Irish (Eire) Pilots
M.101 Commander Oliver Eric 'Paddy' Armstrong b. 19 Mar 1903, Dublin 27 May 1940 to Nov-45
prev. RAF Sgt Pilot 1919 to 1931
"Isle of Man Airways pilot before the war and later Officer Commanding the Belfast Ferry Pool; one of the best-known characters in the ATA - and in many a corner of his native Ireland." - BG
M.--- Patrick Francis "Patty" Breen b. 10 May 1905, County Kerry, Ireland 22 Aug to 12 Sep 1940
Naturalised American 1934
Address in 1940: 37-20 76th St, Jackson Heights, Long Island NY
ATA Contract Terminated - Inefficiency
"Herewith, I forward Flight Test Reports on the five American pilots, who reported on the 22 August. From these, you will see that only two are in the class of pilot we require.
Passed: Ortman, Phillips
Failed: Breen, McCory, Wickford"
d. 18 Dec 1969 - Denton, TX
M.47 * First Officer Arthur Wesley Coombs b. 21 Feb 1912, Tipperary 8 Apr 1940 to 30 Nov 1940
Father: Major Arthur Gundry Coombs MC [d. 1937]
prev. Pilot Officer, RAFVR & Civil Service. DPO Ministry of Mines, Reading 1937-40
4 May 1939, The Cornishman:
"FALSE PRETENCES AT MARAZION
Licensees duped by specious story.
How the licensees of the Coach and Horses Inn, Breage. and the Godolphin Hotel. Marazion, were duped by a specious story was revealed at Helston, on Thursday, when Arthur Wesley Coombs, a young man. of Limetree House, Castle Crescent, Reading, was charged with obtaining £5 and £6 by false pretences from Mr. Wilfred Hope, licensee of the Coach and Horses Inn. Breage.
There was a further charge against the accused of obtaining from Stanley Linscott Turner, of the Godolphin Hotel, Marazion, on January 27, £5 by means of a worthless cheque, with intent to defraud.
Mr. Eric Thomas, who prosecuted, stated that on January 18 the accused called the inn and told Mr. and Mrs. Hope he was the owner of an air circus of six 'planes flying between Reading and Edinburgh, and made other statements which led Mr. and Mrs. Hope to believe he was a person of a certain amount of substance. He stayed at the inn as a boarder from January 28 to February 2. January 23 he borrowed £5 from Mr. Hope, giving a cheque obtained from a customer, changing the name of the bank to that of Bank of Scotland. The following day Mr. Hope lent him £6, and the same procedure was followed. On January 31 the cheques were returned marked "No funds."
Accused pleaded "Guilty," and said he expected to have sufficient money to meet the cheques. As soon as he realised he was unable to clear them he sent Mr. Hope a payment on account. Mr. Thomas confirmed that Mr. Hope had received £4 from the accused. Accused asked the Bench to take the second charge into consideration when passing sentence. Accused pleaded ''Not guilty" to having obtained food and lodgings to the value of 19s. from Mrs. Hilda Hope, wife of the licensee, and the Bench dismissed the case. The Bench fined the accused a total of £12 including costs. The Chairman (Mr. 0. Rows), said the Bench had been influenced in their decision by the fact that accused was on the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and that he would be reporting for duty on May 1. They had strained a point in not depriving him of his liberty."
Address in 1940: 14, Castle Crescent, Reading (Mother, Ellie Maud [Wesley] Coombs)
Contract Terminated (Disciplinary Reasons)
Post-ATA, Arthur said he "worked for the Ministry of Aircraft Production, as a test pilot then as Chief Technical Officer, from 1939 until 1946". He then claimed to have been "General Manager of an aircraft company", and to have operated his own aircraft company from Croydon and Eastleigh.
From 1954 he was employed first as a wine salesman and then as a driving instructor.
In 1954, he was convicted of stealing a typewriter.
In 1955, he was sent to jail for 18 months for fraud and theft, again involving dishonoured cheques.
During his trial, "Mr Guy Willett submitted that the accused was a man who, having been extremely successful, could not believe his luck had changed."
d. 1979 - Portsmouth
M.421 First Officer Godfrey Albert Chichester Greene
b. 25 Sep 1911, Dublin 22 Apr 1941 to 30 Jun 1945
Ed. G.C.S. Dublin, National School Kildare St.
prev. RAFVR 16 Jan 1939 to 18 Sep 1940, Sergeant Pilot under training
prev. a 'Ladies Court Hairdresser' in Paris, then a technical assistant at Plessey in Ilford
m. Jun-42 Madeline Clare [Grigsby] in Maidenhead [d. 2009, Wallasey]
Address in 1941: Littlewick House, Littlewick Green, Maidenhead
Postings: 6FPP, 16FPP, 14FPP, 1FPP
Had 5 accidents in 1942, 4 of which were his fault; he managed to damage a Walrus [failed to control swing], a Hurricane [forgot to lower undercarriage], 2 Masters [hard landing collapsed undercarriage, and hit a post whilst taxying] and a Spitfire [undercarriage leg failed to lock down, that one was not his fault].
