- 1: The invasion of Poland by Germany starts at 4:45 a.m.
- 3: Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announces that Britain is at war with Germany.
- 3: SS Athenia, a British cruise ship en route from Glasgow, UK, to Montreal, Canada, is torpedoed by the German submarine U-30 250 miles (400 km) Northwest of Ireland. 112 passengers and crew members are killed. The "Battle of the Atlantic" starts.
- 3: Ireland's Taoiseach Éamon de Valera declares the nation's neutrality.
- 3: German authorities order u-boats to immediately take action against all British ships, but sparing French ships and in strict observance of prize rules
- 3: The Polish destroyer ORP Wicher and the minelayer ORP Gryf are sunk in the Polish port of Hel by the Luftwaffe, making them the first warships to be sunk in the war.
- 3: In Britain's first military action, the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command sends out 27 planes to bomb the Kriegsmarine, but they turn back before having been able to find any targets. Overnight ten Whitleys made the first of many 'nickel raids' in Bremen, Hamburg and the Ruhr in which the planes dropped around propaganda leaflets.
- 4: In the first British raid of the war, the Royal Air Force's send 15 Blenheim bombers to launch a bombing raid on the German fleet in the Heligoland Bight. They target the German pocket-battleship Admiral Scheer and the light cruiser Emden anchored off Wilhelmshaven. Seven aircraft are lost in the attack and, although the Admiral Scheer is hit three times, all of the bombs fail to explode.
- 4: The first advance parties of the British Expeditionary Force arrive in France.
- 5: The British freighter SS Bosnia becomes the first merchant ship sunk in the battle of the Atlantic when it gets targeted off the coast of Portugal by the u-boat U-47.
- 5: The United States publicly declares neutrality.
- 6: South Africa, now under Prime Minister Jan Smuts, declares war on Germany.
- 6: In the so-called battle of Barking Creek, a friendly fire incident, due to the misidentification as hostile of an incoming team of eleven Hurricanes, two aircraft are shot down and the first British fighter pilot killed.
- 10: Canada's Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King declares war on Germany.
- 10: The first submarine is sunk in the conflict when the British submarine HMS Triton mistakenly takes for an U-boat the British submarine HMS Oxley and torpedoes it, leaving only two survivors.
- 16: The first eastbound transatlantic convoy sets sail from Halifax, Canada, towards Liverpool, UK. 357 such HX convoys will follow.
- 17: The Soviet Union invades Poland from the east.
- 17: The British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous is torpedoed and sunk by U-29 on patrol off the coast of Ireland, causing the death of 514 aboard; it represented the first major warship to be sunk in the war.
- 18: Polish President Ignacy Mościcki and Commander-in-Chief Edward Rydz-Śmigły leave Poland for Romania, where they are both interned.
- 26: The Luftwaffe attacks the Home Fleet between Scotland and the Skaggerak with limited success; on the occasion a Dornier Do 18 is shot down by a Fleet Air Arm Blackburn Skua from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, making it the first German plane shot down by the British.
- 28: The remaining Polish army and militia in the centre of Warsaw capitulate to the Germans.
The ATA's First Pilots
The core of the ATA in the early days of WWII came from those private fliers who had gained their Royal Aero Club Certificates during the 20s and 30s, although they were supplemented later by others including airline pilots and seconded RAF personnel. As Anthony Phelps describes it, in the early days, "Everyone seemed to know everyone else, and either had something very definite to do or very firmly did nothing."
It was all very informal. Later, it became an enormous organisation with strictly-enforced rules, but the first recruits were aviation pioneers, used to looking after themselves.
In late 1940, they introduced a numbering system (which would eventually reach 1,152 men and 168 women) to identify each pilot, and assigned numbers retrospectively to those already there.
By the end of 1939, they had just 39 male pilots.
And one woman ...
Ed. "Secondary School"
m. 1927 Ethel Maud [Williams], 1 child
prev. a Beer Seller and Hotel Manager; he was the landlord of the 'Robin Hood' in Lichfield from 1937.
19 Nov 1939: "LICENCE TRANSFERRED The temporary transfer of the licence of the Robin Hood was granted from Samuel Bert Yardley to his wife, Ethel Maud Yardley."
Address in 1939: The Fox Hotel, Chaddesley, Corbett, nr Kidderminster
Postings: Filton, Woodley, 1FPP, 2FPP, 4FPP, 6FPP, 3FPP, 16FPP
Officer Commanding 16FPP from 27 Nov 1941, although to begin with Maitland Boucher thought that "The organisation of 16FPP has not stood the test of expansion. Commander Yardley tries to do too much himself."
To help him, the ATA "robbed other pools of highly efficient Adjutants", and the situation gradually improved "undoubtedly largely due to the efforts of Commander Yardley" - to the extent that d'Erlanger then criticized him for not doing enough ferry work himself.
OBE in 1946
d. 8 Nov 1949, Kidderminster
Father: Frank White, Mother: Elsie Mary [Geatches]
Ed. Mount Radford, Exeter
Airline pilot at Bristol Airport in 1933
m. 1936 Fanny Dieudonnee 'Donnee' [Vallance]
prev. exp. 350hrs
Address in 1939: 63 Coombe Lane, Westbury on Tryn, Bristol
One of the first 22 ATA pilots, who joined on the 11th September 1939.
