfire People Secret Spitfire Factories Nuffield Theatres Southampton.

Three years ago the makers of the documentary ‘Secret Spitfires’, now on general release in cinemas throughout the UK, found Mary’s web page here and asked to contact her. They visited Mary at her home and filmed her for inclusion in this fascinating film. It also features the late Joy Lofthouse and Stella Rutter.

Ten years ago Mary said to me, “All this interest and attention has come too late in life.”

Well, if that was so Mrs. Ellis, you certainly packed in a lot of late life experiences in the intervening decade until now. It must have helped to make up for all the preceding sixty years when it seemed that few people of the generations below you had any interest in or respect for what you and everyone else did in the ATA. We salute you all.

The same applies to everyone, who ‘did their bit’, in all the armed forces and in ‘civvie’ street – overlooked, forgotten and seemingly irrelevant to far too many people in today’s complacent, soft living 21st Century.

Now heavenly twins – Rest in Peace Mary

Mary Ellis took off on her final flight on Tuesday 24 July.

Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show 2017

Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show 2017. Courtesy of Alison Hill.

She left us mere mortals here on earth.

There is little more that can be said which hasn’t already been said today across the media. So let’s keep it simple.

When Joy Lofthouse died last year, Mary told Solent Aviatrix, “It is hard to lose a good pal after so many years, I miss her very much.”

Now Mary Ellis has rejoined her old pal Joy where they can play with the clouds.  Heavenly Twins back together.
Rest in peace.

Forgotten First Five Women Won RAF Wings

++ Press Release ++ Forgotten Famous First Five ++ 8 July 2018.

Five Women Make History. News headline in 1955. Jean Bird, Benedetta Willis, Jackie Moggridge, Freydis Leaf and Joan Hughes were the history makers. They gained their full RAF Wings when serving in WRAFVR.

Five Women Make History. Newspaper headline 1955. Jean Bird, Benedetta Willis, Jackie Moggridge, Freydis Leaf and Joan Hughes were the history makers. They gained their full RAF Wings when serving in WRAFVR.

Much has been written and filmed about the centenary of the Royal Air Force but one thing has been overlooked, some would argue deliberately ignored, during this media coverage of the RAF100 celebrations.

Benedetta Willis Won Her Wings. Image courtesy of The Echo (formerly Southern Evening Echo)

Benedetta Willis Won Her Wings. Image courtesy of The Echo (formerly Southern Evening Echo)

Other than the much deserved acknowledgement of the role played by the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) men and women, there has been little if any mention of the general contribution made by women in the RAF. Once again it has all been about the ‘Brylcreem Boys.’

In particular, the most glaring omission is the outstanding achievement of the First Five Women to get their RAF Wings in the 1950s. It is largely believed that the first woman to win her wings was Julie Gibson in 1991. Not so. In 1952, amid a fanfare of publicity, the first woman to achieve this distinction was Jean Bird. She was a member of the Women’s Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Pilot-Officer Bird was presented with her full wings at a ceremony at Redhill Aerodrome.

Jackie Moggridge Gets Her RAF Wings at Award Ceremony in 1953.

Jackie Moggridge Gets Her RAF Wings at Award Ceremony in 1953. Image from the Jackie Moggridge Archive courtesy of Candy Adkins.

Jean was the pioneer. Four other women followed in her trail blazing flight path. They were Benedetta Willis, Jackie Moggridge, Joan Hughes and Freydis Leaf. All five women were ex-ATA. All five overcame the rampant prejudice in the RAF to attain their full wings. But as soon as they did so, the RAF introduced new rules to exclude any other women from emulating the ‘Famous Five.’

What is worse, their achievement have been all but airbrushed out of history, or conveniently forgotten as the prejudice carried down through four decades until Julie Gibson’s wings award.

These remarkable women pilots will be the subject of a new documentary called, ‘Forgotten Famous Five.’

