Aviator and Rally Driver, Mary Ellis, dies
25th July 2018: Mary Ellis (nee Wilkins) was born in the Cotswolds in on 2nd February 1917 and spent her early life at Brize Norton Manor Farm and being schooled at Burford High School. Falling in love with flying after a visit to Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus at nearby Witney Aerodrome in the 1930s, Mary persuaded her farmer father to pay for flying lessons at the Witney Aeronautical College. She was awarded her pilot’s licence in 1939, just at the outbreak of WW2.
In 1941, aged 22, Mary saw an advert appealing for anyone with a pilot’s licence to apply to the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) and in October 1941 Mary joined the ATA. After her initial training at the HQ, White Waltham, she became operational out of the all-women’s ATA ferry pool based at Hamble. During WW2 she delivered over 1,000 aircraft to RAF squadrons and flew a remarkable 76 different types of aircraft from Spitfires to Lancaster Bombers and 1,100 hours of flying. She held the ATA rank of First Officer.
ATA, overall, delivered over 309,000 aircraft and employed 1,320 pilots of whom 168 were women. They flew without radio and without instrumentation, collecting aircraft from factories and delivering to RAF squadrons in the front line. ATA training was first class.
After the war Mary continued flying. For six months she ferried planes for the RAF and then piloted for a wealthy farmer who had farms on the Isle of Wight and Surrey. In 1950 Mary became managing director of Sandown Airport and also MD of Bees Flights Ltd – a charter company with 3 aircraft. Donald Ellis applied to become a pilot for the charter company: they fell in love and married in St Mary’s Church, Swinbrook (near Burford) soon after the meeting!
Donald and Mary travelled the world and lived abroad for some years when he was a chief pilot marketing the Hovercraft. However, they then settled back on the Isle of White in her beloved home “Leafield” beside Sandown Airport. She was manager of Sandown Airport for just over two decades. Donald died in 2008.
After the publication of “Spitfire Women” by Giles Whittell in 2007, Mary Ellis became in high-demand by the media and she featured is many TV programmes! Together with her friend, Joy Lofthouse, Mary had a special mention and featured in the 2016 British Legion Royal Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. She also took part in the TV programme “Hundred-Year-Old Driving School” in 2017! In 2018, and just after her hundredth birthday, Mary was very proud to be awarded the Freedom of the Isle of Wight.
Alison Hill, in her collection of poems in “Sisters in Spitfires”, dedicated a poem to Mary entitled “Simply Bliss”.
She accepted the position of Commodore of the ATA Association in 2017 and she presented her portrait to the RAF Club during a visit in May 2018.
Mary is remembered at RAF Brize Norton where there is a memorial tree in memory of her great friend, Molly Rose, and this was celebrated in May 2017. The plaque states: “In Tribute to Molly Rose and Mary Ellis of the Air Transport Auxiliary. Local pilots Molly Rose and Mary Ellis (nee Wilkins) contributed to the ATA’s 309,011 missions.”
Graham Rose, Air Transport Auxiliary Chairman, commented: “Mary was a joy to be with. Kind, gentle, softly spoken, modest, inspiring, determined and graceful. A moment that says much about Mary was that as she left Number 10 Downing Street on 23rd May 2018 after an RAF100 Reception hosted by the Prime Minister, she was given a Guard of Honour by RAF Cadets. We shall miss her enormously. Blue Skies Mary”.
Aged one hundred and one years, Mary had been active until very recently – including a visit to Number 10 Downing Street in May this year where she joined an RAF100 reception hosted by the Prime Minister. RAF cadets formed a guard of honour as Mary left Number 10. She also attended the London premiere of the film “Spitfires” only two weeks ago where she received a standing ovation. Mary was the Commodore of the ATA Association and was one of the two last surviving UK female ATA pilots (two others reside in North America).
Other loves in Mary’s life included car rallying – and in the 1950 she drove Allard sports cars and won trophies for her performances in the Isle of Wight car rally. She was also a keen gardener.
Mary Ellis died at her home on the Isle of Wight on Tuesday 24th July 2018.
