A memorial service for Mary Ellis took place in Cowes, Isle of Wight, on Monday 24th September in brilliant autumn sunshine.  The church was absolutely packed with everybody from the Lord Lieutenant downwards.  No less than six standards, including the ATA standard, were paraded by local air cadets (Mary would have approved of that) and tributes were paid by local dignatories and representatives of the ATA Association and local Aircrew Associations.  We even heard from Mary herself, in a clip from a radio interview.  After the service two Spitfires from the Boultbee Academy at Goodwood flew past, followed by a solo display by the Spitfire ‘Spirit of Kent’ which had come over from Biggin Hill.  What a wonderful send off for a wonderful lady!  Here are a couple of photos from a display illustrating Mary’s career as an ATA pilot, and then running her own airline and becoming the commandant of Sandown Airport.

We are proud to announce that Mary Ellis bequeathed to the ATA Museum at Maidenhead Heritage Centre three logbooks which cover her entire flying career.  The museum is honoured that Mary entrusted us with these; we will treasure them.  Mary’s logbooks will be copied and added to our digitized collection of over 130 logbooks from pilots, flight engineers and ATC cadets.  The logbooks are the primary record of ATA, evidence that its extraordinary story really is true.  Thank you, Mary!


In the summer of 1940 ATA was still a young organization with around 100 pilots.  But as today September 15th is Battle of Britain Day it gives us an excuse to trawl through the handful of logbooks (among the 130+ in our collection) which were kept by ATA pilots serving at the time of the Battle of Britain.  We have managed to find these entries, but the very best account of ATA and the Battle of Britain is in the diary of Arnold Watson, whose entry is also reproduced here.

Stanley Brown (seconded from BOAC)

3 September           Hurricane                White Waltham – Kenley

10 September         Spitfire                    Brize Norton – Middle Wallop

27 September         Spitfire                    Little Rissington – Warmwell (satellite of MW)

30 September         Hurricane                Aston Down – Middle Wallop

15 October             Hurricane                Wroughton – Shoreham

Peter Mursell (later Director of Training)

23 September         Spitfire                    ??? – Tangmere

29 October             Spitfire                    West Malling – Gravesend

Jimmy Nettleton

28 August               Spitfire                    Hamble – Westhampnett (now Goodwood)

Philip Wills (later Director of Operations)

17 August               Hurricane                St Athan – Tangmere

19 August               Spitfire                    Kirkbride – Middle Wallop

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Josep Carreras (the only Spanish pilot in ATA, the first ATA pilot to fly a Liberator bomber and an instructor on Catalina flying boats. More about him in a subsequent post.)

10 September         Spitfire                    Brize Norton – Middle Wallop

J A V Watson: diary entry for 4 September 1940

The battle of Britain at its height. I landed a fully armed Hurricane at N. Weald in Essex (from Aston Down) 10 minutes after the Hun dropped 500 bombs there.  The airman who waved me in was wearing all he’d got left – Tin helmet, pyjamas & sea boots. He looked very amazed when I said “This war’s getting quite brisk isn’t it?” I didn’t realise that the blitz had just happened. He had a bullet through the front of his tin hat which had torn the seat of his trousers! The hangars were burning, all the buildings were partly demolished, & bomb splinters were all over the aerodrome – still hot so I picked a few up. I had difficulty selecting a landing path between the craters. But remarkably few aeroplanes were damaged.

Later a Hurricane caught fire in the air & landed wheels up in flames. Neither the ambulance nor the fire tender could go out to it. The ambulance was on its side & the fire tenders tyres were all burst by blast. The pilot escaped but there were some thousands of machine gun bullets in the fire & these were going off for two hours afterwards, so no one could go near. Delayed action bombs also blew up at intervals so my taxi could not come to collect me. The operations room arranged a lift for me to Hatfield in a Blenheim. The Sergt. pilot landed at Radlett in error, and asked me up in front to navigate him to Hatfield! Visibility about 20 miles. Amy Johnson gave me a lift home from there in her Anson.  Thus I hitch hiked my way home after an exciting day – but the damage at North Weald was depressing, but thank God, the casualties were remarkably few.