Postings: 1FPP, 4FPP(as CO, later demoted), 4aFPP, 6FPP (as second-in-command), 14FPP
He was relieved of his position as C.O. at Prestwick because (ATA Commanding Officer) Gerard d'Erlanger did not consider that Frank "exercised sufficient control over himself or his personnel".
Jan-43, from O.C. No 1 F.P.: "This pilot is a most valuable member of the Pool, who has performed all his duties - flying and administrative - with very great distinction. I have nothing but praise for him, and can recommend that he be considered for promotion if a suitable opening be forthcoming. I am at a loss to understand why he did not succeed when he was O.C. No 4 F.P. Such shortcomings as he exhibited at Prestwick seem to have been completely overcome."
9 accidents, 1 his fault:
- 28 Mar 1940, his Spitfire P9422 nosed over during taxying, due to an unmarked soft patch in the runway
- 10 Feb 1941; forced landing in Hurricane I P3935 after an engine failure
- 1 Jun 1942, a forced landing in Spitfire EM590 after suffering excessive oil pressure
- 20 Jun 1942, the tail wheel of his Anson was damaged whilst taxying over rough ground
- 9 Dec 1942, part of the fabric of the starboard wing of his Whitley III detached in flight
- 11 May 1943, the tail wheel of his Wellington XH329 collapsed after a normal landing
- 13 Jul 1943, his Beaufort I struck a lorry and subsequently landed wheels up at the destination
- 1 Jul 1944, he could not lower the undercarriage of his Mustang I AG384 due to a stuck selector lever, and made a wheels-up landing
d. 7 Aug 1944 (Died in ATA Service) - Spitfire LFIX MJ413 stalled after take off and dived into ground at Ratcliffe.
"It is considered that the pilot took off in a hurried manner, started a steep climbing turn immediately after becoming airborne, and whilst in a vertical bank the aircraft stalled and crashed."
Buried in Newton Abbott Cemetery:
His son tells me that "... the arrival of the telegram announcing his death is by far the clearest and most vivid memory of my childhood. My father had a few days leave, and so that he could see his parents as well as us, my mother had taken me to Newton Abbot. The telegram arrived when we we were at lunch. It was addressed to my mother, and she said “Oh, it’ll be from Ashton [as she called him] he said he’d let us know what train he’d be on”. ... although I was only 6, I can remember that room in every detail, and where each of us was sitting, my grandparents, my mother and I."
[Frank's wife Dieudonnee had a son, Philip Frank Vallance White, on 2 Jan 1945. She married Bruce Anstey White, Frank's younger brother, in 1948]
Address in 1939: 11 Boyne Hill Ave, Maidenhead
prev. Engineer, Straight Corporation
Lieutenant-Commander in the RNVR
Ferry Pool: Hucknall
[Contract Terminated by ATA 30 Jun 1940 - Disciplinary Reasons] but re-instated
d. 2 Jan 1944, in Oxford MP299 from HMS Godwit (the naval air station at Hinstock, Shropshire) which spun into the ground at The Wrekin.
Ed: Bletchley Grammar School, then Manitoba University
1914-16 3rd Canadian Mounted Rifles;
1916-1930 1st Lieut., Canadian Machine Gun Corps;
prev. an aviation journalist, on the staff of 'The Aeroplane'; had flown about 110 types of aeroplane
Seconded to AtFero 20 Mar 1941
d. 10 Aug 1941 (Died in ATA Service) - Liberator AM261 crashed into Goat Fell mountain on Isle of Arran after take off from Heathfield, Ayr (22 killed - 5 crew and 17 travelling as passengers)
9 of the victims were Canadian, 5 British, 7 American, and one was an Australian.
11 of the victims were pilots: Josiah James Anderson (Can), Daniel J Duggan (US), Watt Miller King (US), George Thomas Harris (US), Hoyt Ralph Judy (US), John James Roulstone (US), Harold Clifford Wesley Smith (Can), Jack Wixen (US), Capt. Ernest R. B. White (BOAC, ex-Imperial Airways), F. D. Bradbrooke, and John Evan Price (Aus).
10 radio operators, including Albert Alexander Oliver, George Herbert Powell and Herbert David Rees from BOAC, and one Flight Engineer, Ernest George Reeves (US), also lost their lives.
Flight said: "Canada shares with Great Britain the loss of Capt. F. D. Bradbrooke, who, although born in Worcestershire, has spent many years in Canada, where he learned to fly in 1928. Several years ago he came to this country to join the staff of The Aeroplane, of which he became assistant editor. He left that post to become editor of a little journal called The Aero Pilot. On its formation he joined the Air Transport Auxiliary and ferried aircraft from factories to service units, and finally he joined Atfero. He was a very experienced pilot"
"To say only that aeronautical journalism had lost one of its most important figures in the Atfero accident would be very much understating the case. Capt. F. D. Bradbrooke was much more than an aeronautical journalist. He was one of those amateur pilots who had helped to make private flying in this country, and was, at the same time, an "amateur technician " of no mean importance. He had a finger in every pie remotely connected with his primary interest and hobby, and was by way of being a humorist in his own inimitable way.
"Brad" was one of the most enthusiastic persons anyone could possibly meet, and his enthusiasm was catching. As a member of the staff of The Aeroplane he was an unstinting supporter of everything which he felt to be a "good thing," and a somewhat vitriolic opponent of anything which he felt to be useless or silly. When, for instance, the tricycle undercarriage was considered merely as a peculiar kind of throwback, " Brad " was vigorous in his praise, and I was with him when he flew the first tricycle type to appear in this country. The machine in question was a " safety-first " type, and until "Brad" started to expatiate (with his usual lack of professional "tightness"), I had been interested only in the slots and things with which the machine was fitted. It was Bradbrooke, in fact, who helped to make this country "tricycle conscious."
