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: Chief Inspector, Dave French (foreman), R. Howard (pilot), Phil Phillips (engineer), G. Raynor (engineer), Alfie Grimes (paint shop foreman), Unknown, 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.”

Can anyone name the Chief Inspector and who is the bearded man between Alfie Grimes and Clive Dove?

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

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.

Why was this pilot buried three times?

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

Count Adam Karolyi of Hungary

Count Adam Karolyi. Image via Jim Green.

This quotation is the epitaph of a young pilot. Part of his life is still not fully understood looking backwards.

Just when we thought there were no more secrets to be revealed about the Second World War, this mystery has come to the surface. Why was this pilot buried three times? Trying to ascertain exactly what happened all those years ago is proving to be difficult.

The answer is relevant to the next woman pilot to be added to Solent Aviatrix.

Failure so far to get at the truth, is the reason for the delay in telling her story. However, this war-time intrigue, which includes romance, loss, heartaches, politics, aristocrats and spies, has now attracted two Isle of Wight ‘sleuths’ who are on the case.

Hopefully, we will get to the bottom of this in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, here is a backdrop to the story.

Saunders-Roe War Time Production.
It is a tribute to all the nameless hundreds of men and women who worked throughout the war years at Saunders-Roe (SARO), Isle of Wight. Men like my father who worked the night shift from the start of the war until the end. There were women in my family too who left their shop assistant jobs and domestic positions to answer the call.

Here then is a small introduction to life at SARO in those early war years.

The build up to war.
SARO of Cowes, in common with other large employers, provided a social club. On 15 July 1939, the first annual Sports and Gala Day was held. A large crowd attended and enjoyed a well organised programme of events for parents and children.

The same month Captain H. Balfour of the Air Ministry visited SARO to open the new staff club. He also inspected the Lerwick. The Air Ministry had placed one of the largest ever orders for this flying boat. More skilled men were needed to construct them. When war was declared two months later, the struggle to recruit the necessary workforce became a problem.

SARO Lerwick flying boat drawn by the Morton brothers

Saunders-Roe Lerwick Flying Boat Advert 1941.

One year later, SARO came up with a plan to attract workers to fill the shortage from the Island.

In June 1940, SARO reported they had bought a number of houses and converted them into flats. These were used as low rental accommodation for employees.

SARO had opened a training school where unskilled men were taught turning, riveting, milling, metal drilling and aircraft fitting. Most of the men were previously unemployed. But others jumped at the opportunity to join the training scheme and left their former jobs.

They earned while they learned. Once they had completed the course, they transferred to flying boat construction on the factory floor. These semi-skilled men worked along side the fully qualified men. They did not compete for their jobs.

Two months later in August 1940, SARO extended the same training scheme to women. Despite the success of recruiting men, there was still a shortfall of staff on the production line.

Unskilled women were to be put onto an intensive course to teach them to assist in construction of the ‘Lerwick’.

By December the same year, the training scheme was geographically extended. To speed up production of the flying boats for the R.A.F., SARO decided to advertise in other parts of the UK.

The value of this advert to us today is to discover what our ancestors did in their working day – what they learned, earned and how they lived.

December 1940 Advert – Saunders-Roe of Cowes : Pay While Training.

Scores of persons who have passed through the training school are at the moment employed in the main factories, on such work as detail fitting, sub assembly and main assembly.

During training they are paid at the rate of 11d per hour, plus the national bonus of 15 shillings for a 47 hour week. Those now absorbed into the factories are being paid 1 shilling and 4d. per hour and the national bonus of 15 shillings.

Unskilled women are also being trained for work in the factory. The skilled employees are giving their full co-operation, and there is no ruling as to the percentage of trainees to be passed into the workshops.

Living accommodation, in flats conveniently situated near the factories, is provided at rentals varying from 7 shillings and 6d for a one-bedroom flat, to 17 shillings and 6d for a flat with three bedrooms.

Away from the adverts and Management vision of working life, the reality was a little different. A few war time memories of Saro women, as told to me, are recalled here.

Fitter’s Mate.
One lady worked there during the war as a fitter’s mate. She worked on Sea Otter flying boats. She was based at the Columbine factory at East Cowes until the day when there was a fire. She was then transferred to the Folly Works down by the river, near Whippingham. Some years after the war she described some of the fitting processes to her family in unexpectedly great detail.

Workers Playtime.
But it wasn’t always continuous graft. Whenever the opportunity arose, she spent some of her time in the ‘ladies room’ doing the other girls’ hair. This was when she should have been working. She said there were good foremen and bad foremen. The difference being the ones that made her work and the ones that turned a blind eye to the hairdressing!

