A Spitfire Girl, one of the world’s greatest female ATA ferry pilots tells her story

A great story from a great lady. Few have had the privilege to fly a Spitfire. Even fewer have been women and now Mary Ellis flies a Spitfire again at 100 – Outstanding. This is an account by one of the young ladies who served their country in time of war, flying combat aircraft between factories, repair centres and RAF airfields, showing great courage. Just don’t miss this fantastic story. Very strongly recommended.


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NAME: A Spitfire Girl, one of the world's greatest female ATA ferry 
pilots tells her story
FILE: R2436
AUTHOR:  Mary Ellis, as told to Melody Foreman
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, frontline
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES:  224
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War 2, World War Two, Second World War, aircraft 
ferry pilot, ATA, Air Transport Auxiliary, war planes, civilian pilots
ISBN: 1-47389-536-7
IMAGE: B2436.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/goaonac
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION: A great story from a great lady. Few have had the 
privilege to fly a Spitfire. Even fewer have been women and now Mary 
Ellis flies a Spitfire again at 100 - Outstanding. This is an account 
by one of the young ladies who served their country in time of war, 
flying combat aircraft between factories, repair centres and RAF 
airfields, showing great courage. Just don't miss this fantastic 
story. Very strongly recommended.

In 1939, war caught Great Britain still in the early stages of racing 
to make up for the years of neglect by politicians who had hoped they 
could avoid confronting the German threat to Europe. It is easy to 
make comparisons between the current failure to confront the new 
threat posed to Europe by Germany with the situation in the 1930s. In 
fairness, most of the appeasing politicians in the 1930s were decent 
people who thought they were doing the best for Britain, unlike the 
current politicians who are self-serving cowards.

By the outbreak of WWII, the RAF still had biplane fighters on the 
first line inventory. At airfields around Britain, Hawker Fury and 
Gloucester Gladiator biplanes were receiving a coat of camouflage 
paint over their peace time silver and brightly coloured markings. 
Fortunately, two impressive monoplanes were already in service and 
production was being dramatically increased to allow all biplanes to 
be replaced. The Hurricane had started arriving first, its hybrid 
structure offering reduced risk in early manufacture. It was largely 
canvas covered and had a skeleton frame very similar to the biplane 
Fury that it was replacing. However, it carried a massive armament of 
8 rifle calibre machine guns mounted in the wings and firing outside 
of the propeller arc. This compared to the 2 similar machine guns 
mounted on a Fury firing through the propeller arc under an 
interrupter gear. The result was a near eight fold increase in weight 
of fire for the Hurricane over the Fury.

The Spitfire also mounted 8 machine guns in its wings, but employed 
the latest technology of an alloy stressed skin in a monocoque 
construction. It was much harder to manufacture and repair than the 
Hurricane, but, in exchange, it was race horse that could fly faster 
and higher than a Hurricane and still had much scope for further 
development, serving on after the end of WWII and into the jet age.

Both new fighters were equipped with radio telephones that linked 
them into the most advanced command and control network yet built. 
Radar sites fed data into a well-developed command network that 
ensured the maximum utilization of aircraft and placed them at the 
location and altitude to intercept incoming enemy bombers and 
fighters. The result was a fighter defence force that could 
effectively take on and defeat a significantly larger German air force.

By the start of the Battle of Britain, the aircraft factories were 
turning out an amazing number of new fighters and the repair network 
was able to rebuild and return battle damaged aircraft to the squadrons. 
That largely addressed the need for large numbers of fully functional 
aircraft. The remaining problem was a serious shortage of pilots. The 
small number, but highly trained and professional, of RAF pilots who 
had joined before war, and the larger number of VR weekend warrior 
pilots had the courage and the morale to take on the enemy but they 
were numerically inadequate. Even by taking Fleet Air Arm volunteers, 
who could hardly be spared by the Fleet, and rushing into service Czech, 
Polish, Dutch, French and Norwegian pilots, who had escaped to Britain, 
the RAF was still desperately short of pilots.

The situation was made more difficult because RAF Bomber Command was 
being re-equipped and was seen to be the only immediate weapon to take 
the war to the German homeland. That meant even more aircraft being 
ferried from factories to squadrons and a need for yet more pilots to 
fly them in combat. Without the civilian Air Transport Auxiliary pilots, 
the RAF would have either ground rapidly to a halt, or vital combat 
pilots would have been taken out of the fight to ferry aircraft. It is 
therefore not overstating the role of the ATA pilots as a key battle-
winning component of British air power.

Mary Ellis, a farmer's daughter who had learned to fly light aircraft 
before the outbreak of war, was one of the incredibly brave young women 
who stepped forward to provide this critical service. This is a much 
under-told story and her recollections provide a captivating and most 
valuable addition to our knowledge of the important aspects of WWII. 
What is often overlooked is that ATA pilots were not only having to 
learn and fly the latest aircraft, largely by studying manuals, but 
they were flying them unarmed through a very hot war zone. Even in 
the latter stages of the war, German sneak attacks by fighters made 
the skies over Britain potentially dangerous.

Of course, these civilian pilots have said how much of a privilege it 
was to fly aircraft like the Spitfire. Mary flew some 400 Spitfires of 
various Marks. She also flew 76 different types of aircraft. One flight 
might be in a Spitfire and the next in a heavy bomber, with a taxi 
service of Anson transport/training aircraft giving the pilot a lift 
from one job to the next. In fact Mary was the young lady who was to 
become the subject of a classic story of ferry pilots. She delivered 
a Wellington bomber to a squadron and the ground crew asked her where 
the pilot was. She of course explained that she was the pilot but they 
refused to believe her. It was only after the men had searched the 
aircraft that they reluctantly believed she had flown and landed the 
aircraft on her own.

Mary's story is extraordinary, all the more because she was one of a 
number of young ladies who did the same vital job. She was one of a 
number of ATA pilots shot at by their own Anti-Aircraft Artillery, 
fortunately escaping a direct hit. One pilot, the party girl amongst a 
family of scientists, was delivering a Spitfire when a German Fw190 
attempted an attack. Unarmed, she could think only of getting as close 
to the ground as possible and flying as fast as the aircraft would go. 
Then AAA opened fire and hit the German fighter. The young flyer asked 
the RAF station crew if they would take her to meet the AAA battery 
crews to thank them for their timely intervention. It may never be 
known if the battery commander was joking. He claimed that they had 
been aiming at her but the German flew into their shells. Mary was one 
woman pilot who was surprised by a German fighter that broke off his 
attack when he realized the pilot was a woman.

Mary not only flew propeller aircraft, but was one of only three ATA 
women were chosen to fly the Meteor jet. She continued her connection  
with flying and in 1994 met up with a Spitfire she had delivered 
during WWII. It still had her signature which she says she left in the 
hope of striking up an association with whoever was to fly it in 
combat. Then she enjoyed the first of a number of flights in the 
Duxford-based Grace Spitfire. This rare two-seat Spitfire was bought 
for restoration by Caroline Grace's husband. When he died, she 
completed the restoration and has flow the aircraft since it was 
certified to fly again.

This is one of those books that should not be missed. Whatever the 
normal preferences of the reader, there is so much to interest so 
many. You really don't need to be an aviation enthusiast to greatly 
enjoy the story.