Almost there with Freedom of the Wight for Mary Ellis

Mary Ellis Freedom of the Wight letter to IW County Press 25 November 2016.

Mary Ellis Freedom of the Wight letter to IW County Press 25 November 2016.

Some days are good. Some days are a little bit special.
Today is one such day.

It heralds the possibility that ex-ATA Spitfire Pilot Mary Ellis may just possibly be given the Freedom Of The Wight by the Isle of Wight Council.

The full Council will consider the application which was started by Solent Aviatrix a year ago.

The Isle of Wight County Press published my letter on 25 November 2016 suggesting that the IWC honour Mrs. Ellis. (See the letter above).

Then in April 2017 OnTheWight got behind the campaign and have been instrumental in driving this forward. Since then OnTheWight and Solent Aviatrix have worked closely together on this campaign.

Over the summer months there were small steps forward.

It all seemed to have stalled a few weeks ago as the IWC established criteria for awarding this rare honour didn’t seem to apply to Mary – or so they thought. Solent Aviatrix stepped in to supply the evidence that Mary Ellis had done enough in her lifetime to meet the stringent criteria.

A letter was sent to that effect from this website to Cllr David Stewart, Leader of IW Council, which listed the evidence for consideration by the Council. Today they have announced they will consider the application at Full Council.

So here we are, one year on from the initial suggestion. The wheels of local government move slowly and inexorably forward. We are still not at the finishing line yet.

But if there is any justice left in this world, it is only a matter of time before Mary joins the late, great Anthony Minghella and Dame Ellen MacArthur by being awarded the FREEDOM OF THE WIGHT.
Read the full report OnTheWight.

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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

Daedalus 100 – Photographic Memory

Daedalus 100 Years Celebration on 16 September 2017

Daedalus 100 Years Celebration on 16 September 2017. Copyright Anne Grant.


It started out as an idea by Lee Residents Association to celebrate 100 years of flying at Lee-on-the-Solent airbase. The town, having staged D-Day 70 with huge success in 2014, decided the centenary of the airfield should not pass by unrecognised. 

Ryan VH-SCW at Daedalus 100 Air Show in September 2017 at Solent Airport.

Ryan VH-SCW at Daedalus 100 Air Show. Copyright Anne Grant

A bid was submitted to the local council for funding to stage an event in September 2017. Some photos from this website, see ‘Gee Whiz, This Is Great’, were contributed to help with the bid.

Bi-planes at Daedalus Air Show, Lee-on-the-Solent, September 2017

Bi-planes at Daedalus Air Show, Lee-on-the-Solent, September 2017. Copyright Anne Grant

It snowballed from there with Lee Flying Association and the local council getting behind the event.

The airport operator Regional and City Airports Management Ltd., took on most of the event organisation.

The number of visitors was restricted to 2500, governed by limited car parking arrangements. The sell-out event was a great success.

Bi-plane at Daedalus 100 Air Show, Solent Airport, 16th September 2017

Bi-plane at Daedalus 100 Air Show, Solent Airport,16th September 2017. Copyright Anne Grant

If any nervousness was felt by all the small groups involved in participating, as to how it would all go on the day, those nerves vanished as the crowd arrived. 

The sun shone and blue skies lasted until the close of the day.

One exhibitor said, “The atmosphere was good. It all went very well. A lot of interest shown in our stall, it may result in some new members.”

G-RNAC 123 and Pheonix Aviation G-BWUH at Daedalus 100 Air Show

G-RNAC 123 and G-BWUH at Daedalus 100 Air Show. Copyright Anne Grant.

The static line up of aircraft was impressive, from vintage Bi-Planes to the Britten-Norman Trilander G-RLON recently retired from service.

Britten Norman Trislander G-LRON at Daedalus 100 Air Show 16th September 2017

Britten-Norman Trislander G-LRON at Daedalus 100 Air Show. Copyright Anne Grant

This was taken out of service by Aurigny Air Services this year having flown between Southampton and the Channel Islands for 25 years. It passed into the ownership of Solent Sky Aviation Museum of Southampton on permanent loan and is temporarily stored at Solent Airport (Daedalus), Lee.

Britten Norman Islander G-JSAT at Daedalus 100 Air Show 16th September 2017

Britten-Norman Islander G-JSAT at Daedalus 100 Air Show. Copyright Anne Grant

Close by to the B-N Trilander was the other Britten-Norman exhibit, the sleek looking Islander G-JSAT. Britten-Norman started design and production on the Isle of Wight at Bembridge.