And that was only one of the many ideas which he had sponsored. What was more important is that he was prepared to put his enthusiasm into vigorous practice. In the course of his investigations he would fly almost anything anywhere. And I must say that in his search for truth (of the aeronautical kind) he risked his neck in one or two very queer contraptions so that he could at least give the designer an absolutely fair opinion—in print or otherwise.
At the beginning of this war he was one of the founders of Air Transport Auxiliary, and here again his enthusiasm was terrific. Later, when the Atlantic ferrying business started, he was one of the first to volunteer for the work, and was thereafter - until he started on the work itself - to be seen, so to speak, with a sextant in one hand and a textbook on astronomical navigation in the other. At odd moments he would hoist the sextant to his eye and compute his position—though he knew perfectly well where he was.
When there is peace and civil flying returns we shall miss "Brad", a very great deal. All this war-flying was only for him an interlude preparatory to returning to his greatest interest - civil flying. The only kind of flying which is really worth anything in the long run. Yes, we shall certainly miss him."
A memorial service was held each year on the anniversary of the crash at Lamlash Cemetery, Island of Arran.
ATA's insurance policy paid out £5,000 to his widow Joan, and £2,000 each to the families of the 3 radio operators.
A journalist in Coventry in 1929
d. Feb 1985, London
Educated at Malvern, and Chillon College Switzerland
A Stockbroker in 1937
m. 26 Apr 1940 in Chelsea, Angie [de Waltersdorff]
Address in 1940: 47 Rossmore Court, London NW
Left ATA in September 1942 and transferred to RAF Ferry Command.
d. 12 Nov 1942 in RAF Ferry Command, flying Catalina FP209 of 117 Sqn from Dorval which crashed in the Strait of Canso.
Commemorated at Runnymede.
A 'Garage Proprietor' in 1933
d. 17 Mar 1941 (Died in ATA Service) - Hurricane I Z7010 flew into high ground at Bledlow, Bucks in bad visibility.
ed. Aldenham then Cambridge
An antiquarian / art dealer in London
prev exp 501hrs. Owned 1930 DH Moth G-ABBO, and "a Fairchild".
ATA Contract terminated 1 Dec 1940; thereafter Leo continued as "Liaison Officer to ATA, without contract."
He ws later (1944) fined £75 plus 10 guineas costs, for "wilfully obstructing PC William Davey in the securing of public safety", after refusing to move back from an area being cleared of bombs. He said "My name is Partridge, and I will not move for you or anybody else"; he had, apparently, been drinking, but "was not drunk".
When told he would be arrested he said "I am a ferry pilot. I am not going for you trash". The judge was not impressed, telling him "You behaved extraordinarily badly. The difficulty is whether I am justified in keeping you out of prison. At times when there has been a raid, it is a very bad thing for a well-to-do man like yourself to behave in the outrageous way you did".
The family firm founded by Leo's father still exists:
6ft 1½in. Educated at Radley, 1921-29
Learnt to fly at Stag Lane, 1928
Apprenticed to Petters Ltd, Yeovil 1928-29, then Ricardo, Shoreham 1929-30
Son of the famous engine-maker Montague.
Competed in the King's Cup in 1929, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1937
"His one recreation apart from flying is the commendable indoor sport of darts. Believes that air-racing is good fun only when taken not too seriously.''
Technical Director and engine test pilot to Cirrus Hermes Engineering Co., and then from 1937 Chief Engineer (Engines) for Blackburn Aircraft Ltd.
prev exp 1600hrs. Owned 1931 Avro Avian G-ABIB
d. 29 Apr 1941 (Died in ATA Service) - on 3 Jan 1941, his Blenheim L1100 swung on takeoff from West Raynham and hit a hangar. Investigation showed that Carill had neglected to tighten the throttle friction nut, which was a contributory factor.
He was taken to Kings Lynn Hospital suffering from spinal, ankle and head injuries, then transferred to RAF Halton on the 8th February but died there from sepsis which led to heart failure.
Fellow pre-WWII air racer Peter Richards said "He was always cheery and a first class companion. If I had any technical troubles he would take endless trouble to help me out."
1918-25 Military Accounts Dept, Puna, India
Director of Mason & Co, Military Bootmakers, Catterick Army Camp Yorks
(click to enlarge)
A "careful and conscientious, but rather nervous pilot"
d. 21 Nov 1942 (Died in ATA Service) - Typhoon Ib DN251 crashed at Banbury Farm, 1.5 miles SW of Burwarton, Shropshire in bad visibility
This was his first accident, having safely delivered 482 aircraft.
An 'Automobile Engineer' in 1929
"A very steady pilot and a great asset to any ferry pool"
Officer Commanding No 2FPP from November 1941, and ran it in "an extremely satisfactory manner".
d. Dec 1974, London
WWI pilot; he lost an arm and an eye.
