Tributes to Mary Ellis

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.

Celebrities of the aviation world have posted their thoughts on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, about the death last week of Mary Wilkins Ellis.

Tributes have been coming in to this website, which had the privilege to host Mary’s page, from ‘ordinary’ people who greatly admired Mary. (Is there ever such a thing as ‘ordinary’ people?) Below are some of the tributes.

Statement issued 28 July 2018 from Wight Aviation Museum.

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

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

The Museum was extremely saddened to hear the news of the death of Mary Ellis at the age of 101. The Chair of the Museum, John Kenyon, wished to express the deep condolences of all its members to Mary’s family and friends at this sad time.
“I have known Mary for a number of years now and she will be remembered locally as a heroine who helped to establish the role of aviatrix pilots at a critical time for the nation. Without the Air Transport Auxiliary’s (ATA) wartime efforts the RAF would not have had enough aircraft to put into the sky to counter the war in the Air. Mary was an extraordinary lady and her legacy as a World War II pilot and her pivotal role at Sandown Airport, were key inspirations for the creation of the Wight Aviation Museum. It’s aim is to celebrate the considerable history in aircraft design & production on the Isle of Wight, as well as those individuals on the Island who have made an outstanding contribution to aviation, of which Mary was certainly one. We had been working with Mary and her associates to bring her story to our new museum and we hope our Mary Ellis exhibit will be a fitting tribute to this truly inspirational lady. In 2017 she celebrated her 100th Birthday with a flight from Sandown in her favourite aircraft, the Spitfire, becoming the oldest person to do so. More recently, Mary was awarded the Freedom of the Isle of Wight and, presenting the award the Leader of the Council exalted Mary as a ‘national, international and Island heroine’.”
To read the full tribute to Mary go to the Wight Aviation Museum website.

Captain Sara Frizzera in a Tornado of the Italian Air Force

Captain Sara Frizzera in a Tornado of the Italian Air Force. Image courtesy of Captain Giorgio Catone.

As an example of just how international was Mary’s standing in the aviation world, the only female fighter pilot in the Italian Air Force has been a fan of Mary Ellis for a while. Captain Sara Frizzera has sent this tribute:
“RIP Mary Ellis, a pioneer among female aviators, a symbol of gender equality. Cieli blu.

Sara’s husband, Captain Giorgio Catone, had been trying to arrange a secret surprise visit to the Isle of Wight for Sara so that she could meet Mary Ellis at Sandown Airport. Mary knew of this, as Solent Aviatrix had been trying to help Giorgio, by liaising with Mary.

Husband and wife Captain Giorgio Catone and Captain Sara Frizzera of the Italian Air Force

Captain Giorgio Catone and Captain Sara Frizzera of the Italian Air Force. Image courtesy of Giorgio Catone.

Sara has said that she would like to attend any memorial service planned for Mary on the Island next year.

The Isle of Wight Council leader Dave Stewart is on record as saying, “I’ve asked council officers to look at appropriate ways in which we can further recognise Mary’s remarkable life.”

Another tribute that has come in is from Philip Sewell. Philip is typical of many of Mary’s fans who wanted to express their admiration to her. Philip said in March this year, “I’m not RAF, simply a life-long fan of matters aviation, UK in particular — although I did have an uncle who flew Halifax aircraft and was KIA in Norway (1942 – Special Operations). I went to university in Norfolk where so many old RAF/USAAF airbases still dot the landscape; a visual reminder of the scale of the aerial conflict in WW2. I first came across Mary on the television when the ‘Spitfire Women’ programme was first broadcast (around 2010). I was absolutely hooked on the story of the ATA and how they coped with flying so many different types of aircraft, often with nothing more than an evening’s perusal of the relevant Pilot’s Notes. Before then my knowledge was limited to a vague idea of their activities and the fact that Amy Johnson was a member. Since then, thankfully, much more of the ATA story has come to the public’s attention, resulting in some very belated recognition and appreciation. This is a chance for an ordinary “civvy” to simply express gratitude and admiration for a damn fine job!”
Philip’s message was relayed on to Mary this spring.

Spitfire P7370 - Southampton Roundel - Southwick Revival 2018. Image copyright Anne Grant.

Spitfire P7370 – Southampton Roundel – Southwick Revival 2018. Image copyright Anne Grant.

On Wednesday of last week when the news broke of Mary’s passing, Philip once again got in touch, “I’ve heard the sad news via one of the Facebook aircraft groups that Mary left us on her final patrol this morning…no doubt she is opening the throttle in order to catch up with Tom Neill and Geoffrey Wellum, in order to form an evening patrol of three Spitfires…. Condolences to all of her family and friends.
Philip.”

Dan Llywelyn Hall portrait artist Dambusters Reunited. Image courtesy of Dan Llywelyn Hall

Dan Llywelyn Hall portrait artist Dambusters Reunited. Image courtesy of Dan.

