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

 

Happy 100th Birthday to Spitfire Girl Mary Wilkins Ellis

Mary Ellis gets her MASTER AIR PILOT certificate from Air Commodore Rick Peacock-Edwards, Courtesy Ivan Berryman

Mary Ellis receiving her MASTER AIR PILOT certificate from Air Commodore Rick Peacock-Edwards.
Image courtesy of Ivan Berryman via Derek Hermiston-Hooper.


On 2 February Mary Ellis will celebrate her centenary.

Among the many birthday cards will be one from the Queen. It promises to be a special day.

Here is Mary pictured last year, receiving her MASTER AIR PILOT certificate from Air Commodore Rick Peacock-Edwards, of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots. The ceremony at Cowes was organised by Derek Hermiston-Hooper of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service Association.

A recent biography by Melody Foreman of Mary was published under the book title, ‘A Spitfire Girl’, subtitled ‘One of the world’s greatest female
ATA ferry pilots tells her story.’

Spitfire BM597 at Sandown Air Show 2005.

Spitfire BM597 at Sandown Air Show 2005. Courtesy of Bob Wealthy

During the war, Mary flew in excess of one thousand aircraft of all types to RAF stations and repair units across Britain. Of that number, more than four hundred were Spitfires. After the war Mary was Commandant of Sandown Airport.

Spitfire 161 at Sandown Air Show 2005

Spitfire 161 at Sandown Air Show 2005. Courtesy of Bob Wealthy

Derek Hermiston-Hooper’s godmother was the flying legend Amy Johnson. Amy was a good friend of his mother Gladys.  On 16 February, Derek will be giving a talk on the life and times of Amy Johnson and Jim Mollison.

Mary Ellis receives her MASTER AIR PILOT certificate November 2016. Courtesy of Ivan Berryman

Mary Ellis receives her MASTER AIR PILOT certificate in November 2016. Image courtesy of Ivan Berryman via Derek Hermiston-Hooper

Royal Mail stamp to commemorate 50 years since the Berlin Airlift 1948-1949

Royal Mail stamp issued in 1998 to commemorate 50 years since the start of the Berlin Airlift 1948-1949

Derek himself had a distinguished flying career. Among other things, he piloted a Halifax in the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949.

This 1998 commemorative Royal Mail stamp was given to me by another ATA pilot, Peggy Lucas. Peggy was a friend of Mary. They were based at Hamble together. Peggy’s story will be added here soon
.
In November last year the suggestion was made by Solent Aviatrix, through the columns of the Isle of Wight County Press, that the Island should honour Mary by giving her the Freedom of the Wight. Watch this space for news on that.