Memorable Day at Mary Ellis Memorial Service

Mary Ellis 2017 at RAF Brize Norton. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail

Mary Ellis 2017. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail.

Two months after Mary Ellis slipped her earthly bonds and took her place in the history books of British Aviation, the Isle of Wight turned out to show respect for the Queen of Sandown.

Over 350 people of all ages and all walks of life filled St. Mary’s Church in Cowes, even taking their seats upstairs near rafters.

St.Mary's Church, Cowes, flying the flag for Mary Ellis 24 September 2018

St.Mary’s Church, Cowes, flying the flag for Mary Ellis 24 September 2018. Copyright Anne Grant.

In addition to her family and friends there were local politicians, local press and media organisations, Wight Aviation Museum members, IW Flying Club, young Air Cadets, and many octogenarians and hundreds of her many admirers.

Graham Rose of ATA Association paid tribute to Mary and recalled the long friendship between Mary and his mother, the late Molly Rose.

Vespa scooter decorated with Spitfires and 'bullet holes'. Vehicle parked at Northwood House on Mary Ellis Memorial Service day.

Vespa scooter decorated with Spitfires and ‘bullet holes’ parked at Northwood House on Mary Ellis Memorial Service day. Copyright Anne Grant.

Derek Hermiston Hooper gave his tribute, representing the Aircrew and RFC, RNAS Associations. It was Derek who was the force behind Mary receiving the Master Pilot award.

Group Captain Anne-Marie Houghton spoke of ‘Mary the inspiration.’ She had mistakenly thought her achievements in the RAF in the 1990s were a ‘first’. Then she heard about Mary Ellis and all the other women ATA pilots and she realised they had done it all before she was born.

The assembled even heard from Mary Ellis herself when one of her recent interviews was replayed from a BBC podcast ‘The Last Word.’

Councillor Clare Mosdell reminded us of Mary’s contribution to the Island ever since she moved here after she left the ATA, to work as personal pilot to wealthy farmer Mr. Clark. It was he who started Bees Flight and appointed Mary to run it all for him at Sandown. She built up the Airport into a thriving business, the legacy of which is that the airfield still exists today and still thrives.

Author and poet Alison Hill read her ‘Spitfire Salute’ which recollected some of the outstanding moments in Mary’s final years and happy memories of their recent last meeting.

After the prayers and uplifting hymns, the concluding music was the stirring ‘Battle of Britain’ theme tune.

Biggin Hill Spitfire 'Spirit of Kent' playing with the clouds - Mary Ellis style.

Biggin Hill Spitfire ‘Spirit of Kent’ playing with the clouds – Mary Ellis style.

After the service the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar put on a magnificent display with a flypast over Cowes seafront and Northwood House. The Mark IX Spitfire ‘Spirit of Kent’ performed an acrobatic show of high skill, to the delight of the crowd. The pilot ‘played with the clouds’ and then he was gone.

One of many Mary Ellis Memory Boards which displayed her long aviation career.

One of many Mary Ellis Memory Boards which displayed her long aviation career.

Everyone stayed on in the warm September sunshine to swap personal memories of Mary.
My own is this:
I was brought up in the old fashioned way to respect my elders and betters. This included waiting to be given permission to call them by their first name.  For years I addressed Mary as Mrs Ellis while I awaited her permission until finally I asked.
Somewhat amused she replied, “My name is Mary. It is the only one I have. Please use it.”
Blue skies Mary.   Follow this link to see the BBC coverage of Mary Ellis Memorial Service.

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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.

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.