Dan Llywelyn Hall is a portrait artist who contacted Mary via this website. In February Dan wanted to paint Mary’s portrait. He also extended an invitation for Mary to attend a special fund raising RAF100 dinner at the RAF Club Piccadilly on 7 September.
Dan said, “The event will have ten tables each with a pilot from the particular aircraft. It will be something of a momentous occasion.”

Then on Thursday last week Dan got in touch again, “Sincere condolences for the nation’s loss of Mary Ellis today. I’m sorry to hear the news. What a most remarkable lady.
Dan.”

Kaitlin MacDonald with her grandmother ATA pilot Yvonne MacDonald and Yvonne's daughter

Kaitlin with her grandmother ATA pilot Yvonne MacDonald and Yvonne’s daughter. Image courtesy Kaitlin MacDonald.

Last year Kaitlin, the grand daughter of ATA Spitfire Girl Mrs. Yvonne MacDonald found Mary’s page on this website. Kaitlin, who is in America, wanted to communicate with Mrs. Ellis to ask about her Great Aunt Joy Lofthouse. Joy and Yvonne were the only real ‘Sisters In Spitfires’. Kaitlin was put in touch with Mary.

Pilot Rod Hall-Jones in New Zealand, saw the sad news about Mary. Rod said, “Mary’s interesting life and her death was on our television news and in the newspaper, what a lady.”

Such has been the world wide coverage of Mary’s passing.

Out of the Shadows Spitfire People Secret Spitfire Factories Nuffield Theatres Southampton.

Out of the Shadows Spitfire People Secret Spitfire Factories Nuffield Theatres Southampton.

Three years ago the makers of the documentary ‘Secret Spitfires’, now on general release in cinemas throughout the UK, found Mary’s web page here and asked to contact her. They visited Mary at her home and filmed her for inclusion in this fascinating film. It also features the late Joy Lofthouse and Stella Rutter.

Ten years ago Mary said to me, “All this interest and attention has come too late in life.”

Well, if that was so Mrs. Ellis, you certainly packed in a lot of late life experiences in the intervening decade until now. It must have helped to make up for all the preceding sixty years when it seemed that few people of the generations below you had any interest in or respect for what you and everyone else did in the ATA. We salute you all.

The same applies to everyone, who ‘did their bit’, in all the armed forces and in ‘civvie’ street – overlooked, forgotten and seemingly irrelevant to far too many people in today’s complacent, soft living 21st Century.

Advertisements

Joy Lofthouse – R.I.P

Sad news received today 16 November.

Joy Lofthouse ATA pilot

Joy Lofthouse in 2016. Image courtesy of Charles Stewart.

Yesterday Joy Lofthouse passed away at home. Rest In Peace.

 See the tribute to Joy, who was interviewed for Secret Spitfires film, by clicking here :
Secret Spitfires

 

 

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

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.

 

Centenarian Syd supports IW Aviation Heritage Centre bid

News has reached Canada of the aim to raise money to buy a rare Cowes-built Spartan bi-plane (UK registration G-ABYN, NZ registration ZK-ARH). The aim is to return it to the Isle of Wight (IW) from New Zealand.

Spartan ZK-ARH (New Zealand registration). Previously registered in the UK as G-ABYN.

Spartan ZK-ARH (New Zealand registration). Previously registered in the UK as G-ABYN.

Centenarian Syd Baker, also known as John, worked at Somerton Airfield, Cowes for Spartan Aircraft during the 1930s. Spartan was then part of aeroplane maker Saunders Roe (SARO).

Syd celebrated his 100th birthday in September 2015. A copy of his memoir, of a lifetime working in aviation, was placed in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (CSAM). Syd’s friend Colin Hine of Ottawa, an aviation historian and biographer, showed Syd a report featured in UK FlyPast magazine about G-ABYN and about the dream to form an Aero Museum on the Isle of Wight. Syd wants Islanders to know he shares that enthusiasm and is keen that his memories should be included in any future IW Aero Museum.

Cirrus Hermes engine fully restored and in use in Spartan G-ABYN

Cirrus Hermes engine fully restored and in use in Spartan G-ABYN

Syd worked on several Spartan planes at Cowes, including Spartan Arrow G-ABOB which was flown by Col. Strange, well-known SARO test pilot. SARO chief engineer Fred Jeans trained Syd. He thinks Fred almost certainly tutored Dorothy Spicer during her training period at SARO.

Syd emigrated to Canada after World War 2. There he worked for Spartan Air Services, a company that had no connection with Spartan Aircraft (IW).

This photograph show Syd at Spartan Air Services, Ottawa in 1965 (from Sydney Baker’s personal photo collection)

Sydney Baker at Spartan Air Services in Canada 1965

Sydney Baker at Spartan Air Services in Canada 1965

He’s also pictured here with Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, taken at CASM in 2015, on Syd’s celebratory tour just after his 100th birthday.

