SMHS Meeting: Spitfire Ladies

21 Jan 2015

In 1939, as Europe teetered on the brink of war, England's supply of aircraft was woefully short, as was her supply of pilots. Production of aircraft was stepped up but delivery of aircraft from factory to frontline would take valuable combat pilots out of service. Some unexpected trailblazers rose to the challenge; a pioneering group of society ladies were to prove man enough for the job. Richard Atkins joined us in January to introduce us to these remarkable Spitfire Ladies”.

The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) recruited pilots unfit for military service by way of age or fitness. The ATA flew everything. Their major tasks were ferrying new aircraft from factory to airfield and returning crippled or damaged aircraft to maintenance units for repair.

Pauline Gower (later awarded an MBE) was a society lady who ran a pleasure flight company in Kent. Her connections and personal determination against bureaucracy was to see her lead the ‘First Eight' female ATA pilots to the skies (the RAF didn't like the idea of ladies flying!).

Richard told of girls in their teens bringing big bombers across the Atlantic, delivering aircraft on multiple-stop trips to the Middle East, and later the Far East. The planes had no weapons and despite the ladies receiving limited instruction by stand down in 1945 the ATA had delivered over 308,000 new aircraft. Lord Beaverbrook was to say of the ATA They were soldiers fighting in the struggle just as completely as if they had been engaged on the battlefront”.

Spitfire Ladies, we salute you!

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7.30pm for 8.00pm start
Function Room of the
Royal Oak Public House,
Station Street, Lewes,
East Sussex.

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