Commended for "valuable service in the air", 14 Jun 1945
d. Dec 1956, Cambridge
prev pilot for Brooklands Aviation Ltd, and Flying Instructor in Civil Air Guard
In Jan-41 he was demoted to Second Officer for 6 months, for "Seriously unbecoming conduct at the Grosvenor Hotel, Chelsea, London", but by May they reported that "his discipline was poor but has improved greatly of late", and by 1944 he was "an excellent pilot with a most cheerful manner. His long term as a civilian instructor is of great value to Training Pool and he has proved himself fully capable of taking entire charge of the Pool."
Post-WWII, Marcus Hale's son tells me that "I knew him as a child, one of my father’s good flying mates. I often accompanied my father and Graham Head down to the local flying club at Sandown, Isle of Wight, and waited while they got plastered on G&T’s before going flying or flying through a fence, from laughing too much. The good old days.
Graham was somewhat of a genius with aeronautics and made tiny paper planes with paper and paper clips, which, in a windless room he could get to do all sorts of aeronautical manoeuvres before landing back in his hand. I remember him doing this at the Air Club, back at Seaview and later in Bognor Regis."
d. Sep 1980, Hove
prev. a Manufacturer and Company Director
prev exp 507 hrs. Owned a 1928 DH Moth G-AAAA, then a 1931 DH Puss Moth G-ABLG (which he bought from Margaret Fairweather)
Address in 1939: 76 High St, Watford, Herts
By the 6 Dec 1939, when he still hadn't started flying, he wrote to the ATA, "I was wondering if my Puss Moth (which is in tip-top order) would eventually be of use in the ATA, or do you advise me to try and sell it to be shifted overseas?
I am still at the above address [Green Park Hotel, Bournemouth] waiting for your instructions when and where to report for duty."
[His Puss Moth was impressed 18 Feb 41, and struck off charge for spares 12 Apr 44]
Certificate of Commendation "After a satisfactory test flight at Kinloss, F/O Bush set off on the 19th December 1940, in a Boston for Prestwick. After about 25 miles the starboard engine failed and F/O Bush feathered the airscrew. He then returned to Lossiemouth and landed there. In spite of the fact that the brakes were out of action, the landing was made without damage to the aircraft. He had never flown the type before, and the ATA at that time could not provide handling notes."
"He has beeen outstanding in the way he has worked, and the example he has set."
"A competent pilot and a very good officer"
3 accidents, 1 of them his fault.
d. 23 Nov 41 (Died in ATA Service) - Liberator AL562 engine caught fire and crashed into the sea south of Burrow Head, Wigtownshire, en route Prestwick to Hawarden.
2nd pilot, F/O EE Uhlich (USA) (q.v.) also killed.
'Gen' Genovese (q.v.) wrote later that "the ship was one of the first Liberators in England, but ... through some grim blunder on someone's part the anti-aircraft crew had not been advised of its being a new addition to the British Air Force. Elmer Ulich (sic) was shot down and killed by British anti-aircraft fire."
The official accident report says "Insufficient evidence to establish cause but thought to be through bad weather causing aircraft to catch fire in the air."
The ATA insurers paid his mother Edith and sister Violet £2,000.
buried Maidenhead Cemetery
Ed. Charterhouse; FRGS
prev. Director of a greyhound track in Brighton;
Director of Marlow aerodrome;
Director of a tourist bureau.
A "most efficient and hard working pilot, with a keen sense of duty"
Far right, with Frankie Francis, Frank White, Doc Whitehurst, Klemens Dlugaszewski, Jim Mollison in Feb-42.
On sick leave for 5 weeks in Mar-Apr 1941 after crashing a Hurricane in bad weather.
d. Sep 1982, Wycombe Bucks
Well-known motorcycle racer pre-WWII
d. 15 Nov 1941 (Died in ATA Service) - Airacobra AH598 caught fire in the air shortly after take-off from 12 M.U. and crashed nr Fingland, Cumbria.
"Major fire occurred in engine. A/C stalled and crashed. Cause of fire cannot be established but two possibilities:
1. Engine was over-boosted and over-revved on takeoff
2. A/C may have been run up with mixture control in full rich."
'Gen' Genovese was of the opinion that Wal's accident in the Airacobra was due to the fact that American aircraft would allow the pilot to over-rev and over-boost the engine, unlike British-built aircraft which restricted the power to what the engine could take.
A memorial to Walter has recently been erected near where he crashed in his Airacobra after taking off from Kirkbride:
a Garage Proprietor in Hull in 1929;
a Company Director in Dunswell E Yorks in 1936
d. 4 Aug 1940 (Died in ATA Service) - Miles Master flew into hill in fog and crashed at Burnhead Tweedsmuir Peebles
Buried Maidenhead Cemetery:
"To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die"
(Mother Margaret, née Eureka)
Educated in Glasgow and Berlin; FCIPA, MIESS.
Chief Petty Officer in the RNVR, 1915-19
prev. Assistant Air Attache in the Hague
A Chartered Patent Agent - Cruikshank and Fairweather, 86, St Vincent St, Glasgow, with offices in London and Manchester.
prev exp. 1456 hrs. Owned Leopard Moth G-ACXH
* When Douglas took his test at CFS Upavon on 25 September 1939, he was graded 'D' [Douglas was rather overweight ...] and therefore 'unsuitable for ferry work'. His contract with ATA was therefore cancelled on the 1st November, and it took them until the following June to set up their Air Movements Flight and re-start his ATA career as its first C.O..
Douglas wrote to the ATA on 3 Jun 1940: "I think I am due you a line to thank you for keeping the Chester job open until Thursday on my account. The job which you offered is not only tempting but would prove to be more pleasurable than any other now in sight, particularly in view of the possibility that I might not be grounded completely.