Sydney Baker with Col. Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut, at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, September 2015

Sydney Baker with Col. Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut, at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, September 2015

(CASM photo courtesy of Erin Gregory, Assistant Curator).

Solent Aviatrix thanks Colin Hine for sourcing and sharing these photos. Follow this link to learn more about the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

Syd with Chris Hadfield

Col Chris Hadfield with Sydney Baker at CASM, September 2015

Col Chris Hadfield with Sydney Baker at CASM, September 2015

(photo courtesy of Leslie Law, Syd’s daughter).

Dr. Geoff Witt, a retired avionics expert, has taken up the challenge of trying to recruit interested enthusiasts and businesses, to attempt to raise the money to buy and return G-ABYN.

Geoff will be exploring the possibility of jointly working with John Kenyon, a member of the IW Flying Club and the Britten-Norman Aircraft Preservation Society (BNAPS). Also with Bob Wealthy, BNAPS Chairman, who leads a team of volunteers restoring the world’s oldest Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander (G-AVCN).

Bob and John are both enthusiastic supporters of the concept of an Aviation Heritage Centre as a visitor attraction on the Island, to tell the wider story of IW aviation heritage, which could well include the Spartan G-ABYN and Islander G-AVCN as major exhibits.

BNAPS has just gained access to a larger workshop space on a temporary basis. But there is an urgent need to find a permanent Island home for the Islander by April 2017, on its 50th anniversary, so it can go on public display. By planning to put these two aircraft together with other artefacts, this would showcase living examples of the successful and creative engineering skills of the Island workforce, which must be remembered.

BNAPS volunteers restoring Britten Norman Islander G-AVCN

BNAPS volunteers restoring Britten Norman Islander G-AVCN

Photo courtesy of BNAPS

Michael Lilley, Deputy Chairman of the IW Green Party, advocates a Solent marine aviation heritage on the Island. He believes it would be a great tourist attraction. Good proof of this is Solent Sky Museum in Southampton that has good footfall. Michael cites the rich engineering history of SARO and J. Samuel White. His father, Prof. Geoffrey Lilley of Ryde, played a significant role in advancing aviation in the Solent region. Prof. Lilley worked with R. J. Mitchell of Spitfire fame.

Contact Geoff via gr.witt@btinternet.com
Contact John via mj.kenyon90@btinternet.com The IW Flying Club meetings are every second Wednesday of the month, at Ocean View Hotel, Shanklin, 6.30 for 7.00pm.
Contact Bob via solentaeromarine@hotmail.co.uk

 

G-ABYN DVD by Rod Hall Jones – from Wreck to Silver Winged Beauty

 

Last flying Spartan II 3-seater ZK-ARH and G-ABYN

Last flying Spartan II 3-seater ZK-ARH and G-ABYN

Coming soon – the visual story of how Rod Hall-Jones saved Isle of Wight built Spartan G-ABYN, (just call her GABBY) from a rusting wreck in Ireland and rebuilt her to her former glory. Just take a look at these images below to give an idea of what Rod achieved.
Wreck in Ireland:

Spartan II 3-seater EI-ABU before it became ZK-ARH. The wreck found by Rod Hall Jones in Ireland.

Spartan II 3-seater EI-ABU before it became ZK-ARH. The wreck found by Rod Hall Jones in Ireland.

Rod says, “It is my great wish that she be returned to the Isle of Wight, the place that she was built as she is the only example of her type left.”

EI-ABU:

EI-ABU in pre-wreck days in Ireland. Be part of Aviation history, own the last remaining Spartan ii 3-seater.

EI-ABU in pre-wreck days in Ireland. Be part of Aviation history, own the last remaining Spartan ii 3-seater.

Own a piece of history:
Spartan II – 3-seater.

EI-ABU Spartan II 3-seater in Ireland

EI-ABU Spartan II 3-seater in Ireland

And this is GABBY in flight in New Zealand: Beautiful eh?

Spartan ii 3-seater ZK-ARH flying in New Zealand. Rebuilt by Rod Hall Jones.

Spartan ii 3-seater ZK-ARH flying in New Zealand. Rebuilt by Rod Hall Jones.

 

 

Stella Rutter was Hostess to 60 D-Day Commanders on eve of Operation Overload

Stella Rutter – D-Day Hostess

Stella Rutter at 20

Stella Rutter age 20. Image courtesy of Stella Rutter.

Stella Rutter was never a pilot but she was the next best thing, a draughtswoman for the Spitfire. Now in 2014 her autobiography, ‘Tomorrow Is D-Day’, is being published.It includes the unique role she played on the eve of D-Day. She acted as Hostess to the 60 Commanders from Britain, America and Canada, who were in charge of all the combined invasion forces. As they gathered for a ‘Farewell Party’, timed for the night before the Normandy Landings, Stella shook hands with them all. For some of them, she was possibly the last woman they ever spoke to, for they never survived.

Read Stella’s story here.