ATA and Aviation News and Events at Maidenhead Heritage Centre
LETTICE CURTIS – IN MEMORIAM
We record with sadness the death on 21 July 2014 of Lettice Curtis at the age of 99. One of the most distinguished of Britain’s women pilots, Lettice Curtis served with Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II, ferrying war planes between factories and front line squadrons. She served with ATA from 6/7/40 until 30/11/45.
Brought up in Devon, she studied Maths at Oxford where she was Captain of the University Women’s Lawn Tennis and Fencing teams. She learned to fly in Sussex and in May 1938 began flying for an air survey company, at a time when very few women made a living from flying.
Lettice joined ATA with the second batch of women in July 1940 and served at Ferry Pools at Hatfiield, Hamble, White Waltham and Ratcliffe, most of her time being with No.1 Ferry Pool at White Waltham. Fiercely professional, she became the first woman to fly a 4-engined bomber (a Halifax, in 1942) and went on to ferry over 364 4-engined bombers as well as 162 Spitfires and 125 Mosquitoes in an overall total of 1467 aircraft ferried. For ATA’s Closing Pageant at White Waltham at the end of September 1945, she brought in a white-painted Liberator bomber. Film in our collection at Maidenhead shows her walking away from the aircraft with a huge grin on her face!
Her 1971 book The Forgotten Pilots is the most authoritative book every written about ATA and is available from the museum. It is full of technical and organizational as well as personal detail. and has no less than 22 appendices! She quotes from her logbook a ‘round Britain tour’ on September 25th 1944 when, starting and ending at White Waltham, she ferried 6 different sorts of aircraft, the largest being a Stirling bomber, the fastest a Spitfire XXI and the smallest a Miles trainer. Wow! And there were plenty more days like this, as ATA pilots provided a continuous supply of aircraft for the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm to fly into battle.
Her post-war years were spent as a technician and flight test observer at Boscombe Down and later with Fairey Aviation at White Waltham, where she worked with Peter Twiss and on the Gannet flight test programme. She took an active part in British air racing in various aircraft including a Spitfire and her own Wicko G-AFJB. When Faireys was bought by Westland she moved to the Ministry of Aviation and the CAA, then to Sperry at Bracknell, retiring in 1979. In October 1991, she obtained a helicopter licence in a Robinson R-22.
Lettice was a patron of Yorkshire Air Museum, to which she gave her ATA uniform and her ATA logbook.
SPITFIRE GIRL – a new ATA book
Launched at White Waltham airfield on July 19th is SPITFIRE GIRL, the revised and expanded autobiography of First Officer Jackie Moggridge of ATA. Jackie was born in South Africa, took to flying at an early age, ferried 1438 aircraft for ATA between July 1940 and the end of 1945. She married during the war, but despite the birth of two daughters couldn’t keep away from flying. She gained her wings with the RAF, flew a Spitfire to Burma for the Burmese Air Force and became one of Britain’s first lady airline captains. Her book has been revised by her daughters who have added a wonderful selection of photographs from the family albums. The book is a terrific read, and is available now from Maidenhead Heritage Centre, price £8.99 plus P&P. To buy just give us a call on 01682 780555.
Winter Aviation Talks 2015
Six 2-hr talks by Heritage Centre chairman Richard Poad using archive photographs, newsreel and films to trace over 100 years of local aviation history: visionary pioneers, the flying circuses, ATA, RAF White Waltham, Fairey Aviation, ML Aviation and much more. The 6 evening lectures will be followed in the 7th week by a day time visit to West London Aero Club to view aircraft in the hangars.
Tuesday evenings, 7:30pm, starting Tuesday 13th January 2015. Venue: West London Aero Club, White Waltham Airfield
Fees: £60 (£55 if booked before 30th November 2014) in aid of Heritage Centre funds.
TO BOOK PHONE MAIDENHEAD HERITAGE CENTRE ON 01628 780555
Showing our presence in the Library
Recent Visitors who flew our Simulator
Stirling pilot takes control
When the newly formed Aviation Group of Maidenhead U3A held its inaugural meeting at the museum, ex RAF pilot Mike Bradshaw took the controls of our Spitfire simulator. Mike flew Stirling and Halifax bombers during world War II.
Home Secretary lands Spitfire at Heathrow!
Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead, visited us at the end of August 2014 with her husband Philip. They both had a Spitfire slight, getting ‘airborne’ from White Waltham and flying over their home village of Sonning before turning east of Maidenhead, Dorney Lake and Windsor Castle and landing at Heathrow. The official secret act prevents us disclosing whether the Home Secretary landed on the runway or the grass!
Celebrity Antiques Road Trip filming
The BBC’s Celebity Antiques Road Trip is an addition to the growing number of film crews using the Grandma Flew Spitfires exhibition. The crew came on Wednesday 19th June to film an episode of Celebity Antiques Road Trip, which was screened in November 2014. In the picture below actress Nina Wadia, the Celebrity, is getting instruction from Christopher Hobbs on flying the Spitfire Simulator.
Battle of Britain Veteran flies the Spitfire Simulator
A Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot came to fly our simulator on Friday 21st June 2014. He was Sqdn Leader Alan Scott; – he joined the RAF in WW2 a bit later after a bad crash in Tiger Moth, this entailed a 6 months repair job in hospital! – flew Spits and Hurricanes – then onto Malta in 1942 – towards end of war working as test pilot at Kemble, he was ‘loaned to ATA at Aston Down for a while’. He is 92 in July and very fit – he climbed in and out of the simulator quite easily!
Alan enjoyed his extended flight and had full control immediately – when asked about aerobatics – Christopher Hobbs said no problem! So off he went – rolls and loops!
His son who came with him was so impressed that he is thinking of returning with a group from Rotary.
Visit by Australian Film Crew
An Australian film crew came to the ATA Museum to get footage for a forthcoming programe.
The film crew, Cameraman Charlie, with his colleague Eliza, came from the TV channel NINE, which is preparing a special feature on ATA to be broadcast on ANZAC Day, which is probably April 25th. They spent three hours in the exhibition, and filmed an interview with Richard Poad and also part of a simulator flight with him.
Penny Griffiths looks extremely pleased with herself flying the simulator.
All the Griffiths family are enjoying the exhibits in the ATA Gallery.
ROYAL BOROUGH OF WINDSOR AND
MAIDENHEAD DEPUTY MAYOR FLIES THE SIMULATOR
The Deputy Mayor of the Borough, Councillor Andrew Jenner visited the Heritage Centre on 26 October. He had come to fly the Spitfire Simulator in the ATA Museum. The picture below shows him at the controls of the Simulator. With him(l to r) Mr Harry Wale a Trustee and Mr Richard Poad the Chairman of the Maidenhead Heritage Trust.