If the worst happens, I propose to train down to about 15 stone, so as to fit the RAF harness and go back to try my luck with Squadron Ldr. Cox at Upavaon. I have only to drop a pound a day to be ready for Cox in August, or for the Derby in 1945."
Early days at White Waltham, Anson taxi pilots - Ronny Malcolm (M140), Douglas Fairweather (M104), Jim Kempster and Harry Ellis (M139) (Brief Glory)
He was off sick for 4 months in 1941 and had to have an orchidectomy; when he was recovering, Gerard d'Erlanger (Head of ATA) wrote to him: "It was nice to hear from you and I am glad that the surgeon is satisfied with your progress. Perhaps he has made a new man of you which will be cause for rejoicing all round".
Took command of 4b Ferry Pool, Prestwick, from November 1941 to August 1942.
"An excellent pilot and a most hard working officer who has never spared himself in the slightest. He has served me with absolute loyalty. He has a strong, somewhat excitable, character and a good heart. He has great influence, particularly with the American pilots whom he handles well. He is quite unorthodox and generally seems to get his results in a somewhat disorderly manner."
Not everyone appreciated Douglas' sense of humour; his C.O. MWS Boucher reported on 19 May 1942: "I have today reprimanded Capt Fairweather for 'conduct prejudicial to the interests of the ATA' despite his good qualities... I have been influenced by numerous instances of petty indiscipline which although small in themselves cannot be permitted to accumulate unchecked by official censure. I have handed to Capt Fairweather a list of his typical shortcomings and discussed the matter with him in detail."
d. 3 Apr 1944 (Died in ATA Service) - Anson N4895 lost in Irish Sea on ambulance flight White Waltham to Prestwick to pick up patient (with Nurse Kershaw). His body was washed up on the west coast of Scotland on the 22nd April.
"I was most distressed to learn that Douglas Fairweather was missing... He was such a great personality that his loss will seem a personal tragedy to many - as it does to me. I will of course write to his wife [Margie Fairweather q.v., who herself died a few weeks later]. How sad that he never saw the long awaited baby. My sincerest sympathy in the loss of such an old associate, such a fine pilot, and such a lovable character." Jack Keeling.
Father: Emile Beaumont d'Erlanger (French, naturalised British in 1890)
m. 1928 American pianist Edythe A [Baker],
m. 1937 Gladys F [Sammut], 3 children
prev. a Banker, Director of British Overseas Airways
prev. exp. 670 hrs
Address in 1939: Lane Farm, Cherry Garden Lane, Nr Maidenhead.
6ft 2in tall, 'scar on left side of neck'
Postings: White Waltham
Although he was the Creator and Commanding Officer of the ATA, d'Erlanger insisted that he (and all his station commanders) flew as often as possible. In fact, he was deemed responsible for one accident:
- 31 Oct 1942: Typhoon Ib R7880 hit a ridge during take-off, he failed to control the resulting bounce and the propeller touched the ground.
He flew 54 different types of aircraft during his time with the ATA; everything from a Horsa glider up to Sunderlands and a Catalina. His instructors reported him a "safe good average pilot", but said his "aerobatics were poor". However, he showed a "real appreciation of the difficulties that can be encountered on flying boats."
CBE in 1943
Chairman of BEA from 1947; Chairman of BOAC from 1956 - he said his aim was to make it the "most formidable and outstanding airline in the world."
d. 15 Dec 1962 - London
A Bank Clerk in 1927; RAF Flying Officer 1928-30
m. Emily Mary Rawstron in May 1938: "The many Bedford sportsmen who remember R. D. Cotton, the Old Modernian, will wish him well in his married life. Last week Mr. Cotton married Miss E. M. Rawstron, of St. Anne’s, Lancashire, at the Parish Church, Lytham St. Anne’s.
Ralph Douglas Cotton, who is a flying and physical training instructor, played Rugby football and cricket for the Bedford Modern School about twelve years ago, and was also prominent as an athlete. In the Public Schools Championships in 1926 he won the pole-vault challenge cup at nine feet, and four years later he pole-vaulted for England.
On leaving school Cotton’s prowess as a centre-threequarter was soon recognised by the Town Club. He played many fine games for the Blues and also for the East Midlands. On moving north he won a place in the Lancashire fifteen. He has also played for the Royal Air Force, and is at present a member of the Fylde R.U.F.C. He is a member of the Blackpool and Fylde Aero Club.
Mr. Cotton is the only son of the late Mr. J. B. Cotton, and of Mrs Cotton, 16 St. Leonard’s Road, Marton. His wife comes of a well-known St. Anne’s family, being the third daughter of Mr. Arthur Rawstron. Alpha House, St. Andrew’s South. Mr. and Mrs. Cotton will live at Old Farm House, Little Poulton, Poulton-le-Fylde."
[Contract Terminated by ATA 7 Jun 1941 - Disciplinary Reasons]
Flying Instructor in Egypt post-WWII
Landlord of the Golden Cross Hotel, Marlbrook, near Bromsgrove in 1956 and of the Old Cock Hotel, Halifax, in 1961.
d. Jan 1986, Bedford
prev. Scots Greys, Highland Light Infantry;
RFC then RAF 1914-1919, 1921-22 (retired due to ill health)
pre-WWII racing and professional pilot - about 7,000 hrs exp on light types
d. 15 Sep 1942 (Died in ATA Service) - Liberator III FK217 swung on take off at Boscombe Down, hit a hangar and caught fire. Flt-Eng FH Moseley also killed; 2 other aircraft damaged.
