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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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.

 

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.

WAM -The Beagle Has Landed!

WIGHT AVIATION MUSEUM as issued this progress update.

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

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

For the aviation press you may be wondering why the Bulldog carries the registration G-AXEH which is of course at the Museum of Flight. Apparently a previous owner to the last one decided one side should be finished as the prototype whilst the other should be G-CCOA. One side now is beautifully stripped to Polished Stainless Steel and the other side we will probably put back in its last Cranfield University colour scheme

Beagle Bulldog 120 G-CCOA G-AXAH. Image courtesy of Wight Aviation Museum. You may be wondering why the Bulldog carries the registration G-AXEH which is at the Museum of Flight. A previous owner to the last one decided one side should be finished as the prototype whilst the other should be G-CCOA. One side now is beautifully stripped to Polished Stainless Steel and the other side will probably put back in its last Cranfield University colour scheme.

It was a wet and windy day when the team from Wight Aviation Museum, a registered UK Charity, arrived to move the Scottish Aviation/Beagle Bulldog 120 G-CCOA from its snug home shed in Freshwater to become the first exhibit, in what is to be a new aviation museum, opening this summer at Sandown Airport.

Richard Holleyman has lovingly built up an outstanding and unique aviation museum quality collection of over 500 individual exhibits. Set alongside the Bulldog fuselage there are photographs and artefacts from the first aircraft to land on the Island in 1910 piloted by Broadway Actor Robert Loraine, through the important embryonic Edwardian aviation period and into the 30’s, right up to the mid 70’s. Profiling the Avro 504, DH Rapide, Vickers Viking and the early days of flight and Sir Alan Cobham’s flying circus. The collection is illustrated with artefacts, logbooks, pictures, manuals and educational pieces showing how wooden aircraft were constructed and how rotary engines work.

It tells the story of the formation of dozens of small regional airlines located all over the country that eventually became British Airways. They were formed using DH Dragon, Dragon Rapide & Spartan Cruiser aircraft to inaugurate services from and to the Island and further afield. Specifically Island related, his collection includes timetables, tickets, route maps, first day covers from Spartan Air Lines, Railway Air Services and Portsmouth, Southsea and IOW Aviation. There is also much more material from all over the country.

Richard Holleyman Collection. WAM Team. Image courtesy of Wight Aviation Museum

Richard Holleyman, Lois Prior and WAM Directors. Image courtesy of Wight Aviation Museum

Wight Aviation Museum [WAM] is proud to have acquired this collection for the benefit of the public. Visitors will be able to see this fantastic collection, unrivalled anywhere else in the country, housed in a unique larger shed setting inside the hangar which will incorporate and mirror the original Freshwater environment. They will be able to see, touch and read professionally made copies of the originals and a DVD will tell the stories from each section of the museum, narrated by Richard himself, so visitors will be able to hear and to see history in the making.

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.

We are also delighted to announce that funding has been agreed from IFPL to support the start-up costs of the museum and to build a full size, detailed replica Black Arrow R3 Rocket. The Rocket will be an Island business community partnership project involving Aluminium Marine Consultants, Vestas, CECAMM, Biltmore Printers and GKN. Saunders Roe were at the front of rocketry design and development in the 60/70’s and the Black Arrow R3 project launched Britain’s first satellite -Prospero – into space in 1971 and it is still up there! Once the build is completed the rocket will be mounted for public display at Sandown Airport for everyone to see.

Mary Ellis at Sandown Airport. Courtesy of Melody Foreman via internet source

Mary Ellis at Sandown Airport. Courtesy of Melody Foreman via internet source.

WAM will also be showcasing the Island rich aviation history through the people that made it happen, together with relevant artefacts. Special focus will be on our very own Island hidden heroes like ATA First Officer Mary Ellis and John Ackroyd. We will also be telling the story in timelines of our earlier aviation pioneers like Alliott Verdon-Roe, Harry Hawker, Tom Sopwith, Barnes Wallis, Sam Saunders, Howard Wright, Oliver Simmons, John Britten & Desmond Norman and Geoffrey Lilley so that schoolchildren can experience and connect with the aviation industry here on the Island by recognising its engineering and design excellence which continues right up to today.

We are grateful for the help & advice of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and are also partnering with Age UK Isle of Wight as part of their Men in Sheds project to build a Sandown shed based on Richard Holleyman’s woodworking workshop. There will be plenty of opportunity for volunteers to come and participate in all aspects of the museum and woodworking shop without the need to become a WAM member.

Spartan ZK-ARH flying over New Zealand

Spartan ZK-ARH

Finally, we earnestly hope that sufficient funds will eventually be found to return the airworthy Spartan 3 seater built in Somerton in 1934, back home from New Zealand to the Isle of Wight where she was built and where she belongs at the Wight Aviation Museum. We are setting up a separate fundraising page for this project which will be online soon at BT My Donate. Our ultimate plan is to eventually build a brand new museum at Sandown subject to inward investment and planning, which can display heritage aircraft like the Spartan with the world’s oldest BNAPS Britten Norman BN-2 Islander G-AVCN.

We are always on the lookout for aviation memorabilia from around the Island that might still be in sheds or attics to help illustrate our story so please contact us if you can help. Please also take a look at our website http://www.wightaviationmuseum.co.uk where you will be able to see how to join us as a member or to make a donation at BT My Donate or alternatively you can head to our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Contact number for Museum enquiries: John Kenyon 01983 872167
Email info@wightaviationmuseum.co.uk

Read more about Wight Aviation Museum here.

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.