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

Mary Ellis – new ATA Commodore and in 100 Year Old Driving School

Mary Ellis has been in touch with Solent Aviatrix with an update on her busy life.

Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show 2017

Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show 2017.

The honours just keep on coming for Mrs. Ellis.

The latest honour bestowed upon her is that of Air Transport Auxiliary Association Commodore.

In this capacity she was asked to lay the A.T.A. wreath at the White Waltham Air Show in Berkshire this September.

Also attending the event was Mary’s friend and ‘Spitfire Sister’ Joy Lofthouse.

Joy was an A.T.A. pilot with Mary.

Mary said, “Joy and I were the only A.T.A. people at White Waltham this year.”

The occasion was also attended by poet and author Alison Hill, who sent these photos of the special day.

Alison Hill and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show September 2017. Mary signs the poem dedicated to her by poet Alison. Image courtesy of Alison Hill

Alison Hill and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show September 2017. Mary signs the poem dedicated to her by poet Alison in her book Sisters in Spitfires.

Alison said, “I was really glad to meet Mary and Joy at White Waltham and to be able to attend the ceremony. It was a lovely afternoon and occasion, topped off with some brilliant air displays.”

Mary also met up with Joy Lofthouse at Biggleswade when they went for a flight in a Dragon Rapide.

And to top it all on 26 September Mary Ellis is appearing in the ITV reality show, ‘100 Year Old Driving School.’

Mary Ellis with her Allard Sports Car CUD 818

Mary Ellis with her Allard Sports Car CUD 818







USAF General Salutes Mary Ellis

There is one very proud centenarian on the Isle of Wight today.

Mary Ellis at Sandown

Mary Wilkins Ellis. Photo courtesy of Phyllida Scrivens via John Kenyon.

Mary Ellis has received a letter from General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, Washington D,C.

Mary is so delighted she wants to share it with Solent Aviatrix followers. She says:
I think it is absolutely marvellous – what say you?”

General Goldfein has congratulated Mrs. Ellis on her recent 100th birthday. On behalf of 660,000 American Airmen he salutes Mary with the following tribute:

USAF General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff.

United States Air Force General David Goldfein. Image courtesy of USAF News Services

“As a member of the greatest generation, you bravely answered the call of a nation at war, and are counted among a treasured legion of international heroes.
Your service as an Air Auxiliary Transport pilot during World War II shines as an inspiration to all men and women.We honour your courage in the chronicles of history.”

And so say all of us. 660,000 American Airmen can’t be wrong.

Now, if only we can convince the new 40 Isle of Wight Councillors to honour Mary Ellis with the Freedom of the Wight …

What else is Mary doing of late? Locally based TV documentary makers, Woodcut, are hoping to feature Mary Ellis in their upcoming film about The Battle of Britain. Based in Eastleigh, Woodcut have an impressive show reel. It includes Fred Dineage Casebook, Defenders of the Sky, and many more. They work with all major TV channels including BBC, ITV, Sky, History channel, the list goes on. Go to Woodcut website to see for yourself.

For news of other local events, such as Southwick Revival and Daedalus 100, go to the Notice Board page.

Southwick D-Day Dakota Fly-Past.

Southwick D-Day Dakota Fly-Past. Copyright Anne Grant.


Fifty Ways to Fly

Fifty Ways To Fly anthology compiled by Alison Hill

Fifty Ways To Fly anthology

Alison Hill’s latest book is a collection of poems and songs on a single theme contributed by 45 people. She has edited the book in a creative style.

‘Fifty Ways to Fly,’ includes a poem by Jackie Moggridge which is published posthumously for the first time. It was discovered by Jackie’s daughter Candy amongst her mother’s memorabilia. ‘The Last Flight,’ is very moving. Jackie had written it on the back of an ATA snag report chit dated 1943.

Also republished is a humorous poem by Pauline Gower called ‘Ten Little Aeroplanes‘. Originally one of the ‘Piffling Poems for Pilots,’ Pauline’s son Michael Fahie is delighted to give permission for it to be one of the ‘Fifty Ways’.