Candy Adkins, daughter of Jackie Moggridge, is determined that her mother’s story will be told. Together with her friends, film maker Jackie Wetherill and researcher Anne Grant, Candy has been working towards this aim since April. It followed her visit to RAF Hendon and their abject denial of the ‘First Five.’

Progress is at last being made towards a documentary, with interest in this story gathering pace.

The Telegraph were given the exclusive of this story today by Candy Adkins, Jackie Wetherill and Anne Grant.
The quote from the RAF in response disappointingly continues to ignore our ‘First Five’.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/08/women-raf-pilots-forgotten-centenary-celebrations-say-relatives/

++ Press Release ends ++

Wave Goodbye to the Poppies Wave

First World War Poppies Wave Installation at Fort Nelson Museum, Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth. June 2018.

Poppies Wave at Fort Nelson Museum on Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth in June 2018. Image copyright Anne Grant.

June 24th is Midsummer’s Day. It is also the last day to see the ceramic Poppies installation called ‘Wave’ at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth. After this date it will be dismantled and taken to Manchester to the Imperial War Museum (North). There it will be reassembled for display until November 2018 – the close of the 1914-1918 First World War commemorations.

The Poppies Wave at the Royal Armouries Museum on Portsdown Hill has been very well attended since it opened in April.

WW1 Poppies Wave installation at Fort Nelson Royal Armouries Museum, Portsmouth

Small part of the Poppies Wave installation at Fort Nelson. Image copyright Anne Grant.

Over 5,800 poppies comprise the display. The whole ‘Wave’ took eight days to recreate on the slopes of the old Palmerston fort. The ‘Wave’ has been saved for the nation by the Clore Duffield Foundation.

The other major installation called ‘Weeping Window’, which was also part of the magnificent Tower of London Poppies exhibition in 2014, has been purchased by a charity too.

Poppies at Fort Nelson on Portsdown Hill

Poppies forming shadows on the land. Image copyright Anne Grant

It will be donated to the nation by Lady Sainsbury of the Backstage Trust. This will go to the Imperial War Museum in London.  The poignancy of the poppies artwork was perfectly summed up by one young person who visited Fort Nelson.

In the Reflection Tent area she wrote a postcard to record her observations and feelings. Charlotte of Doncaster, aged 12 wrote: “Every poppy represents a man or woman who died during the war. It is saddening to know but fills you with pride that they were willing to give up their lives for their country, for our futures.”

Those men and women are now shadows on the land but never in the shadows of our memories.

Single poppy from the Poppies Wave installation at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth in June 2018

Lest we forget. Image copyright Anne Grant.

One such man was Frederick William Attrill of the Isle of Wight. He was a sacrificial lamb on the alter of political stupidity.

It is hard to believe but true that one influential politician in 1914 refused to endorse compulsory vaccination of the troops against typhoid.

In his rarefied, sanitised bubble of a world, he insisted that all that was required to combat the disease was clean water and good hygiene.

He outshouted other common sense politicians who knew better than him.

Thousands of troops died of the illness until eventually the Army ‘top brass’ stepped in and overruled the politicians.

They began to inoculate the soldiers.

It was too late for Corporal Shoeing Smith Attrill. He had died some months earlier.

Rest in peace Great Uncle Fred.

 

Poppy Wave at Fort Nelson Portsmouth

Poppies: Wave at Fort Nelson Royal Armouries, Portsmouth 2018

Poppies Wave Installation, Fort Nelson, Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth, Royal Amouries Museum

Poppies Wave at Fort Nelson. Image copyright Anne Grant

Portsdown Hill will host the Poppies Wave WW1 installation for the coming three months between April and June 2018. Venue is the Royal Armouries Museum, Fort Nelson.

Free admission.

This will be a popular event if it is anything like the unforgettable Tower of London installation, “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” in 2014.

So be prepared for traffic delays along Portsdown Hill.

Also the Southwick Revival D-Day event 2018 has announced the addition of a Spitfire Flypast to augment the Tiger Moth Flypast.

Go to the Notice Board page for full details.