Tony Phelps (q.v.), who was due to fly in the Liberator, wrote about it later: "Not Ken. It just couldn't be Ken. One of the Grand Old Men of flying. A founder member of the ATA and one of the best pilots who ever lived."
His ashes were scattered off the coast of Scotland on 22 Sep 1942.
A 'Warehouseman' in London in 1928
record-breaking glider pilot at Dunstable pre-WWII;
President of the British Gliding Association;
ATA Director of Operations Feb 1942 - Dec 45
d. 16 Jan 1978
prev. an electrical engineer
ATA Pilot Contract terminated 21 May 1943 - after an accident in Feb 1942, ("a great loss to us") he became Officer in Charge, Squires Gate and finally Adjutant, No 1FPP
d. Sep 1972, Solihull
A descendant of Henry VII.
A Tea Planter
m. 1936 in Liverpool Joan Staveley [Boumphrey], 2 children (Gail b. 1946 and Gordon b. 1949)
Joan also gained a pilot's certificate in Ceylon, in 1939:
Owned G-ADJN, a 1935 BA Swallow 2, which he wrote off in an accident at Lympne in September 1940.
His younger brother George Evelyn married 'Jill' Rees, also of the ATA.
Roderick left the ATA to join the RAF - Pilot Officer from 6 May 1940, Flying Officer from 6 May 1941.
AFC in January 1944 (when he was a Flt-Lt with No 46 Maintenance Unit, RAFVR)
A Squadron Leader by 1946, when he and J.P. Obeysekara both flew Austers from the UK to Ceylon.
Emigrated to Rhodesia in 1958
d. 25 Oct 1984 - Hillcrest, Natal, South Africa
prev. civil pilot - 'B' Licence holder
prev exp. 483 hrs on DH Moth, Puss Moth, Hornet, Leopard Moth, Tiger Moth, Tomtit, Avro 638, 640, 504N, Avian
m. Oct 1934 in London, Norah [Penny or Ford] (one daughter b.1934)
Instructor's Report (Nov 1939) says "has no outstanding faults and has flown the Harvard, Battle and Blenheim very satisfactorily. He should be capable of flying all types."
Address in 1939: 'Crossways', Lower Babington, Wirral, Cheshire
Address in 1940: Meads, Pinkneys Green, Maidenhead, Berks (the home of his brother Paul')
Postings: Filton, 3FPP (White Waltham)
d. 25 May 1940 (the first pilot to die in ATA Service) - took off in Blackburn Botha L6160 from Yeadon but shortly after take-off, finding himself approaching two houses on high ground, banked steeply right and, in doing so, hit a stone boundary wall and crashed in Layton Rd, Horsforth, Yorks..
His next-of-kin (and Executor of hs will) was his brother, Lieut. Paul Clark, RN
buried Yeadon Cemetery, Leeds, Yorkshire
The £2,000 insurance money was paid to his widow Norah in October 1940, but on 15 August 1941 she wrote to the ATA:
I am wondering whether you could advise me or help me in the following manner:
I am left with a small daughter aged 7, and my living to earn, she will have to go to boarding school as I have no income coming in now.
[Is there] a possiblility of my getting a small pension, if not for myself, for my little girl to help towards her education, my husband's family are in Australia and I cannot get assistance from them, could you in any way possibly put me in touch with the right source of approach to anyone who could help me in this matter.
Thanking you in anticipation of a reply.
Norah Clark (Mrs)"
Nothing seems to have come of this, although an ATA Benevolent Fund file was opened for her (but not until July 1945).
A 'Director' in Birmingham in 1938
d. Mar 1973, Poole
Address in 1939: 15 White Hall Parade, Cardiff
RAF 1919-28, Sgt Pilot
a Flying Instructor; Club Instructor at Newcastle, 1929
"An able and competent instructor but he should endeavour to use more tact and drive with the other instructors"
Grosvenor Trophy, 1929, 1949
d. Sep 1972, Cardiff
A garage proprietor in Newton, Porthcawl in 1935
d. Apr 1957, Blackpool
Owned 1936 Foster Wikner Wicko GM1 G-AENU
prev exp. 161 hr solo
prev. a construction engineer
d. 29 Aug 1940 (Died in ATA Service) - died from injuries received on 26th Aug; stalled when piloting Curtis Hawk AR666 which caught fire in the air.
prev. London Scottish 1914, Border Regiment & R.E. 1915
RFC and RAF 1916-1919. RAF Overseas (Flt-Lt) 1924-37
One of the original 16 pilots of Imperial Airways; in fact, he was the pilot on its very first service on 26th April, 1924, flying D.H.34 G-EBCX from London (Croydon) to Paris (le Bourget).
Resigned 30 Jun 1941
d. 12 Oct 1950, Manchester
Flew with Major J.C. Savage's 'Sky Writers' at Hendon in the 1920s - borrowed an aeroplane to write a certain lady's name in the sky. She, of course, later became his wife.
And, would you believe it, he was in charge of the 'Scandinavian Sky-Writing Expedition' in 1923-24.
King's Cup in 1931
The youngest of four brothers.
In 1933, a public schoolboy in Hythe, Kent; by 1936 a student at the de Havilland Technical School.
