The Flying Buses

The first 8 women to join ATA at Hatfield in January 1940 were honoured by the local bus company UNO BUS at a ceremony on 4 February when 8 new buses were named after them!   The youngest of the 8 was Joan Hughes, then aged 21 with 6 years of flying behind her.  Joan was one of only 11 women to be cleared to fly 4-engined bombers from early 1943.  After the war, Joan was a founder of West London Aero Club at White Waltham, where she was an instructor for many years. One of the volunteers in our ATA gallery was taught fly by Joan, who also flew replica aircraft for the films ‘Those Magnificent Men in ther Flying Machines’, ‘The Blue Max’ and ‘Thunderbirds’. 

The first 8 women to join ATA in January 1940
Joan Hughes stapped in and ready to fly!

At a ceremony held in Hatfield University’s Fielder Centre, Richard Poad, chairman of the Maidenhead Heritage Centre, which has a huge collection of ATA memorabilia, spoke about the amazing achievements of ATA’s women.  John Lumsden also recalled stories about his Aunt, Marion Wilberforce – one of those who has a bus named in her honour.  Marion was another of the 11 ATA women to be cleared to fly 4-engined bombers.

After the formal presentations, the Mayor of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, Councillor Barbara Fitzsimon, cut the ribbon on the Marion Wilberforce bus. Each bus has display panels inside, with photos and text from Maidenhead Heritage Centre. so that passengers can learn about the background of each of those named and learn about ATA. The other ladies celebrated were: Joan Hughes, Gabrielle Patterson, Margaret Fairweather (killed in ATA service), Winifred Crossley, Margaret Cunnison, Mona Friedlander and Rosemary Rees

Background information: Uno (formerly UniversityBus) is a bus service operated by the University of Hertfordshire, England, serving members of the general public, and also its own students and staff. The service was set up in 1992, growing out of a shuttle service previously operated for students at Wall Hall college near Watford connecting them to the other campuses of the University and the Polytechnic (Hatfield) before it.

It provides student transport to the expanding university from local areas as well as improving east-west travel across Hertfordshire and has opened up new links from North London. Services have expanded rapidly as the University has closed outlying sites at Watford and Hertford and developed the new de Havilland Campus on the site of the former Hatfield airfield.