Contract Terminated in Apr-42 but re-instated; "This pilot has been given a second chance, a further course of training in the School... He has not given entire satisfaction. As a pilot he appears now to be average but his reports indicate that he requires driving."
"General flying poor, take-off and approaches below standard", but "A keen and willing pilot within his limited capabilities."
Also damaged 2 more Spitfires in 1943, but neither was his fault.
d. Jul 1995 - Wallasey, Merseyside
Download ATA Pilot Personal Record (.zip file):
[Seconded from BOAC]
William Branston Houston b. 28 Mar 1909, Galway 1 Sep 1940 to 15 Jan 1942
"Clearing the hurdles in fine style" in 1930
"nephew of the late Sir Thomas Houston, the noted bacteriologist"
Ed. St. Andrew's College, Dublin, and the Methodist College, Belfast.
"He studied medicine for two years at Queen's University, Belfast, but decided to fly and In 1937 he joined Imperial Airways as a second officer"
"He began flying on European routes with the Heracles class and the Scylla and Syrinx. He later flew in Frobishers and Ensigns."
m. 1937 in Flintshire, Claire E [Beatty]
The BOAC pilots seconded to the ATA were the mainstay of the Advanced Flying Training Unit from September 1940, but they were all recalled to BOAC in January 1942.
Lettice Curtis says "with the going of the BOAC pilots the school was never the same again, and certainly a lot of fun and gaiety went out of the instructors' room when it passed into the hands of the generally older professional instructors."
"With pilots like BOAC Captains Griffiths, Derrington Turner, Weston Taggart, Ken Buxton and last but no means least Jim Weir, there was never a dull minute."
He returned to BOAC in 1941 and flew Liberators and Dakotas to North Africa. In 1944 he went to Cairo in charge of the Corporation's training unit there. After 1946 he occupied a number of operational posts and in 1951 he became manager of the Hermes and Yorks fleet.
Belfast Telegraph, 1953
He was nominated as manager of the Britannia fleet in 1953, then Training Manager from 1957.
M.791 2nd Officer William Charles Lyndon 'John' Humphrey b. 31 Jul 1917, Dublin 8 Jul 1942 to 20 Aug 1943
Father: William E Humphrey, mother Harriet V
Ed. Gresham School, Holt; Jesus College, Cambridge
prev. RAF 1940-41 AC2 pilot under training; Sep 1941 Royal Navy
Address in 1942: Holton Hall, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin
d. 20 Aug 1943 in Spitfire VIII JF844. The aircraft dived out of cloud into the ground at Luckley Farm, nr. Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, and was destroyed. "The pilot was probably flying too near the cloud base and inadvertently entered a patch of low cloud, thereafter losing control of the aircraft."
Buried Whitechurch Cemetery, County Dublin, Ireland
M.772 First Officer John Denis Hurley b. 3 May 1913, Dublin 17 Jul 1942 to 18 Dec 1943
Father: Denis Hurley (a retired police superintendent), mother Elizabeth Mary [Madigan]
Ed. Christian Brothers School, Dublin
prev. RAFVR 25 Nov 1940 - 19 Jan 1942 (LAC Cadet Pilot) at Reading
prev. exp. 93 hrs on BA Swallow, Tiger Moth, Magister
Address in 1942: 30 Clondarf Rd, Dublin / 75 Cambridge St, Victoria, London SW1
March 1942: "Last November I made an unsuccessful attempt to join your organisation as a pilot. If you will be good enough to read on I think I can now show some reason to suppose I could measure up to your medical exam now, if you give me another chance."
John explained that he had recently been rushed to Charing Cross Hospital for an operation on a perforated duodenal ulcer. "I had been a stomach sufferer, on and off, for many years... now that that is all over, I feel pretty good, and without the accompanying pain."
They did give him a second chance, (obviously), and he passed both the medical and the flying test.
Postings: 8FPP, 16FPP
"Good type of Irishman" (!)
"A steady and reliable pilot whose flying is methodical and his drill good. A good officer."
2 accidents, one his fault:
- 24 Feb 1943, he taxied his Argus FK347 into a "small brick structure - "7ft x 5ft x 3ft" and damaged the wing
d. 18 Dec 1943, when ferrying Hampden AD736 from Aldergrove to Hawarden. He approached the landing at Hawarden "rather low" and the port engine failed. The aircraft, turned, rolled over and crashed inverted. "Insufficient evidence to determine responsibility."
