On 30th November, ESU Lincolnshire branch was honoured to open a virtual window to the wider world, welcoming guests from the USA, Canada and across the UK to its talk on the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), the civilian organisation which recruited over a thousand women and men to support those on the front line in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War by ferrying and maintaining Service aircraft. Well over 200 virtual attendees enjoyed an interactive, albeit necessarily distanced, celebration of the 75th anniversary of the disbandment of these remarkable men and women.
Branch Chair, Michael Graydon said ‘The ESU is privileged to have been able to facilitate this fitting commemoration and tribute. Given that this county was the site of so many airfields for the RAF and Polish Air Force, we were delighted to be able to reinstate the event originally planned at the ATA’s headquarters at White Waltham Airfield in Maidenhead.’
Honorary Commodore of the ATA Association and daughter of its founder Sir Gerard d’Erlanger, Minnie Churchill introduced the evening with some reflections about her father. The ATA Association Secretary John Webster, shared his extensive research with details on aircraft used as well as the transforming attitudes to women and some of the physical challenges different volunteers faced, all brought to life through individual stories, photographs, recordings and interviews. Famously, one in eight ATA pilots were women with such pioneering aviators as Amy Johnson and commercial pilot Joy Davison, both of whom died in service, as well as Jacqueline Cochran who returned to the United States and started the Women Airforce Service Pilots (the WASPs). ATA’s aircrew came from 26 countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, the Netherlands and Poland as well as the UK.
Although a technical hitch meant the evening came to a premature close, a recording of the evening is available here.