11th July 2018: The ATA was thrilled to have been invited by the RAF to be represented at the marvellous RAF100 celebrations held in London yesterday, namely: Minnie Churchill (a daughter of the founder of ATA, Gerald d'Erlanger), Adrian Lead (son of First Officer Dennis Lead), Derek Smith (son of First Officer William Smith) and John Lumsden (nephew of Commander Marion Wilberforce). Reports are they had a marvellous day and we are truly grateful. Aetheris Avidi and Blue Skies to the men and women of ATA who are no longer with us.
4th July: John Cochrane It is again with sadness that we have to report the loss of another ATA veteran. Former Third Officer John Cochrane died in Devon on the 26th of June.
Having been treated to flights by ATA pilots at White Waltham whilst in the OTC/Air at Eton, John joined the RAF in 1942 and trained as a Radio Observer and Airfield Controller before being seconded into the ATA on 5-10-43 and taught to fly alongside some of the WAAF recruits. Initially posted to Kirkbride before conversion training at Thame and Class 2 clearance, there followed a period at Prestwick before further conversion to Class 3 at White Waltham. With a family home in Ireland he managed to obtain a posting to Belfast and enjoyed flying in that part of the country before being returned to the RAF on 15-4-45 as a Sgt, where he took up gliding and gained engineering skills prior to his demob in Oct 1946. John then joined the Bristol Aeroplane Company and, as an observer, participated in the test flying of the Brabazon, flew on proving flights in the Britannia and even acted as a navigator on a Bristol Freighter flight to Khartoum. There followed time at RAE Farnborough on weapons systems with a period spent in Australia. The love of gliding continued and he was once the manager at the Lasham club. He also had shares in a glider and later, in Devon, a motor glider.22nd June 2018: It is with great sadness we advise the passing away of Ivan Flynn.
Ivan served as a Fitter at White Waltham from 23-5-1941 to
19-9-1945 and was one of my interviewees in 2015 for the Maidenhead Heritage
Centre's collection. He was the son of the renowned commercial pilot, J. J.
Flynn, and was employed at Croydon from August 1939 before joining the ATA.
Ivan spent time in the RAF from his call-up in November 1945 and served abroad
in Egypt and Libya; working on aircraft instruments rather than engines!
He married his ATA Fitter colleague, Lilian Pearson, in August 1946 and,
following de-mob in April 1948, he first became a metal worker before embarking
on a career in shopfitting.
16th May 2018: It is with great sadness we advise of the passing away of former First Officer Raymond Eric Roberts: 24-10-1916 / 29-04-2018.
Ray was born in London and his World War II service began in the RAF. After injuring a leg baling out of a Miles Master trainer, he joined ATA in October 1941 and served until ATA was wound up at the end of November 1945. Ray flew an impressive 75 types, not including different marks, that included the Meteor jet!
His Flight Authorisation Card declared him to have up to Class 6 (Flying Boats) and I seem to recall him saying that he was undergoing training on 6 when War ended. However, whilst his card indicates 'Class 5 + 6 / 14-6-45', there's no mention of the Catalina or Sunderland in what I considered to be his last full list of types flown.
He spent time at a number of Ferry Pools and flew overseas with the Air Movements Flight. Unfortunately I don't know how many hours he amassed in powered aircraft but postwar he was an active glider pilot instructor with well over 5000 launches and 300+ hours by Oct 1976.
His funeral will be held Cremation at Margate Crematorium on Monday 21st May at 13:45 followed by a celebration of his long and active life at St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury Road, CT8 8NL. Members who may be able are welcome to attend and donations to his British Legion home are invited rather than flowers.
