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 ++

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Joy Lofthouse Memorial Service 26 March 2018

Anyone who saw the TV program celebrating the centenary of the Royal Air Force – ‘RAF 100 With Ewan And Colin McGregor’ – on BBC 1, on 25 March 2018, will have seen Spitfire pilots Mary Ellis and the late Joy Lofthouse chatting to Ewan and Colin about their Air Transport Auxiliary days.

Joy Lofthouse ATA pilot

Joy Lofthouse in 2016

What a star Joy was with her war-time tales.

She is now flying on a different plane.

Still a star.

Benedetta Willis Won Her Wings Twice

Benedetta Willis of the Air Transport Auxiliary

Benedetta Willis of the Air Transport Auxiliary

Today is International Women’s Day.

What better day to pay tribute to the late Benedetta Willis, a pilot who learned to fly in the 1930s.

In the war years she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary as a ferry pilot.

In the 1950s she was one of the few women who broke through an aviation barrier when won her Wings.

In the 1980s she challenged the establishment who seemingly had developed selective memory. Benedetta was not going to let them forgot.

Follow this link to Benedetta’s story.

Spitfire Heroes Exhibition – Jackie Moggridge Featured

Spitfire Heroes Exhibition at RAF Museum. Candy Adkins and Angela Riddle frame the Jackie Moggridge exhibit.

Spitfire Heroes Exhibition at RAF Museum. Candy Adkins and Angela Riddle frame the Jackie Moggridge exhibit.

The current exhibition at the RAF Museum, Hendon, called the Spitfire Experience includes a selection of ‘Spitfire Heroes’.

Those featured are some of the most famous names from aviation history.

They are R.J. Mitchell, Joseph Smith, Jeffrey Quill, Donald Kingaby, Fred Roberts, Adolf Galland and Jackie Moggridge.

Jackie was one of 166 women (167 if you included forgotten Marjorie Spiller) and 1,152 men who filled the ranks of the Air Transport Auxiliary during the war.

Candy Adkins, proud daughter of Jackie, and her friend Angela Riddle, visited the exhibition in January. Candy told Solent Aviatrix,

“I was invited to go to Hendon, RAF Museum to meet Jess Boydon who is filming memories of the RAF from family members. She and her cameraman were absolutely lovely and I spent two hours being filmed talking about Jackie’s exploits. I showed them her Pilot’s Notes, medals, photos and press cuttings. They are going to put these memories onto the internet and display then at the RAF 100 years exhibition.

Spitfire Heroes Exhibition at the RAF Museum. Jackie Moggridge is the only woman included. Photo by Candy Adkins.

Spitfire Heroes Exhibition at the RAF Museum. Jackie Moggridge is the only woman in the exhibition.
Photo taken by her daughter Candy Adkins.

My friend Angela and I looked around the museum and saw that Jackie is on display boards at their Spitfire Heroes Experience.

She had been one of the Spitfire pilots nominated (the only woman) in the Daily Telegraph’s Spitfire Heroes poll at the end of last year. Jackie came 3rd!

She would have loved the picture they have chosen to illustrate her story.

Whilst there we asked about the RAF 100 Exhibition which is due to open in April. We were surprised by their answers.”

Spitfire Heroes Exhibition at the RAF Museum. Jackie Moggridge Woman Pilot.

Spitfire Heroes Exhibition at the RAF Museum. Jackie Moggridge Woman Pilot.

The RAF Museum visit left quite an impression on Candy and Angela. Not all of it in a way that we might hope to expect in 2018.

The reason will be the subject of a future report on this website in a few weeks from now.

Watch this space, dear follower, to learn how history, disappointingly, repeats it.

Wight Aviation Museum plan special Mary Ellis exhibition

Wight Aviation Museum Will Feature Mary Ellis “Centre Stage”

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

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

Wight Aviation Museum [WAM] has announced that it is to open a small, new Aviation Heritage Museum and Visitor Centre in the Spring/Summer 2018 at Sandown Airport.

Following the announcement on 17 January that Sandown Airport’s very own Mary Ellis has been conferred with the Freedom of the Isle of Wight, the museum is pleased to confirm that there will be a very special “centre stage” exhibition in the new museum to illustrate her achievements in WW2 and to honour her as the First Lady Airport Commandant in Europe of the Airport 1950-1970.

Replica Black Arrow Rocket to be built at Sandown Airport by Wight Aviation Museum. Image courtesy of Richard Curtis.

Replica Black Arrow Rocket to be built at Sandown Airport by Wight Aviation Museum. Image courtesy of Richard Curtis.

For full details go to Wight Aviation Museum page. Other exciting news about what is planned by WAM can be viewed there too.

To see Mary receiving the Freedom of the isle of Wight at County Hall, Newport, follow this link to OnTheWight video of the moment.

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.