Varnish Shop Girls.
Another SARO woman recounted her war years.Those planes were made of wood and the skins were linen. We painted them with a type of solvent based varnish (dope) that made the linen shrink and go tight. The smell of that stuff was awful and almost certainly toxic. But it was war time and there was minimal health and safety. It was a terrible job really.”

Dance Nights.
At the end of the working week, they let their hair down. The SARO advert stated a 47 hour week, therefore a six day week. Once the Saturday shift was over, there was a dance to go to. (Hence the need to have their hair styled during work time!) The Island men had to compete with army lads stationed there on defence duties. There were Polish sailors too from the warships anchored off Cowes, there to defend the town and factories.

Stella Meets Her Spitfire

Little did I know when I started this website a few years ago how one thing would lead to another. A series of incremental steps led to wartime draughtswoman Stella Rutter having the opportunity to visit the Boultbee, which she knew was only a few miles from her home. As one of the founding members of the Spitfire Society, Stella has on occasions been to Spitfire events but not to Boultbee. So near yet so far.

My initial chance meeting with Stella was at The Spring, Havant, This year Stephen Mosley fulfilled Stella’s wish to visit Boultbee. Go to Stella’s page to read the start of her story.

Stella Rutter at Boultbee Academy Goodwood

Stella Rutter meets a Boultbee Spitfire, Goodwood 2017. Copyright Stephen Mosley

I will leave it to Sussex aviation engineer Stephen Mosley to relate how Stella met Boultbee. Thus he fulfilled her dream, all those years after D-Day. He has also provided the first positive identification of one of the signatures on Concord Morton’s painting of the Schneider Trophy winner. (G. W. Nicholas)

Stephen is writing here under his pen name of Actuarius. He is also an artist from the Futurist school of art, his idol being C. R. W. Nevinson.

Concorde by Futurist artist Stephen Mosley

Concorde painted by Stephen Mosley in ‘Futurist’ style

My thanks to Stephen for his contribution and his kindness to Stella. Anyone wanting to contact Stephen can do so via the Contact page.

Here then is his story of how the Past met the Present with a Futurist.

An Evening with Stella – By Actuarius.

The opportunities that come about in life are not always straightforward or predictable. Thus I started with an incomplete group of autographs, personally obtained over 20 years ago, and ended recently via a convoluted process with finally completing the set.

At the start of 2017 I made a couple of fairly rash investments through a well-known auction website, both being items related to the Schneider Trophy. This was an early 20th Century air race that ended when Great Britain won it for a third time in succession, in 1931, and therefore got to keep the trophy forever. Having done the deed I thought I ought to research new purchases but both of them proved to be rather difficult to find information on.

Supermarine S6B Schneider Trophy Winner

Supermarine S6B Schneider Trophy Winner. Copyright Stephen Mosley

 Coincidentally, if anyone knows anything of 1929 commemorative “smoking stands” or the large model of the Supermarine S5 that was on display at Calshot up until the 21st Century, then I would appreciate your getting in touch.

However, it was during this exercise that I stumbled across a painting of an S6 by Concord Morton on the Solent Aviatrix website run by Anne Grant. It was chiefly notable for having a number of signatures under the image. The working hypothesis is that these were probably Supermarine staff, possibly those who had an involvement with the actual aircraft. However there was nothing to back this up.

Supermarine S0595 Schneider Trophy winning aircraft painted by Concord Morton

Supermarine S0595 Schneider Trophy winning aircraft painted by Concord Morton

The story now jumps back a couple of decades to 1997 and the presentation of a hand written book, listing the engineering staff at Supermarine who had worked on the Spitfire, to the Solent Sky museum in Southampton. My wife saw an article about it on the morning news and a rapidly arranged afternoon off ensured that I could attend. The staff at Solent Sky were very kind in allowing me to loiter for the price of a standard admission ticket whilst the purchase of a couple of copies of Chaz Bowyer’s “Spitfire” from their shop ensured I had something suitable to collect autographs in. It was an honour to meet the Supermarine staff present, and important to me that these largely unsung heroes and heroines should know the high regard they are held in. Aircrew and ground staff are rightly lauded by all but without the superlative aircraft the engineers provided their efforts would have been for nought.

Supermarine Staff signatures

Supermarine staff signatures collected by Stephen Mosley 1997

Back to the present day and this collection of signatures provided a handy reference for the painting. I contacted Anne to pass this on and it was during our conversation that she mentioned a member of Supermarine’s staff was still living nearby in Emsworth – and asked if I would like to meet her. Of course most of us would require no more than a moment’s thought before saying, “yes please!”