In recent years B-N has moved much of it’s production to Lee but retains a working unit at Bembridge.

What wasn’t in the Daedalus 100 line up is the aircraft in this historic photograph (see below) sent into Solent Aviatrix by Phil Phillips who is in New Zealand. The photo is included here to accentuate the stunning success of this aircraft company around the world.

In Mr. Phillips’ own words, “I ‘Googled’ the number of Islanders built to date and came up with the staggering figure of 1280. Truly amazing and 750 are still operating today!”

Britten Norman 500th Islander 1975-76. Chief Inspector, Dave French, R. Howard (pilot), Phil Phillips, G. Raynor, Alfie Grimes, Unknown, Clive Dove.

Britten-Norman flight crew of 500th B-N Islander built at Bembridge circa 1975/76. Left to right: Sydney “George” Crooks, Dave French (foreman), John Neilan (pilot), Phil Phillips (engineer), G. Raynor (engineer), Alfie Grimes (paint shop foreman), Bruce Lockhart, Clive Dove (production foreman).

Phil worked for a while at B-N before moving to New Zealand. He would like some help with naming two of the men in this photo.

“It is the flight crew of the 500th Islander built at Bembridge. The vintage picture is circa 1975/76. I have included all the names I can remember. It looks as if it was quite a milestone for the company, because we assembled the flight shed crew, the flight shed inspector, the 3 flight shed, paint shop and production foremen, also one of the test pilots, for this photo. I’m not sure how many of these guys are still around today as we were all in a similar age group.”

Back to the Lee Airshow, of the older aircraft, bi-plane enthusiasts were given a treat with this line up.

Bi-plane Waco G-YMFC at Daedalus 100 Air Show, Solent Airport, 16th September 2017

Bi-plane Waco G-YMFC at Daedalus 100 Air Show, Solent Airport, September 2017. Copyright Anne Grant

Army aircraft were resplendent.

Bi-plane Army 669 at Daedalus 100 Air Show 16th September 2017, Solent Airport

Bi-plane Army 669 at Daedalus 100 Air Show September 2017. Copyright Anne Grant

The Royal Navy was present with their helicopters.

Royal Navy Helicopter 441 at Daedalus 100 Air Show, September 2017, Solent Airport

Royal Navy Helicopter 441 at Daedalus 100 Air Show. Copyright Anne Grant

Royal Navy Helicopter 39 at Daedalus 100 Air Show September 2017, Solent Airport

Royal Navy Helicopter 39 at Daedalus 100 Air Show September 2017. Copyright Anne Grant

Royal Navy Helicopter at Daedalus 100 Air Show, September 2017, Solent Airport

Royal Navy Helicopter at Daedalus 100 Air Show. Copyright Anne Grant

There was also a Float Plane.

Float plane G-WLAD at Daedalus 100 Air Show, Solent Airport, September 2017. B-N Trilander G-LRON and Islander G-JSAT

Float plane G-WLAD at Daedalus 100 Air Show, Solent Airport, 16 September 2017. Behind left is B-N Trilander and behind right is an Islander. Copyright Anne Grant.

Completing the line up and bringing the aircraft up to the present day was Pheonix Aviation who are based along side Lee Control Tower. They can be seen daily, flying in and out, over the Solent, training new pilots.

G-BWUH Phoenix Aviation at Daedalus 100 Air Show, Solent Airport

G-BWUH Phoenix Aviation at Daedalus 100 Air Show. Copyright Anne Grant

Some of the side shows included local interest stalls such as Gosport Aviation Society. This organisation holds monthly meetings in Stubbington with a different guest speaker each month.

Gosport Aviation Society Stall at Daedalus 100 Air Show, Solent Airport September 2017.

Gosport Aviation Society Stall at Daedalus 100 Air Show, 2017. Copyright Anne Grant

No vintage air show would be complete without some classic cars and this one was a beauty.

Vintage Car Talbot PL3293 at Daedalus 100 Air Show, Solent Airport

Vintage Car Talbot PL3293 at Daedalus 100 Air Show. Copyright Anne Grant

My thanks to Bob Wealthy for his assistance on the day with these photographs. Bob attended the event wearing his three aviation hats – Gosport Aviation Society, Solent Sky Aviation Museum volunteer, and Britten Norman Aircraft Preservation Society Chairman.

Whilst the show was on, some aspects of the airfield continued to function with it’s normal business. Saving lives at sea can’t stop for an air show. The Maritime and Coastguard search and rescue helicopter, which is based at Lee, flew in and out several times, adding to the sights and sounds on the day.

