More from the diary of Graham Head

Here are five more entries from Graham Head’s diary. More entries next weekend.

Captain Anthony Graham Head

14.9.39 TODAY – HALF MY LIFE GONE.  Letter from BRITAIRWAY enclosing duplicate agreement.

16.9.39  Petrol rationing postponed till 23rd inst. Uniform measurement from BRITISH AIRWAYS.

17.9.39 Measured by my wife for ATA uniform.

18.9.39  Russians invaded Poland. HMS Courageous sunk.

19.8.39   Requested release from Civil Air Guard for ATA duties.

80 YEARS AGO TODAY

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.

Eleanor Wadsworth assists the RAF Charitable Trust

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.

Eleanor Wadsworth

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.

Trophy on display in the Patron’s Pavilion at RIAT 2019

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

After the war, Nancy had a wonderful aviation career, including flying helicopters in Alaska, and has received numerous accolades and awards.  Look her up at  https://awk.atamuseum.org/members/miller.html

Happy birthday, Nancy!

ATA and D-DAY

6 June 1944 was a turning point in World War II but it seems that for ATA it was just another day. We have looked at some of our 140 logbooks and here are some of our findings.

At Hamble (left, with landing craft moored in the river prior to D-Day) the ladies were busy.  Diana Barnato-Walker flew an Auster from Hamble to Tangmere followed by an Albacore from Hamble to Eastleigh. Mary Wilkins (later Ellis) flew a Spitfire from Hamble to Cowley, a Fairchild Argus from Brize Norton back to Hamble and then another Spitfire from Hamble to Aston Down in Gloucestershire. Later she wrote ‘D-Day’ in the margin of her logbook and highlighted the entries. Philippa Bennett started with a taxi flight to White Waltham, then took an Auster to West Hampnett (now known as Goodwood) and a Fairchild back to Hamble. Then an Albacore to Eastleigh (5 mins) and a Swordfish also from Hamble to Eastleigh. Jackie Sorour (Moggridge) ferried a Mosquito from Hullavington to Lasham and another from Shawbury to Lasham, while Monique Agazarian did 1hr 45mins taxi flying from Heston to Northolt to White Waltham to Luton to Woburn to White Waltham. All in a day’s work for ATA pilots!

In Scotland Jose Carreras flew a Beaufighter, 2 Ansons, a Boston and a Fulmar. In Yorkshire Ratcliffe-based Ruth Ballard was being checked out on a Halifax at Marston Moor and from Aston Down Charles Tutt flew 4 Ansons, a Typhoon, an Albermarle and a Typhoon.

After the Battle of Normandy was won, Ansons of ATA’s Air Movements Flight flew stores, plasma, maps and radios to Normandy and with the allied advance they ranged as far afield as Oslo and Cairo. In 12 months they flew 8485 hours and carried 3,430 passengers and 883 tons of cargo.