ATA Contract Terminated 4 Aug 1940; he then continued as a part-time pilot until 10 Nov 1941.
later, a test pilot for Fairey.
d. Aug 1987, Poole
RNAS, RAF 1916 to 1919 then Officer in Shropshire Yeomany to 1929.
Resident Ardoch, Braco, Perthshire in 1916
Owned a 1927 DH.60 Moth, G-EBQW, then a 1934 Stinson SR-5 Reliant, G-ACSV
Flight, June 23 1927: "Captain Eric Hayes has G-EBQW. He landed at Stag Lane one afternoon lately with his left arm in a sling, and he explained quite seriously that as he had dislocated his shoulder bone in a motorcycle accident, flying was now the only way he could get about the country."
ATA Contract Terminated 25 Nov 1940
d. Mar 1959, Scilly Isles
Mary 'Henrietta' or 'Hetty' Stapleton-Bretherton
b. 12 Jul 1906
Dec-39 to Mar-1941
Mrs Archer-Shee from 1940 - 1953
5 feet 5 in height, in case you wondered.
"In England you can count on one hand the women who are making a living directly from flying. Probably foremost among them are the two girl flyers, Pauline Gower and Dorothy Spicer, who work in partnership at joy-riding. Miss Gower is the pilot and Miss Spicer the mechanic."
Amy Mollison, writing in 1934
"Pauline Gower, one of the few women who has already achieved a successful commercial flying career, did joyriding last year in 185 different towns with a travelling air circus."
Mary Bertha de Bunsen
She was fined £222 in 1933, having taxied her Spartan into a stationary Moth at Cardiff while giving joy-rides in an air pageant (although she reckoned it had definitely moved since she checked where it was). Three years later, she was taken to hospital suffering from concussion and 'lacerations of the scalp' after she ... collided with another aeroplane on the ground, this time at Coventry airport.
a 1929 Simmonds Spartan, G-AAGO, (the one which she wrote off in the taxying accident in Cardiff in August 1933), and then
a 1931 Spartan Three Seater, G-ABKK, the one which she wrote off in the taxying accident at Coventry in May 1936.
During her air-taxi career, she was reckoned to have piloted more than 33,000 passengers.
In 1937 she, Amy Johnson and Dorothy Spicer invited "all women pilots interested in the idea of a central meeting-place for women aviators in London" to write to them, but I don't think it ever happened.
1942 caricature by 'Sammy' Clayton
Founder and first Commandant of the Women's Section of the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1940; from 1943, a board member of BOAC. She had a narrow escape in August 1943 when 'Fortuna', an old Imperial Airways airliner, with her and 7 other BOAC officers aboard, made a forced landing near Shannon and was written off.
Silver salver presented to Pauline on her wedding day on 2 June 1945, signed by over 90 of the women ATA pilots. (Lois Butler signed twice, though) Click to enlarge.
Married Wing Commander William Cusack Fahie in June 1945, but died of a heart attack in March 1947 giving birth to twin boys, one of whom, Michael, later published 'A Harvest of Memories' about her.
Pauline Gower and Dorothy Spicer - In Memory
by Claudia Parsons
from "The Woman Engineer", Spring 1948
It is grimly ironical that Mrs Fahie, M.B.E., and Mrs Richard Pearse, better known as Pauline Gower and Dorothy Spicer, after the risks of their early youth and of the war, should meet death, the one through the age-old hazard of child-birth, the other as a passenger in an air liner flying to South America. It is also grimly tragic that these partners who risked, endured and enjoyed so much together should die within a year of each other. Though neither got further than the middle thirties they filled the brief interval between attaining majority and leaving life with a record of hard work, pioneering experience and fine achievement that was as gallant as it was short lived.
Yet in using that word 'gallant' one hesitates, not questioning its truth but out of consideration for the two who achieved this record, whose aim was never more than to pursue a private ambition and to do it well. The word 'gallant' would have been held by them in derision.
I feel honoured to write the appreciation of these two fellow members of The Women's Engineering Society, whose careers I always followed with particular interest since first meeting them on a tour of the Ford works at Dagenham, organised by the W.E.S. Mere babes they then seemed, the one very round of face the other with fairest hair, and it was only in the course of this visit that I learnt their names and remembered having read that Sir Robert Gower, M.P., had given his daughter an aeroplane as a twenty-first birthday present and that now, with Dorothy Spicer as her ground engineer, she was using the plane to give people joy-rides and for aerial taxi service.
In the following years as I watched these two soar ever higher, in the metaphorical rather than the literal sense, I used to ponder this parental gesture which, so early as 1931, might have seemed to many to be rash and courting trouble, and reflected how often really enterprising acts were well rewarded and that here was one that had laid the foundation stone of two successful careers. In this I was not altogether accurate; this was the coping rather than the foundation stone. The gesture was indeed the greatest assistance but in no means were Pauline or Dorothy ever financed or given much moral support in their early ambition, which at first was viewed as a joke by their contemporaries. Like Madame Curie, and others of set purpose, before embarking on their careers they had to find the money with which to train, and in this interest Dorothy spent a year in a London store and Pauline gave violin lessons and lectures at schools. This was while still in their teens and before joining forces, in their twenties, at Stag Lane aerodrome where they decided to go into partnership. Already therefore, in 1931, in spite of opposition and setback, Pauline had her A and B Flying Licences and Dorothy had an A Pilot's Licence and Engineer's Licence, and one rather gathers, reading the pages of Women with Wings - the book the two of them later published - that the hand of Sir Robert Gower was forced rather then held out eagerly with the gift of a two-seater Spartan plane. The gift was advanced only in the face of the inevitable, and as a safety measure, Pauline so often coming home late for meals with harrowing tales of forced landings with hired machines. (The forced landings were not always the fault of the machine.)