Other contributors include Alison herself with her tribute to Jackie Moggridge and Ian Duhig has penned a tribute to the immortal Amy with, ‘The Last Testament Of Amy Johnson‘.

Look closely at the cover image and you may spot yours truly listed. My offering is, ‘Prayer for Freedom Flight’. I’m proud to appear in the same publication as Pauline Gower and Jackie Moggridge.

Alison Hill will be reading from Fifty Ways to Fly anthology, on Sunday, 17th September 2017 at The Square Tower, Old Portsmouth. It is organised by Tongues and Grooves, run by poet Maggie Sawkins, who has two poems in the anthology.

All profits from the book sale will go to British Women’s Pilot Association. Copies of the book are available by following this link to Alison Hill.

For news of other aviation events in the Solent area this year go to the Notice Board. Don’t miss the Southwick Revival and Daedalus 100. There are also two research projects asking for help and your anecdotes. Plus an Aviation Art Society is open to new members.

Mary Ellis at RAF Brize Norton ceremony in March 2017

Mary Wilkins Ellis chatting to RAF personnel at Brize Norton at rose planting ceremony March 2017

Mary Ellis chatting to RAF personnel at Brize Norton. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail.

 On 14 March 2017 ex-ATA pilots Mary Ellis and Joy Lofthouse were invited to a special ceremony at RAF Brize Norton, to plant a rose bush in memory of Molly Rose, who passed away in October last year.

The rose bush jointly commemorates Mary and Molly and all of the ATA pilots for their contribution to keeping the RAF in the air throughout the war years.

Mary Ellis and Joy Lofthouse at RAF Brize Norton tribute to ATA Molly Rose and Mary.

Mary Ellis and Joy Lofthouse at RAF Brize Norton tribute to ATA Molly Rose and Mary. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail.

On 17 March Mary Ellis contacted Solent Aviatrix to say what a splendid time she had at RAF Brize Norton. She said:

Tuesday was a great day for me. I flew up to the RAF station in a wonderful aircraft supplied by my friend Graham Rose, (Molly’s son). But it was also sad because Molly wasn’t there. The film people were there (BBC) and The Oxford Time and Oxford Mail.”


Mary Ellis planting a Mary Rose bush at RAF Brize Norton 14 March 2017.

Mary Ellis planting the Mary Rose bush at RAF Brize Norton 14 March 2017. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail.

Mary went on to say she was keen to see any reports from the Oxford local newspapers.
Having forwarded on Mary’s message to the newspaper editor, I’m pleased to say that Mrs. Ellis will receive complimentary copies of both newspapers. My thanks to the managing editor, Sara Taylor, who said,

It was an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be able to cover Mary’s story. She truly is an amazing and inspirational lady and none of us can quite believe her grand age! Our photographer took some wonderful pictures. We covered Mary’s story on the front page of the Oxford Mail as well as The Oxford Times.

Follow this link to read the Oxford Times online story and to view more photos of the occasion, including some pictures of the late Molly Rose..

Mary Rose rose bush planted in tribute to the Air Transport Auxiliary pilots at RAF Brize Norton

Mary Rose rose bush planted in tribute to the Air Transport Auxiliary pilots. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail.


Petition started to get Freedom of the Wight for Mary Ellis

Mary Ellis at Sandown

Mary Wilkins Ellis. Photo courtesy of Phyllida Scrivens via John Kenyon.

A petition has started OnTheWight to gain support for the suggestion that the Freedom of the Wight should be bestowed upon war time ATA pilot Mary Ellis.

Isle of Wight resident Mary reached her 100th birthday this month.

After the war she became the first female commandant of an airport in the UK, when she took up the position at Sandown. She has lived in the town ever since and done the Island proud.

Although the ATA were never in combat with German aircraft, the job of ferrying British planes was a dangerous one. Many of them were damaged or defective, being flown to repair workshops. It is a sobering thought that 152 ATA personnel died; 14 of them were women pilots, plus 1 female flight engineer and 1 female cadet, 132 male pilots died and 4 male cadets.

If you agree with the petition and want to show your respect for marvellous Mary then follow this link to sign OnTheWight