Now heavenly twins – Rest in Peace Mary

Mary Ellis took off on her final flight on Tuesday 24 July.

Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show 2017

Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show 2017. Courtesy of Alison Hill.

She left us mere mortals here on earth.

There is little more that can be said which hasn’t already been said today across the media. So let’s keep it simple.

When Joy Lofthouse died last year, Mary told Solent Aviatrix, “It is hard to lose a good pal after so many years, I miss her very much.”

Now Mary Ellis has rejoined her old pal Joy where they can play with the clouds.  Heavenly Twins back together.
Rest in peace.

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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.

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.

Southampton’s Secret Spitfire Shadow Factory Stella Performance

The Shadow Factory play by Howard Brenton. Secret Spitfire Factory in Southampton during WW2

The Shadow Factory play by Howard Brenton. Secret Spitfire Factory in Southampton

Some stories have a slow burn, but when they ignite, the flare casts light and shadow onto the subject.

In this case the ‘shadow’ is the secret shadow factories set up by Supermarine with help from the Ministry for Aircraft Production under Lord Beaverbrook to manufacture Spitfires. The ‘light’ is the spotlight shone onto Emsworth resident Stella Rutter who, among many others, form part of the whole fascinating story. This fascinating piece of history has now been developed into a play.

At the same time as the Secret Spitfire Factory documentary was being researched and filmed in Salisbury, a stage drama about a similar Supermarine scheme set in Southampton was being researched and written by Howard Benton.

The Shadow Factory will have its world premier at the new theatre in Southampton City Centre, NST City. It will run from February 7 to March 3.

Solent Aviatrix has featured the Stella Rutter story for 4 years now, since a chance meeting with her in The Spring Arts Centre in Havant. Over lunch she told her story, recorded in her biography, ‘Tomorrow is D-Day’. Now some aspects of Stella’s wartime experiences at Supermarine Vickers, have been incorporated into one of the characters in Howard Benton’s play.

After the Woolston and Itchen factories were bombed, the Works and Planning Department relocation to the Polygon. The Design Team moved to the University of Southampton. Later they all moved again to Hursley, Winchester.

Stella Rutter at Boultbee Academy Goodwood

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

Sam Hodges, artist director of Nuffield Southampton Theatres, who is directing The Shadow Factory told Solent Aviatrix,
“We have met Stella and she is very much an inspiration for one of our central characters. She is terrific, isn’t she? We’re hoping to include a video of her in our installation.”

So which of the play’s characters is inspired by Stella?

The cast includes Catherine Cusack who has a long list of stage and film credits to her name, including appearances at the Chichester Festival Theatre. In this production Catherine plays two characters, ‘Lil’ and ‘Sylvia’.

Eastenders actress Lorna Fitzgerald plays ‘Jackie’.

Anita Dobson, who established her name on TV many years ago as Angie Watts in Eastenders, takes on two roles portraying ‘Lady Cooper’ and ‘Ma’.

Stella Rutter

Stella Rutter in 1944

Which one of these three is our Stella? Go to the play and judge for yourself. Follow this link to Shadow Factory website for ticket and cast details.

Sam Hodges concluded,
“We’ve seen the Secret Spitfires documentary which is also fascinating. We’re thinking of screening it here.”

Follow this link to read the latest news on the Secret Spitfires DVD and cinema showings of the film.

Click here to learn more about Stella Rutter.

 

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.