The “Spitfire Girls,” Critical to the Victory in WW2, Are Honored At Ceremony

Women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary service.
Women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary service.

The “ATA-girls” were a group of women who worked during World War II flying fighter planes to train pilots and to move planes from factories and between bases. They freed up male pilots to fight in the war.

Two of those ladies were honored at the unveiling of a plaque at RAF Brize Norton.

Mary Ellis is 100 years old. She was flown to the ceremony from the Isle of Wright. She spoke of her friendship with Molly Rose, another ATA-girl who passed away last year at the age of 95.

Known as “Spitfire Women,” they flew hundreds of fighter planes to various bases in England.

Ellis was born in Langley, West Oxfordshire. She flew 63 Spitfires to RAF Brize Norton. One time, she was forced to crash land after the engine seized in her plane.

During her time with the RAF, Ellis made First Officer of Air Transport Auxiliary. She was thrilled to be back in the place where she delivered so many planes. She said that it looked very different and yet it brought back vivid memories for her.

Having wanted to fly since she was a young girl, it was natural that Ellis would sign up for the Air Transport Auxiliary when she hears that they needed women pilots to replace the men.

She considered Rose to be a very good friend and was disappointed that her friend wasn’t at the ceremony. She felt that the memorial was important and wished Rose could see it.

Ellis enjoyed the four or five years she spent in the auxiliary. She was proud to help her country and her King.

The first pilots of the ATA Womens’ Section pilots. Photo Credit
The first pilots of the ATA Womens’ Section pilots. Photo Credit

As for being 100 years old, Ellis said that it doesn’t feel any different than 90 did to her. She still gets around and was excited to be at the memorial ceremony.

The ceremony was attended by family members of Rose and was led by Group Captain Tim Jones and Rev Flt Lt Jonathan Stewart. During the ceremony, they planted a Mary Rose tree. A plaque was presented which told of how the two women were a part of the 309,111 missions the ATA flew. Without the support of the ATA-girls, the squadrons on the front lines would have been unable to do their jobs in the war.

Rose delivered 273 Spitfires during her time with the ATA. Her son, Graham Rose, felt that the ceremony was “beautifully done” and was moved by it, Oxford Mail reported.

Jones talked about how the ATA was the driving force behind the scenes. Without them, the British WWII operation would have come to a standstill.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE