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.

Advertisements

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.

Benedetta Willis Won Her Wings Twice

Benedetta Willis of the Air Transport Auxiliary

Benedetta Willis of the Air Transport Auxiliary

Today is International Women’s Day.

What better day to pay tribute to the late Benedetta Willis, a pilot who learned to fly in the 1930s.

In the war years she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary as a ferry pilot.

In the 1950s she was one of the few women who broke through an aviation barrier when won her Wings.

In the 1980s she challenged the establishment who seemingly had developed selective memory. Benedetta was not going to let them forgot.

Follow this link to Benedetta’s story.

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.

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

 

 

At Last! The Secret Spitfire Factory Movie Is Released

Secret Spitfire Factories of Salisbury made by Etham Media

Secret Spitfire Factories of Salisbury made by Etham Media

Good news at last about the filming of a local true story from the Second World War.

In July 2016 Gary Roberts contacted Solent Aviatrix after finding the article about Stella Rutter on this website. Gary, associate producer on the filming of Secret Spitfire Factory in Salisbury, wanted to talk to Stella about her autobiography, “Tomorrow Is D-Day”.

Stella worked in the Spitfire drawing office of Vickers Supermarine at Hursley, Winchester.

Supermarine staff outside Hursley Park 1943

Supermarine staff outside Hursley Park 1943. Courtsey Hursley Archive custodian.

Gary was put in contact with Stella and he interviewed her, at home in Emsworth, for the film.

At last the film has been released and for the last week has being showing at The Odeon in Salisbury.

Because it has been so successful, a full house at each viewing, the cinema intends to extend the screening of the film by one week.

Gary Roberts told Solent Aviatrix today (15 November) there is a possibility of other cinemas around the region showing the film if the cinema chain thinks there is enough interest by cinema-goers to see it. In other words we need to create a demand.

Surely it should be shown in Southampton and Eastleigh, home of the Spitfire?

Stella Rutter at Boultbee Academy Goodwood

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

As it was the Air Transport Auxiliary pilots at Hamble Ferry Pool, Southampton, who collected all these locally assembled Spitfires and delivered them to the RAF bases, this film has a great deal of interest local to the Solent area.

Some of the Spitfire Girls were Felicity Bragg, Jackie Moggridge, Lettice Curtis and Mary Ellis.

Gary said, “It is also out on DVD now which can be purchased from the film’s Producer Etam Cetintas.”

Go to Secret Spitfire website for full details of the film and to contact Etam about the DVD.

Felicity Bragg – Forgotten ATA Captain

Cassandra Felicity Bradford married name Bragg. Also known as Fay Bragg.

Cassandra Felicity Bradford. Image courtesy of RAeC Trust.

When the Air Transport Auxiliary closed down after the war, six women were honoured by the UK by making them Members of the British Empire.

Much has been written about four of them. Pauline Gower’s leadership of the women’s section is now widely regarded as having been outstanding. Margot Gore’s command of the Women’s Ferry Pool at Hamble has also been recognised. Her Deputy, Rosemary Rees, has featured in many books, including her own biography. Joan Hughes’ contribution to training male and female A.T.A pilots has been acknowledged. So too has her later aviation career including that of stunt pilot for, “Those Magnificent Men In The Flying Machines.”

Of the remaining two women, Miss Roy Mary Sharpe managed to forge a post-war career in aviation as a test pilot, aircraft saleswoman and race competitor.

By comparison the sixth aviatrix, Felicity Bragg, has slipped into history almost forgotten. Yet she rose from junior pilot to Deputy Commander in three years. Quite an achievement.

Go to Cassandra Felicity Bragg’s story