By Zoe Cassell
LONG FORGOTTEN images of arguably the world’s greatest female pilot from WW2, who recently turned 100, have been released in a new book.
The black and white photographs document Mary Ellis (nee Wilkins) through her five-and-a-half-year journey as an ATA ferry pilot during Britain’s Blitz years.
In this new book entitled ‘A Spitfire Girl’ penned by Melody Foreman, First Officer Mary Ellis tells her story.
“The book charts the life and times of one of the world’s greatest female ferry pilots – First Officer Mary Ellis of the Air Transport Auxiliary,” Melody said.
“[She] flew 400 Spitfires and 76 different types of aircraft, including heavy bombers during World War Two.
“Mary helped the war effort by delivering much needed aircraft including Wellington Bombers, Mustangs and many more to the aircrews of RAF fighter and bomber command squadrons.”
In this series of photos Mary can be seen smiling and posing in front of her beloved Spitfire with her other female colleagues.
“She flew 400 Spitfires and maintains that it is her favourite aircraft of all time. It is a symbol of freedom and liberty,” said Melody.
“When the ATA was closed in November 1945, Mary was seconded to the RAF to fly the new Meteor fast jet.
“The next few years saw her working as a personal pilot to a wealthy businessman and by 1950 she became the boss of Sandown Airport on the Isle of Wight.
“Mary became Europe’s first female air commandant and remained as managing director of Sandown until 1970.”
Inspirational Mary has been passionate about flying from an early age. At just twenty-one-years-old she gained her pilot’s licence.
“In October 1941 [she] heard an appeal on the radio from the BBC for women pilots needed to help the war effort,” Melody added.
“She joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, an organisation which ferried aircraft from factories and maintenance units to RAF airfields all over Britain.”
In one image a beaming Mary can be seen wearing a helmet inside her favourite aircraft and in another with veterans at the ATA Memorial at Hamble in Hampshire back in 2010.
Mary turned 100 on 2 February earlier this month and a surprise party was held in her honour at Sandown Airport, where over sixty guests attended.
“In recent years [she] has enjoyed many flights in two-seater Spitfires operating in this country,” Melody said.
The book ‘A Spitfire Girl’ can be purchased on Amazon for £19.99