Buried Mt Jerome Cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin
In Loving Memory John Denis Hurley 30 Clondarf Road Died 18th December 1943
Also My dear Husband Denis John Hurley
Died... June 1956 Aged 79 Years
M.254 2nd Officer Daniel Francis O'Mahony Leahy b. 19 Dec 1911, Castleknock, Eire 7 Nov 1940 to Sep-41
educated at Beaumont, Windsor and Trinity College Dublin.
RAF Jan-Oct 1936
prev. exp. 270hrs
Address in 1940: Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin
"This officer, since he has been in this pool, has improved as a worker. He has a very poor idea of discipline and needs very careful handling. " He also had 4 accidents, all of which were deemed to be his fault.
He was demoted to 2nd Officer on 1 Sep 1941 for "Carelessness in regard to secret documents", and then his contract was terminated on the 18th.
d. 16 Jan 1989 - Dublin
W.164 3rd Officer Annette Elizabeth Mahon b. 21 Oct 1918, Dublin 8 May-44 to Sep-45
The Final 7 Women Pilots - Betty Keith-Jopp (W.167), Sue Alexander (W.163), Joan Arthur (W.166),
Ruth Russell (W.165), Annette Mahon (W.164), Aimee de Neve (W.168), Katharine Stanley Smith (W.162)
‘Annette was posted to Prestwick as a Class II pilot to ferry mostly Fleet Air Arm aircraft to the Isles and the north of Scotland. She became known as “Queen of the Barracudas” – and a one woman PR campaign for the capabilities of this high-wing torpedo/dive bomber monoplane.’ RAF Museum
m. 18 Jan 1947, Dr Samuel 'Maurice' B Hill
"After the war Hill followed her husband, who as a medical officer with the UK Atomic Energy Authority was posted to Cumbria, and then Caithness, where their three daughters were born. They moved south to Hampshire, and while he rose to become the UKAEA's Chief Medical Officer, she returned to her love of aircraft in 1973 by joining, as a volunteer, the team that ran what would become the annual Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford in Gloucestershire.
The Hills' daughter Elizabeth died in 1966, and in 1980 Dr Hill had a stroke, after which Annette Hill cared for him until his death in 1996." The Independent
Annette (3rd from left) at the unveiling of the ATA Memorial in Hamble-le-Rice, 2010
d. 7 Oct 2013 - Basingstoke
M.1136 * 3rd Officer William Mockler b. 7 Feb 1923, Dublin 11 Jul 1944 to 15 Apr 1945
Address in 1945: 47 Upper Rathmines, Dublin
He carried on as a ferry pilot after WWII; in July 1951 the 'Belfast Whig' reported:
"Sydenham plane crash: Belfast pilot injured
A naval aircraft, a Sturgeon target towing plane, manufactured by Short and Harland, Ltd., overshot the runway when It was coming In to land at Sydenham airport yesterday and crashed Into the sea. William Mockler (27). a ferry pilot. Holland Gardens, Belfast was the only person on board. He was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was detained. He is stated to be seriously ill, suffering from head injurles. The plane, which was not seriously damaged, was a new one for delivery to the Naval authorities at Malta."
... and later a pilot for BEA. In 1968: "An airliner carrying 139 passengers made an emergency landing yesterday after an anonymous phone caller claimed that a bomb had been planted on board. Police received the call ten minutes after the plane, a BEA Vanguard, had taken off from Turnhouse Airport, Edinburgh, for London. The news was immediately radioed to the captain, 45-year-old William Mockler, and he returned to Turnhouse.
Police, ambulancemen and the fire brigade stood by as passengers escaped by the plane's emergency chute. Army bomb disposal men, police and air line officials then began searching the plane and baggage. No bomb was found." Daily Mirror
W.--- Cadet Eveline Mary Curzon Townshend b. 12 Oct 1910, Dublin 10 Mar to 12 Jun 1942
Father: Capt. William Tower Townshend JP, a land agent, (d. 1943), Mother: Hon. Geraldine Emily [Curzon]
Two elder sisters: Blanche Hermoine and Marjorie (brother Alfred died in infancy)
The 1911 Census shows them living in Derry, Cork with a nurse, a nurserymaid, a lady's maid, a cook, a parlourmaid, a housemaid, and a kitchenmaid
Ed. The Cliff, Eastbourne (matriculation)
Address in 1939: Manor House, Battle, Sussex and Leixlip House, Co. Kildare, Eire
'Irish [Pilot's] Licence No. 91"
This notice appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 15 Nov 1939:
... but it seems that, for whatever reason, the marriage did not take place.
Address in 1942 - 46: Bodiam Manor, Sussex
The London Gazette, 3 June 1949, reported that "TOWNSHEND, Eveline Mary Curzon (Spinster), Downash, Flimwell, near Hawkhurst, in the county of Kent. FARMER" was declared bankrupt - "Act of Bankruptcy proved in Creditor's Petition."