What is often overlooked in the history of the airfield is how the town developed around it.

Art Deco houses in Milvil Road Lee-on-the-Solent on the perimeter of Daedalus

Art Deco houses in Milvil Road Lee-on-the-Solent. Copyright Anne Grant.

Houses were built around the perimeter in the style of the day, like these superb Art Deco dwellings.

Art Deco houses in Lee-on-the-Solent on the perimeter of Daedalus

Art Deco houses in Lee-on-the-Solent. Copyright Anne Grant.

They are admired and treasured now for their beauty and architectural heritage but that was not always the case.

When other houses were being built for military staff there was some local opposition.

A short lived campaign was waged against the extension of the airfield and perceived extravagance of the planned building programme for Officers’ Quarters and sports facilities. The embittered objectors deplored what they considered to be the lavish misuse of tax payers money.

It should be noted that this was about the time of the 1930’s depression. This may account for the vocal opposition from aggrieved and presumably less fortunate individuals.

A professional looking signboard proclaimed, ‘This is Lee on the Solent where the rainbow ends.’  The signboard was removed soon after it first appeared. The development went ahead.

The properties in question included Westcliff House, Officers’ Mess. See Daedalus Gems for an illustration of the interior decor – Ballroom and all. In total 21 houses were build for military use. Now, in the 21st century, that architectural legacy from those fractious days is enjoyed and admired by many. The airfield and associated built environment is what gave the town much of it’s character.

Art Deco buildings on Marine Parade in Lee-on-the-Solent

Art Deco buildings Marine Parade Lee-on-the-Solent. Copyright Anne Grant.

At the same time as the Daedalus 100 Air Show was on, down on the shoreline the annual Hovercraft Museum Show was in full flow for the whole weekend.

SRN4 Hovercraft Princess Margaret

SRN4 Hovercraft Princess Margaret. Copyright Anne Grant.

The museum is based on airfield perimeter and uses the slipway for hover rides on special days. The event drew large crowds.

On the Sunday an extraordinary vehicle arrived and parked next to me. Not the sort of thing you see every day, I had to take photographs and have a chat with the occupants.(See below).

They had driven to Lee especially for the Hovercraft Show and had gone out onto the Solent on one of the special hover trips for paying customers.

The owner of Amphicar Q499 RNV is an engineer. He designed and built this motor/craft himself. He said that most people want to take photos of the exhaust pipe and propeller which are positioned side by side.

Amphicar Q499 RNV Lake District registration 66558

Amphicar Q499 RNV. Copyright Anne Grant

Amphicar Q499 RNV Lake District registration 66558

Amphicar Q499 RNV. Copyright Anne Grant

The registration number 66558 on the side of the vehicle permits him to take it onto Lake Windemere. 

He and his partner travel around Europe going afloat on fresh water courses, such as the canals of Netherlands and France, and fresh water lakes of Norway, Sweden and Finland.

On one occasion they motored across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, from Lymington to Yarmouth – for free!. The journey took about twenty minutes. As salt water rusts metal, they rarely venture out onto sea water. 

Complete with a  lovely Westie dog snoozing on a cushion between driver and passenger and the kettle on the boil inside their Amphicar, their hand built vehicle provides them with all the comforts of home when going on their travels. British eccentricity or engineering genius?  Both. And long may inventors such as he continue to amaze us.

Then the weekend was over. The vintage aircraft flew away. The Navy helicopters returned to base.

Bye bye Bi-plane. Flying away from Daedalus 100 Air Show in September 2017

End of the Air Show. Spot the Bi-plane flying off between the clouds. Copyright Anne Grant

The Solent sparkled in the warm September sun.

Where the rainbow ends in Lee-in-the-Solent

Where the rainbow ends? Copyright Anne Grant.

Solent Airport returned to normality.

Marine Parade in Lee-on-the-Solent.

Marine Parade Lee-on-the-Solent. Copyright Anne Grant.

Gliders graced the sky again, Portsmouth Naval Gliding Centre
providing the action.
Private flying started again.
Pilot flying school resumed with Pheonix Aviation aircraft.
And lovely Lee went back to normal business. Ice cream anyone?

Vote for People’s Spitfire Pilot Jackie Moggridge

The Telegraph has sent out the call, “Britons, the RAF needs you: Have your say in the vote ‘The People’s Spitfire Pilot.'”

The RAF will celebrate it’s centenary in 2018 and will put on a special exhibition. They are asking the public about exhibition content.

