The first of these three entries shows that within 3 weeks of World War II breaking out, ATA’s role was already expanding beyond the original remit to operate communication flights.
22.9.39 Telegram from British Airways saying report to CFS Upavon (the RAF’s Central Flying Schoolon the northern edge of Salisbury Plain) 09.00hrs Monday 25th inst for test. The ATA is to assist the RAF with ferrying.
25.9.39 Reported Upavon 09.00hrs. Flew HARVARD dual with Squadron Leader Cox for 50min. Flying test OK, the third circuit unaided. Darned fine lunch in Officers Mess! Other ATA pilots were F.D. Bradbrooke, C.S.Napier, H.A.Taylor (from “FLIGHT”). We received our instructions from Squadron Leader Constantine.
28.9.39 Letter from
C.A.G. releasing me from obligations.
Filled in National Register as “Air Pilot, Air Transport Auxiliary, 2nd
Officer, British Airways”
11 September 1939 was a landmark day in ATA’s history. On this day, contracts were signed with the first 29 recruits, all male. One of these by Graham Head, who had been an instructor in the Civil Air Guard and would become ATA’s unofficial photographer. His diary is in the ATA museum collection and reveals that he was first contacted by British Airways on 30 August asking if he would be willing to be a ‘transport pilot’ in case of war. On 6 September he had a flying test at Whitchurch near Bristol with Mr A R O Macmillan, on loan from British Airways. On 11 September he had a letter saying he was accepted and got married at 11 am! On the 12th he wrote “Damn Hitler. FLABBERGASTED by honeymoon!” The very next day he wrote “Hotel charge of 2 guineas per night. Left hurriedly. Here endeth honeymoon.” More entries will follow as his diary records the evolution of the young ATA.
101-year-old Eleanor Wadsworth (nee Fish) is Britain’s last remaining female ATA pilot, and is enjoying life in Bury St. Edmunds. A few months ago, she agreed to support the creation of a new trophy based on a laminated wood Spitfire lathe block – used to form the aluminium spinners for the MkIX/XIV models.
Justine Morton OBE, director of RAFCT, suggested the trophy be used as the Royal International Air Display Chief Executive Award for Outstanding Contribution. It was awarded for the first time on 21st July 2019 to the Spanish Navy’s EAV-8B Harrier Duo Display and will continue to raise funds through corporate sponsorship.
The trophy, plinth and display graphics were designed by Malcolm Neale of Crimson Cat, a Nottingham creative agency.
HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY!
Today, June 12th, is the 100th birthday of ATA veteran Nancy Miller Stratford, who lives in California, USA. Nancy was one of the American women recruited for ATA by Jackie Cochran, joining on July 9 1942 and serving until July 8 1945. Nancy wrote a fascinating book called Contact! Britain! which is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Contact%21+Britain%21&i=digital-text&ref=nb_sb_noss