VE Day 75 Locked Down – Unlisted ATA Men Remembered

Jitterbug Jivers, Lee High Street, D-Day 70, Lee on the Solent

Jitterbug Jivers, Lee High Street, D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

What was normal is no more. Life may not return to the norm we knew for months or years.

Stay at Home NHS and Keyworkers Rainbow

Stay at Home NHS Keyworkers Rainbow

Covid-19 cancellations of planned events includes V.E. Day 75, rightly so.

There will be no dancing in the lock down empty streets on 7 May this year. The planned Victory in Europe  VE75 celebrations are on hold. There will be valiant ‘virtual’ celebrations to honour those who didn’t survive and those who did but are no longer with us.

Just as the Second World War came to an end, the Covid-19 pandemic will also eventually end. Much is being sacrificed by so many during this health crisis. Sadly, far too many are making the ultimate sacrifice. It can only be hoped that each life lost will be named and remembered in some way.

D-Day 75 at Southwick Revival Winston Church re-enactor

D-Day 75 at Southwick Winston Churchill

Similarly over the years, efforts have been made for all deceased WW2 service personnel to be officially commemorated somewhere. Yet it still remains that some had their war time role incorrectly classified. This may be the case with four men who lost their lives in a so-called ‘friendly fire’ accident off the Devon coast.

In January 2020, the National Archives (NA) opened up previously classified documents locked away for over 75 years.

One such record reveals that the four men died on 15 February 1942 in an air crash off Plymouth, while serving with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA).

A year after the incident the deceased were identified in The Times newspaper report of the official inquiry as being with British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C) That may explain why the men were not listed in E.C. Cheesman’s official history of the ATA , ‘Brief Glory.’

The mistake is not surprising because when the ATA was formed, it was attached to BOAC. In researching some of the women pilots who are remembered on this Solent Aviatrix website, I have seen war time correspondence between ATA and BOAC in which the latter is asking ATA, ‘is the deceased pilot with ATA or BOAC?’

So even BOAC Administration Section were not sure. Although both organisations had striven to be well-oiled machines, that aim was not always achieved in the confusion and chaos of war time. In fairness to both organisations, that was possibly the case with First Officer Richard John Williamson, Second Officer Hubert France Parker, Captain John Alexander Stuart Hunter and Flight Engineer Horace Reginald Spicer.

The tragedy happened when their aircraft was returning to Bournemouth Airport (RAF Hurn) from RAF Cairo, having flown from Hurn to Egypt three weeks before. The Liberator was shot down by a Spitfire off the Eddystone Lighthouse. G-AGDR (AM 918) was mistaken for an incoming enemy aircraft. On board were five other men who also died that day.

Army Airforce Broadcasting D-Day 75 Southwick

D-Day 75 Southwick Revival Army Air Force Broadcasting Unit

The NA record identified the other five as Lieutenant Vine (US Army), Colonel Griffiths (US Army), Brigadier Norris (US Army), Captain Robert Humphrey Page (BOAC) and Harold E. Bell (BOAC).

The Times reported some contradictions to this. The newspaper stated that C.L.M.Vine as serving with RNR (UK) and Brigadier Frederick Morris (not Norris) serving with RAOC (UK).

Which is correct, the National Archives record or The Times air correspondent? Given this confusion, are the four ATA men actually BOAC as previously believed?

An indicator to the correct facts may be that the NA has also opened up this year another two records kept closed for 75 years, records which identify two more pilots as serving with ATA. They also were omitted from ‘Brief Glory’ or ‘Forgotten Pilots,’ just like Williamson, Parker, Hunter and Spicer were not listed.

D-Day 75 Southwick Revival Paratrooper and Spitfire

D-Day Revival D-Day 75 at Southwick Paratrooper and Spitfire

Why does any of this matter all these years later? It may matter to their descendants.

They may like to know that their ancestor served in the Second World War with the Air Transport Auxiliary, an organisation which has gained increasing admiration and respect with the passage of time.

We will remember them on ‘virtual’ VE Day 75.

Staying at home for Britain during VE Day 75

Staying at home for Britain

Stay Safe. Stay at home for Britain.

World Women’s Day 2020 – Jessie Fawsitt first Civil Air Guard

Alice Jessie Fawsitt was the first Civil Air Guard in the U.K. in 1938. She was based at Portsmouth Flying Club

Jessie Fawsitt. Civil Air Guard No.1 of U.K.

Alice Jessie Fawsitt was an aviation pioneer in a quiet, unassuming way. She became Britain’s first Civil Air Guard in 1938. This was not planned by Jessie, more a case of serendipity, being in the right place at the right time.

The right place – was Portsmouth Aerodrome, which just happened to be where Jessie was working for the now legendary Nevil Shute Norway at Airspeed Aviation. In itself, that was a lucky break for any young woman in her secretarial career.

The right time – was being first in the queue of Portsmouth Aero Club members to sign up for the C.A.G. scheme.

The third element of luck in Jessie’s registration as C.A.G. No 1, was that Sir Charles Rose of Portsmouth Aero Club managed to register his keen members for the national scheme, long before all other flying clubs in the country did.