Indeed, in those early days of gaining experience, Pauline on a cross-country flight often came down to ask the way; there were narrow margins between forced landings and the petrol running dry; there was the occasion of flying the Channel at 250 feet and of making a forced landing at Brussels and finding it was Liege. Yes, there were many harrowing moments whose memory later made thri blood run cold, but there was also the exuberance and confidence of youth and a very decided will to conquer. It was perhaps typical that in her night flying test for the B Pilot's Licence, after two hours in the air, cut off from the earth by a ground fog that had formed, Pauline, determined not to become panic-stricken, suddenly remembered an old friend - her mouth organ - on which she played 'Show me the way to go home'. And she was shown.
If these two started with a light-hearted attitude towards flying, their subsequent experiences in joy-riding, in joining up with Air Pageants and Air Circuses and in working in all weathers and cvonditions, gave them a far higher sense of respinsibility. They formed themselves into a Limited Liability Company - Air Trips, Ltd. - and worked for two seasons from a field near Hunstanton where they themselves camped beside their plane in a caravan. B~y the time she had carried 3,000 passengers Pauline was foremost among women air pilots in skill and reliability and had added to her A and B Licences a Navigator's Licence and a G.P.O. Wireless Operator's Certificate. Meanwhile Dorothy had had wide experience of servicing machines and in the winter, during enforced flying activity, had studied for her Engineer's Licences, the first woman ever to attain the A, B, C and D Engineering Licences. Pauline often stressed how much the safety of herself and her passengers depended on Dorothy's efficient care of the machine; her praise was equally divided between Dorothy's engineering ability and, on those long periods of camping, her excellent cooking.
It is scarcely necessary to to remind fellow members of the later achievements of these two pioneers. With such experience behind them it is not surprising that they gave valuable service to their country both during the war and in the years preceeding it when they played a leading part in making the public air-minded. Members of the WES will remember papers read by each of them at the September Conference in 1937. In 1938 Dorothy joined the staff of the Air Registration Board and added to her qualifications a No 1 Glider's (Engineering) Licence. Later in this year, and with Pauline as her bridesmaid, she was married to Squadron Leader Richard Pearse who, when the war broke out, was in the RAF Coastal Command. Just before the war Patricia Mary was born and later Dorothy took up war work with the Ministry of Aircraft Production on research in connection with engines in flight. With her husband posted to her Flight, she had the unique opprtunity of working in war-time together with her husband. It was after the war, in December, 1946, and retired from their war activities, that Wing Commander and Mrs Pearse lost their lives in the air liner that crashed near Rio de Janeiro. Their daughter Patricia survives them.
In the meantime Pauline, who in 1938, had obtained an Air Ministry's Instructor's Licence, had been appointed to serve on the Committee investigating the position of civil aviation in this country, and later was made District Commissioner for the London area of the Civil Air Guard. Of her activities in building up the Women's branch of the A.T.A., members of the WES heard her oqn account when, in 1946, she gave us an interesting talk on this subject, accompanied now by her husband, Wing Commander Fahie, RAFVR, to whom she was married in 1945.
When invited to be Commandant of the women pilots in the A.T.A., Pauline stipulated that she must have a free hand in order to do this, a condition for which, interestingly, another great woman pioneer stipulated when asked to take over the hospital service in the Crimea. The fine achievement of the women serving in the A.T.A., their record, and the fact that some of them were finally ferrying heavy four-engined bombers, is a proof of how well Pauline used her powers. In 1943 she was appointed a member of the board of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. Pauline died on March 2nd, 1947, her twin sons surviving her.
That is the record of what they did; a bleak summary of achievements is unavailing, however, unless some mention is also made of what they were. Impressive as their qualifications, achievbements and later honours might be, it was the human side that interested most people, it was their pleasant unaffected charm that everyone noticed. One can pay no higher tribute to Dorothy than to recall Pauline's description of her, referring to their partnership, as one whose 'business' reliability proved always as unfailing as her friendship. There is also the tribute paid by Amy Johnson, who was their friend of long standing and who finally worked under Pauline for the A.T.A. In the foreword she wrote for Women with Wings she refers to staying at Pauline's home at Tunbridge Wells and listening to her and Dorothy singing to the banjulele, and winds up: "I played the part of spectator, admiring the utterly unspoiled character of two girls who have done more than their bit in making aviation history."
They owed their leading position in the field of aviation to hard work and often severe discomfort; they never set out on record-breaking or otherwise spectacular flights; they did what they did because they enjoyed it and it was the thing they had chosen and wanted to master. There was no intention of ending life swiftly and heroically; they had every hope of seeing this precarious century to its final chapter and Pauline in her book prophesied a time when she and Dorothy would be old ladies still flying an antiquated machine and the passengers in a rocket would lean out and say, "Look at those old girls in that pre-historic bus!" Alas, this is no longer a possibility but to what extent air transport has been influenced by the two who will never be old ladies, and whose memory will always be associated with youth, is impossible to measure.