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
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.
Mary Webb Nicholson (USA) and Lettice Curtis were remembered at ceremonies on 22 and 23 May 2019 respectively.
Mary Nicholson was the only American woman to be killed in ATA service, when the propeller of her Miles Master detached itself near Worcester. In the ensuing crash the aircraft hit an agricultural barn at Littleworth and caught fire; bystanders, including the farmer, were unable to save Mary from the flames. She died on 22 May 1943 and on the precise anniversary a group of local aviation enthusiasts led by Mr Geoffrey Hudson unveiled a memorial plaque on one of the surviving buildings on the site.
On 23 May 2019 a wing of the spanking new Star and Garter home at High Wycombe was named in honour of Lettice Curtis, one of ATA’s most accomplished pilots and the first woman to fly a 4-engined bomber in the autumn of 1942. Lettice’s niece and her husband travelled from Norfolk to attend the ceremony; her niece is shown admiring the citation in the Lettice Curtis Wing.
March 1st is St David’s Day and so we salute the Welsh wizards of ATA, who appear in the employee listings only as British. We have looked at our collection of over 300 ATA travel permits issued in 1944. They provide information about date and place of birth, and reveal 5 pilots and 5 flight engineers, all men. As there were 1250 ATA aircrew we would guess than the Welsh contingent numbered many more than 10.
One of those we found was First Officer Gwynne Johns (left), who was born in Llandovery, 27 miles north of Swansea. He was a pre-war champion parachutist and in civilian life a bank manager. His age and his glasses would have barred him from RAF service, but ATA were happy with both. He was based at Kirkbride, the Ferry Pool known as the ‘salt mines’ on the Solway Firth west of Carlisle. In his right hand is his parachute and in his left his maps and his essential copy of Ferry Pilots Notes, the bible of every ATA pilot. Did you know that our on-line shop sells facsimile copies of Ferry Pilots Notes? Another Welshman was Captain George Pine (right) , born in Porthcawl. He was based at Whitchurch (No.2 Ferry Pool) and was qualified Class 5, ie 4-engined bombers. At the end of the war he was awarded the MBE.