What came as news to me was Spitfire Women, which gave an account of the Air Transport Auxiliary (the ATA). Some splendid old ladies were interviewed. Ladies they were - upper class women with the kind of accent that in another thirty years will not be heard from living mouths. In the 1930s these debby types had been rich enough to learn to fly, some of them owning their own aeroplanes or taking passengers on joy rides for a living. So they had hours of flying time under their belts and as one of the aviatrixes was the daughter of an MP, she managed to get them taken on to transport aeroplanes from factory to airfield or anywhere else they needed to be taken.
It was a marvellous tale. These young women knew how to fly and ride horses, but were mostly virginal and had led sheltered lives. So the atmosphere in their headquarters was something like St Winifred’s of head girls and hockey captains with names like “Lettice“, with a sprinkling of It girls who would work hard and then put on lipstick and play hard. One out of ten of them was killed and when they did marry a young man, there was a chance he would be killed as well. They met some male opposition of course but won through so eventually they were flying Spitfires, which one of them said were so beautiful to fly, a real woman’s aeroplane, that would respond to the slightest touch. In the cockpit you would feel you were flying without a machine. A wonder that they were not allowed to fight with as well as transport these aeroplanes they could handle so well.
For some of them it was the best time of their lives. One said this, though she lost a cluster of male cousins and a beloved brother. They were doing exciting work they loved, for a purpose which they supported whole-heartedly and among their comrades. What a way to spend your youth.Amy Johnson, the most famous aviatrix.
If only cycling helmets looked as glamorous as that.