In January 1951, this was in The Cheshire Observer:
"Miss Townshend 'has a 'go' at The Theatre:
Leading four pure-bred Shetland ponies—drawing a glass coach with 32 lights--on to the stage of the Royalty Theatre, Chester, for a scene In the pantomime, "Cinderella" may not be the most exciting entry into professional theatricals, but for Miss Eveline Townshend of Little Kernsdale. Rolvenden, Kent, it is another step in her motto of 'try anything once'.
Shooting, rowing, sailing, breaking, training and making hunters and steeplechasers, flying with the A.T.A. during the 1939-45 War, riding, and dairy farming—she has tried, successfully [sic] all these things. and was at a loose end when a Bristol business man advertised for a groom for the ponies. "It is really good fun" Miss Townshend said to a reporter this week.
"Will I go on to another theatre when this 'run' is completed? Perhaps, but I think a circus will be the next stop. I like to try anything once, you know." To see that her four eight-years-old charges—Janet, Bonnett V-Sign and Chagford (the only 'boy')—are sleek and gleaming ready for their twice daily appearance. Miss Townshend spends several hours each day carefully grooming their coats. She "puts them to bed" each night, and is there —accompanied by her nine years-old Alsatian. Simon — at seven o'clock each morning. 1 love all animals, especially horses, but then I suppose I should, I have been riding since I was two," she added.
She was fined £5 in 1956 for failing to keep one of her 3 Alsatians under proper control. She brought all 3 into the court with her...
Address in 1976: Prior Park College, Bath, Somerset
d. 9 Sep 1993 - Gedney, Spalding, Lincs, leaving £38,932
buried at Teampall Bán Graveyard, Unionhall, County Cork, Ireland
“SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF EVELINE MARY CURZON TOWNSHEND. DIED 9TH SEPT 1993 DAUGHTER OF WILLIAM TOWER TOWNSHEND OF MYROSS WOOD AND GERALDINE EMILY TOWNSHEND.”
M.980 2nd Officer Thomas Blair Willans b. 26 Jul 1903, Dublin 14 Jun 1943 to 12 Jan 1945
Father: Richard Harte Keatinge Willans; mother, Georgina Blow or Blois [Goodman]
Ed. Wellington College, RMA Woolwich
m. 1929 Edith Daphne [Traill], 2 children
prev. From 1921, a rancher, and manager of the Traill's estancia in Argentina, which was adjacent to his. Lieutenant in 15th Field Brigade, Royal Artillery, Aug 1923 to Jun 26
prev. exp. 205 hrs in UK, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, in DH Moth, Fleet, Fairchild 22, Stinson Reliant, Rearwin, Focke-Wulf, Aeronca Super Chief.
Learnt to fly in 1931 at the London Aeroplane Club; for his ATA application, he gave Pauline Gower as one of his references because "she was getting her 'B' Licence in 1931 at Stag Lane at the same time... I hope she will remember me."
Address in 1943: Estancia la Esterlina, Carlos Pellegrini, Santa Fe, Argentina and c/o Mrs Traill, 13 Lansdowne Rd, Bedford
Travelled from Argentina (passage paid for by the UK) in Feb 1943 to join the RAF, but there was a typo on his application form; it said his date of birth was 1909. Once he arrived and the mistake was discovered, he was rejected by the RAF as 'Too Old', and offered to the ATA (who also thought he was a bit old, even for them).
He then had a flight test in an Avro Tutor with ATA on 19 May; "General Flying Good but take-off Very Bad and handling Very Rough Indeed"
"Wishes his papers expedited as he has very little money"
Postings: 5TFPP, 2FPP, 16FPP, 3FPP
"A careful reliable pilot"
Two accidents, neither his fault:
- 18 Dec 1944, ferrying Vengeance IV FD132 from Air Dispatch Cardiff to 48MU Hawarden, the port undercarriage leg failed to lock down and on landing he collided with a Lancaster, damaging the port wing and propeller.
d. 12 Jan 1945 in Dumfies and Galloway Hospital, from injuries received in Wellington IV PF896 which was in collision with RAF Anson LV219 at Dumfries Airfield. Both aircraft were attempting to land, the Anson in front. A red verey light was fired from the ground, and the Anson then climbed into the path of the Wellington. The five crew onboard the Anson were killed.
Buried Headington Cemetery, Oxford
"The Willans name remains strong in Argentina. Tom's son Richard Robin, was President of the Media Luna [polo] Club. Robin, a Cambridge man, took the Warwickshire Cup in England with the Buccaneers Team in 1969. Andy Willans took the gold cup Campana del Deserto" Polo in Argentina: A History
M.86 Flight Captain Alfred Harry Norman Woolcott b. 24 Mar 1912, Cork 1 Jul 1940 to 31 Jul 1943