W.36  First Officer

Honor Isabel Pitman

Mrs Pomeroy Salmon

flag england b. 30 Oct 1912, London  1 Mar-41 to Apr-43 

 

honor pitman salmon

RAeC 1936

 

honor pitman ata 

ATA

 

ata honor pitman 

MUWW

 

 

Father Ernest, mother Frances Isabel (Butler), who was Irish. She was an heir to the Pitman (of shorthand fame) family fortune.

Honor learnt to fly originally in 1927 (at the age of 14) at the Bristol and Wessex Aero Club but "because of my age, I always had to fly with someone & could never go to other aerodromes to land." Eventually, in 1936, she passed her RAeC Certificate and had done 120 hours before the start of WWII.

She was in Australia in 1938, and then started as a driver in the 12th Oxford Motor Transport ATS on the 1st September 1939; however, when she heard that the ATA was on the lookout for people with flying experience, she wrote to them in March 1940:

"I would very much like to know if there is the possibility of my joining your section of the service? I am an 'A' pilot & have only done about 120hrs flying in small club planes - Swallows, Cadets and Aroncas, but I am prepared to take any training in any line if I could help you. 4 years ago I joined the FANYs [which I gather stands for First Aid Nursing Yeomanry] in hopes of a flying section being started, but this never materialized.... I had been hoping on my return from Australia last year to have my own plane & work for my 'B' licence but instead I have had to content myself with reading text books."

The ATS, by the sound of it, didn't want to release her, and in December 1940 she asked the ATA to "please write to my Group Commander so that she can have a letter to show the 'powers that be' that the work I am asking to transfer to will be more important than the work I am doing at this present".

Eventually she was invited to do a flight test, which she passed, although the assessment was that she lacked experience and would need to be carefully supervised during her development. She enjoyed the experience, though: "Monday was a wonderful break to this humdrum war life for me, I thought everyone was so kind."

However, as there were no vacancies at the time for less experienced pilots, she was placed on a waiting list. She wrote: "I am of course very disappointed to hear you now cannot take me, but I am still bouyed up hoping one day you may call me up. In the mean time, I have a very interesting job and am trying to persuade myself that I am lucky."


 She started her probationary month with the ATA in March 1941, and became Mrs Pomeroy Salmon in June.

 1942 caricature by 'Sammy' Clayton

Her subsequent flying career started well but she then suffered two accidents in two days; firstly, on the 5th March 1942, she taxied a Spitfire into an unmarked soft patch, then on the 6th the starboard undercarriage of a Hurricane collapsed.

These events left her in what was called in those days a 'very highly strung condition', and she was given a month's rest, and then a refresher course.

The instructor's report was ambivalent: "This pilot needed a refresher and has benefitted by being returned to school. Her chief fault is her attitude towards her job. If she can be persuaded that flying is, after all, a very ordinary occupation, with common sense the main ingredient and that an ordinary sensible woman makes a better ferry pilot than a temperamental prima donna, she will do better and inspire greater confidence."

Honor Pitman 1941 via Andrew Heron

Unfortunately her subsequent reports, whilst allowing that she did improve generally, continued to express doubts: "An unstable type. She admits she gets into a flap flying with an instructor, and claims she has no difficulty in navigating solo. Apparently tends to rely on Bradshawing [i.e. following railway lines] so I did not destroy her confidence in that, but showed her more polished methods."... "Very self-important at times" ... "This pilot occasionally flies well - but not so well as she thinks she does. Her progress will need very careful watching".

She had another mishap, on the 26th August;  she overran the perimeter of the runway in a Spitfire and nosed over in a heap of rubble, damaging the propeller. She was, however, deemed "Not responsible, as she had to swerve to avoid an Oxford landing"; lack of aerodrome control was blamed.

But still the worrying comments from her instructors kept coming: "She is not very bright when any difficulty arises. She is definitely very over-confident, and also lost herself on one occasion"... "this pilot has taken a long time to reach an average standard. Has worked hard and been very attentive, but should be watched carefully"..."Her greatest trouble now is her forgetfullness. Her flying is satisfactory but she is apt to forget things"

She was allowed to carry on flying, however; perhaps it was because everyone seems to have liked her, and valued her as a companion.

Eventually, what now seems inevitable happened; on the 19 April 1943 she flew on in bad weather instead of turning back, and was killed when her Airspeed Oxford MN765 hit high ground near Devizes.


airspeed oxford

She was deemed to be 'at fault' for her fatal accident.

pitman memorial plaque in St Peters Church 

Memorial in St Peter's Church, Dyrham (with thanks to Andrew Heron)

Western Daily Press, 24 Apr 1943: "The death of First Officer Honor Isabel Pomeroy Salmon (30), of the Air Transport Auxiliary, is announced. Daughter of and Mrs Ernest Pitman, of The Cottage, Dyrham, Glos., and the grand-daughter of the late Sir Isaac Pitman, of Pitman's shorthand, she attended school at Abbot's Hill and at Westonbirt School, near Tetbury. and at the age of 17 became a member of the Bristol Flying Club, taking her licence and becoming a keen pilot. She was a keen breeder and trainer of ponies, and frequently hunted with the Duke of Beaufort's pack and took part in point-to-point meetings. In June, 1941, she married Major H. Pomeroy Salmon, of the 3rd Hussars. She had been a member of the A.T.A. for two years."

WILL OF MRS. HONOR SALMON First Officer Honor Isabel Pomeroy Salmon left £30.279 7s. 2d. gross, with net personalty £28,131 6s. 6d She left her shares in Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, Ltd., and Dun Mallard, Ltd., to the children of her brothers Isaac, Christian and John, together with her leasehold property, the site of 1, Amen Corner, London (destroyed by enemy action) and the right to receive war damage compensation. Subject to the disposal of her effects she left the residue to her husband, to whom, together with her brother Christian E. Pitman, Doynton House, Doynton, probate has been granted. "

Pauline Gower should have the last word, perhaps. "Honor will be very much missed not only as an excellent pilot but as a friend. She was a charming and gallant person."


 Download ATA Pilot Personal Record (.zip file):download grey

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