Of course, somebody had to be the first Civil Air Guard member in the United Kingdom, but Jessie was completely bemused as to why the honour should fall to her.

She was a little uncomfortable with the publicity and with meeting the V.I.P.s who descended on the airfield to congratulate the Portsmouth C.A.G.s.

Jessie’s life story spans across the world to Australia.

Jessie Fawsitt with R. Dismore, Engineering Manager of B.O.A.C, Comet behind them

Jessie Fawsitt with Mr. R. Dismore, B.O.A.C. Comet Engineering Manager

She circumnavigated the globe in her peace-time career with British Overseas Airways Corporation as Public Relations Manager, another ‘First’ for a woman.

This hard working lady left behind fascinating diaries of a bygone age, when she passed away.

A committed church goer, she is no doubt wearing wings of a different kind now.

From humble beginnings to flying the world, Miss Fawsitt made her mark on aviation history. A daughter of Portsmouth, she deserves recognition for her unique achievements.

In her own words Jessie says, “I owe a great deal to Amy Johnson and the pioneers, who inspired me to take up flying. Pauline Gower and Dorothy Spicer – two great women pioneers of flying – arranged for young enthusiasts, of which I was one, to have Associate Membership of the exclusive FORUM club in London, and they and other famous aviators gave lectures and made it possible for us to meet them.”

Go to Jessie Fawsitt’s page to learn more about her.

Remembrance Day – Second World War Fly Girls Movie Trailer

FlyGirls movie trailer by Red Door Films

FlyGirls movie trailer by Red Door Films

Red Door Films aim to get a movie made which reminds the younger generations of the role played by women pilots during World War Two.

This trailer features some of the women pilots in the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA).

Also featured is American pilot Jackie Cochran who brought some of her best women pilots to the UK to join ATA.

Remembrance Day poppy

Poppies Wave at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth, England

She then returned to the USA to create the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Some of these courageous women died in service. Remember them.

View the movie trailer by clicking on this link to Fly Girls.

Attention Grabber – Spitfire Merlin Engine Coffee Table

Spitfire Merlin Engine Coffee Table on Solent Airfield Hampshire

Spitfire Merlin Engine Coffee Table at Solent Airport. Copyright Anne Grant

Autumn has arrived and with it a new programme of events.

No evening classes available yet on how to up-cycling your old aircraft engine into a coffee table, like this old Spitfire Merlin engine (unless you know different?) but go to the Notice Board page for details of upcoming talks and events in the area.

More will be added as news comes in.

Launching Soon – Historic Aviation TV Channel

Aviators Lounge TV Channel to launch in autumn of 2019. Logo Aviators Lounge.

Aviators Lounge TV Channel to launch in autumn of 2019. Logo Aviators Lounge.

A new aviation documentary channel is due to launch in the autumn of 2019. Aviators Lounge aims to be a window into the world of historic aviation, featuring videos, podcasts, films and blogs.    To sign up to their mailing list and be kept informed of launch progress, click on this link to Aviators Lounge TV for imminent Chocks Away!

D-Day 75 at Daedalus. Douglas Dakota and Paras returned from DAKS OVER NORMANDY Paratroopers Drop June 2019. Copyright Anne Grant.

D-Day 75 at Daedalus. Dakota and Paras returned from DAKS OVER NORMANDY Paratroopers D-Day 75 Drop, June 2019. Copyright Anne Grant.

D-Day 75 Commemorations – Then and Now

HMS Collingwood and D-Day Veteran Frank Baugh, 95, spoke to the assembled at Bayeaux War Cemetery, on 6 June 2019, about his experience 75 years. His vivid, abiding memory was of the slaughter of soldiers he had taken to the Normandy Beaches, in his landing craft. Cut down as they left his craft. He was unable to help them. He moved his audience to tears. His achingly painful description was interrupted, for me, by the doorbell ringing.

Gosport D-Day Memorial at Hardway. Copyright Anne Grant.

Gosport D-Day Memorial at Hardway. Inscription: Our everlasting gratitude to those brave men.

Delivery day for a very large parcel and a jolt back to the trivialised present day reality.
The burly delivery man placed the package just inside the porch.
He said he couldn’t risk stepping inside the front door with the package, in case he tripped and injured him. Not covered by his company, he said.
Heaven help us!
What must the D-Day Veterans think of today’s Britain?
We definitely won’t see their like again. We will remember them.

Fantastic New Look ATA Museum Website Launched

ATA Museum website image. Maidenhead Heritage Museum.

ATA Museum website image. Courtesy of Maidenhead Heritage Museum.

The Maidenhead Heritage Centre has done some splendid work by adding a wealth of resources to their Air Transport Auxiliary pages on a tremendous new website. Congratulations to web master Matthew.

Check out what is available – from the ATA Ferry Pilots Log Books collection, to an impressive Photographic Section, from a Personnel Database, to an Online Archive.

The photo above is one example – Wing Walking with a difference! My thanks to Maidenhead Heritage Museum for permission to use it here.

The Museum website is the ‘Go To’ site for Researchers of ATA history and for all ATA Admirers.

Follow this link to Air Transport Auxiliary Museum and Archive.