24th April 2018: On Friday 20th April the RAF Women’s Rugby team beat the Royal Navy Women’s team by 53 to 3 at the Twickenham Stoop becoming the first team to win the “Molly Rose Trophy”. Go to link Trophy at women’s rugby game and Oxford Mail Molly Rose Trophy
19th April 2018: John Lumsden and Graham Rose attended a reception in London's Guildhall and mixed with hundreds of active servicemen and women of the RAF. John reported: "The mix of Air Force there was extraordinary - from very keen and ambitious Air Cadets, boisterous Corporals & Sergeants, young Flying Officers with no wings (yet) and no medals to the old, bold, gold braided and be-medaled who were young Squadron Leaders when I retired. All with interesting stories to tell and all aware of the ATA from the flurry of recent TV documentaries. The Lord Mayor and Chief of Air Staff, Sir Stephen Hillier, spoke well - the latter without notes and with many gentle references to the Lord Mayor’s speech that had mentioned many of CAS’s themes for the RAF’s 100th adding that his ‘Inspire' message was clearly being successful." John and Graham ensured the ATA story was told and concluded: "Mission accomplished"!
A "Celebrating the Life of Joy Lofthouse" event took place at Cirencester University on Monday 26th March 2018. Over 300 people assembled and were delighted by contributions from friends and Joy's son, Peter, and daughter Lyn. After refreshments there was a splendid flypast by a Spitfire! Many fond memories of Joy.
Martin Nicholson's Memorial Service
A Memorial Service was held for Martin Nicholson on Friday 16th February in a full Chapel in the complex of the Yorkshire Air Museum in Elvington with two splendid addresses delivered by his sons, Antony and Jonathan. Blue Skies Martin.
17th January 2018: Mary Ellis was awarded Freedom of the Isle of Wight.
Joy Lofthouse: 16th November 2017: It is with great, great sadness we report the passing away of Joy Lofthouse. Please see a tribute http://www.wiltsglosstandard.co.uk/news/15665280.T...
13th November 2017: Our thanks to Adrian Lead who laid the wreath at the Cenotaph and appreciation to over 20 people who attended evensong and the laying of the wreath in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral. Special thanks to Janet Mayberry who laid the wreath in the crypt. Her involvement was particularly poignant: her late father, First Officer Francis Robert Marsh, crashed into the sea whilst delivering an aircraft from Sherburn to Lossiemouth on 29th May 1944.
Do visit https://solentaviatrix.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/felicity-bragg-forgotten-ata-captain/ and read the piece about Felicity Bragg.
About ATA: The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), founded at the outbreak of World War II, was a civilian organisation which made an enormous contribution to the war effort by taking over from service pilots the task of ferrying RAF and Royal Naval warplanes between factories, maintenance units and front-line squadrons. During the war 1,245 men and women from 25 countries ferried over 309,000 aircraft of 147 different types, without radios, with no instrument flying instruction and at the mercy of the British weather. A remarkable story!
Aims & Objectives of the Air Transport Auxiliary Association (ATAA)
- To keep alive the memory of all those who worked in ATA in WW2 and that their story is told accurately.
- To assist journalists, and the media in general, in sourcing people and material.
- To organise representation at the Annual Remembrance service held at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, UK and lay the ATA wreath.
- To encourage attendance at evensong in St Paul’s Cathedral held after the Cenotaph service in November.
- To encourage attendance at the Drumhead Service held in July each year at East Farm, Fovant.
- To circulate details of events, meetings, lectures
- To ensure all the memorials are kept in good condition.
- To encourage families of ATAers to leave ATA memorabilia to the Maidenhead Heritage Centre (MHC) and be a link with MHC.
- To produce an ATAA Newsletter from time-to-time with news about ATA veterans and the ATAA organisation.
- To act as a gateway to the website created by Ann Wood Kelly enabling those wanting to research ATA.
- To encourage membership to ATAA – whether relations of ATAers or those who are supporters.
- To hold an Annual General Meeting in order to review the activities of the ATAA, consider and accept the accounts, elect officers and committee members and to hold committee meetings from time to time. (Traditionally in early September and the day before West London Aero Club holds its Members' Day).
|Mary Ellis: Commodore|
|Graham Rose: Chairmanfirstname.lastname@example.org|
Vice Chairman with special responsibility for overseas members
|John Webster: Secretaryemail@example.com|
|John Lumsden: Treasurerfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Date & Events|