So it was that on 1 March 2017 I headed over and had a very pleasant evening chatting to Stella Rutter. As Stella Broughton she had become the first draughtswoman at Supermarine, transferring to their technical publications department from being a tracer at HMS Excellent on Whale Island in Portsmouth.

Stella told me how, when she joined, Supermarine’s design office was located in a hanger in the field at the back of Hursley Park House. The weekday commute was from digs near Winchester and then walking through the formal gardens. Weekends were spent back with her parents in Bedhampton near Portsmouth so Mondays were more trying with a cycle commute to a friend’s at the bottom of Portsdown Hill and then a walk up to the top for the bus. Week in, week out despite blackout regulations, snow or “tip and run” raids by the Luftwaffe – and repeated in the reverse direction every Friday. The dangers and corruption of the everyday under wartime conditions were brought home when she told me how, whilst at Bedhampton, a bomb had exploded just past the end of their garden and the night’s sleep would invariably be interrupted by the sound of mobile anti-aircraft guns being moved up and down the coast.

Stella Rutter at Supermarine Drawing Office Hursley

Stella Rutter in the Supermarine Drawing Office 1943

Her move to Supermarine came about due to her father meeting Gerald Gingall, the head of the Technical Publications Department, and suggesting her for a vacant position. She believes her success was down to having inherited a notable ability for drawing from her parents (her father being the Vice Principle of the College of Art in Portsmouth), and from having older brothers meaning she was unperturbed by working in an entirely male environment. In her opinion she gained a mutual respect with the rest of the staff because in attitude she was “as much a man as any of the others”. When other women joined the staff later she found she had to be careful of her approach and activities because she “didn’t wish to end up being ostracised or the subject of malicious gossip.” Such considerations may seem almost unbelievably unenlightened to our modern sensibilities but these were different, and difficult times.

Stella worked as part of a small team under Gingall, “ a very stocky man”, virtually exclusively on the Spitfire; and covered all aspects of the aircraft. Their area in the hanger was located next to the obscured “secret section” and because theirs was a small section, and possibly because Stella was something of a novelty, the frequent visitors tended to stop off for a word.

Thus Jeffrey Quill, chief test pilot and Joseph Smith, Mitchell’s successor, were known to her. She got on well with her boss and was even chosen to join him at home one evening to work overnight on a drawing that needed to be completed urgently.

I asked what it was like to work at Supermarine given the legacy of the S6, after all this was the catalyst for our meeting. She was sure that she’d worked with people who had been involved with the Schneider Trophy aircraft and this was part of what gave them a sense of being the “crème de la creme”.

Spitfire taken by Stephen Mosley

Spitfire flypast. Copyright Stephen Mosley

Let me put it this way”, she confided, “We were the company of the year.” There are further tales of pouring tea for Monty and being involved in a special party before D-Day, but that can wait for another time. As I was leaving she suddenly remembered how, when she was about 8 years old, she had climbed out onto the valley between the two pitches of the roof at her home to watch an aircraft fly up from the Southampton end of the Solent, turn and fly back. Conjecture I know, but the dates match so surely it is not beyond the realms of possibility that I was hearing the first hand account from a witness to that final Schneider Trophy win?

Today Stella is bright and articulate but has trouble accessing detailed memories, I suspect this being attributable to the ME she mentions in her excellent autobiography, “Tomorrow is D-Day.” There was so much I wanted to find out about her work and the people she knew but, frustratingly, a lot of these memories remained locked out of reach. Thankfully there is her autobiography, only written a few years ago, and enough still accessible to provide unique insights into her career and her life. Such considerations matter little though when you reflect on the singular honour of sitting and listening to these memories being related in person.

For some reason, although she was present, I’d missed the chance of getting Stella to sign my book in 1997 but her autograph now sits on the page surrounded by those of her colleagues – which is exactly how it should be.

As a postscript, Stella had mentioned how she knew of the Spitfires at the Boultbee Academy just down the road at Goodwood, but that she hadn’t had the chance to go and see them. Well, Boultbee are always keen to help reunite veterans with the aircraft, so a month and a half later my wife picked her up and we had a very pleasant hour in the hanger. Our sincere thanks to those who made this possible and who gave up their time for it.

Stella Rutter and Stephen Mosley ay Boultbee Academy Spitfires

Stella Rutter with ‘Actuarias’ and Boultbee Spitfire. Copyright Stephen Mosley

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.


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.