Spitfire Girl - My Life in the AIr by Jackie Moggridge

Spitfire Girl – My Life in the AIr by Jackie Moggridge

The RAF Museum has nominated 11 pilots and are inviting people to vote for their choice of Spitfire Pilot.

Jackie Moggridge has been nominated by RAFM volunteer Cathie Mulcair.
Jackie is the only woman pilot in the list. Currently she is in third position in the poll.

Topping the poll is a Polish pilot Franciszek Kornicki.

In second place is Sir Douglas Bader.

It is not too late for you to add your vote. Follow this link to The People’s Spitfire Pilot Poll and click the box next to the pilot’s photo.

Solent Aviatrix Pilot Bear

British Bear Faced Spitfire Pilot

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daedalus 100 Is Here

Beech Aircraft Royal Navy Aircraft FT466 at Daedalus for D-Day 70

Beech Aircraft – Royal Navy Aircraft FT466 at Daedalus for D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

To celebrate 100 years of flying at Daedalus, Lee-on-the-Solent, a special one day event is taking place on Saturday 16 September between 10:00am and 4:00pm.

********************** News Update 13th September *********************

**********************  DAEDALUS 100 IS SOLD OUT  **********************

Daedalus, now renamed Solent Airport, will host a static display of vintage aircraft, put on by local flying associations. Other family activities will also be on site.

The airfield opened in 1917 during the First World War. It became an RNAS station. One of my ancestors was posted there for further training. He had gained promotion and was transferred from Eastchurch Airship Station, Norfolk to Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire. That transfer saved his life. A week later his former Airship C27 was shot down. All crew perished.

Airship C27 of RNAS Eastchurch Pulham

Airship C27 at RNAS Eastchurch. Crewman William Baker transferred to Daedalus, Lee-on-the-Solent a week before C27 was shot down in the North Sea.

One type of aircraft based at Daedalus for years was the Swordfish bi-plane. During the Second World War Daedalus played a major part in D-Day operations. On special commemoration days for the Fleet Air Arm, a Swordfish bi-plane flies up the Solent and across Daedalus in salute to the fallen.

Three years ago Lee-on-the-Solent hosted D-Day 70, which some war veterans attended. Aircraft which visited the airfield on that occasion included the Dakota.

1st Dakota lands at Daedalus Airfield for D-Day 70 Commemorations.

1st Dakota lands at Daedalus Airfield on 2nd June 2014 at Lee Flying Association Hanger. Copyright Anne Grant.

Daedalus Officers Mess House at Lee on the Solent

Daedalus Officers Club House. Copyright Anne Grant.


Hidden away behind closed doors, which may be opened for the special Daedalus 100 day, are architectural gems within the former Officers Mess
.

This lovely building is waiting for an enterprising restaurateur to step up to the challenge of refurbishing and re-opening an historical site which houses a piece of aviation heritage.  This building could become one of the classiest hotels cum restaurant on the Solent coast.

The Bar is a gem of opulent woodwork.  Equally impressive are the ornate fireplaces in every room.

Daedalus fireplaces in Officers Mess Lee-on-the-Solent

Daedalus Fireplace and a 2nd fireplace in the room through the door. Copyright Anne Grant.

Daedalus Bar in Officers Mess at Lee-on-the-Solent

Daedulas Officer’s Mess Bar. Copyright Anne Grant.

Stained Glass windows and doors abound.

Art Deco door glass at Daedalus Officers Mess Lee-on-the-Solent

Daedalus Officers Mess Art Deco door glass. Copyright Anne Grant.

 

 

 

 

Follow this link to other Daedalus Gems.

Daedalus 100 is ticket only, purchased in advance of the day.

Follow this link to Fareham Borough Council for ticket information.

Also on at Daedalus over the same weekend is Hovershow 2017.

Gosport mini hovercraft

Gosport Personal Hovercraft, Copyright Anne Grant.

Daedalus is home to the only hovercraft museum in the world. Over 50 hovercraft, from small to large are on display, with some of the small private hovers out on the Solent on 16 September and 17 September. Separate rickets are needed for the Hovershow. It is not inclusive with the aircraft show.

Follow this link to the Hover Museum for full details.

Lovely Lee is the place to be this weekend.

Also taking place this weekend at the Square Tower, Old Portsmouth, Alison Hill will be reading from ‘Fifty Ways to Fly’ anthology on Sunday, 17 September 2017.

In October the Solent Aviation Art Society are holding their annual exhibition in Fareham. On from 23 to 28 October at Ferneham Hall, opening times are 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, with late nights Thursday and Saturday until 10:00 pm. 

Go to the Notice Board for more contact details.