"We watched the eloquent (RADAR) echo as fathers, brothers and lovers fought on the razor edge of life or death"

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"for my accent was South African, and consequently could not be analysed with that remarkable perspicacity with which the English place a person swiftly and surely by his accent—and react accordingly."

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Just a year into Jackie's Commercial Pilots' course at Witney, Oxfordshire, WW2 broke out so Jackie promptly offered her services to the  RAF.  They promptly told her they didn't take women pilots, so nursing her disappointment she joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force)  thinking she would be doing something with planes.  Without hesitation the WAAF enrolled her, looked at her qualifications and made her a cook. Nothing new there then!   However, being a hopeless cook, she quickly got transferred to be trained on the then very hush, hush RADAR system which enabled her to watch the progress of the Battle of Britain first hand, via a RADAR screen.

While this was happening, a lady by the name of Pauline Gower had been established as the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA)  Women’s Commandant to recruit as many women pilots available. This was to ease the intensifying workload of the male ATA pilots, many of whom were fine aviators, but unfit for front-line service, and were dubbed in jest,  "Ancient and Tired  Airmen!"  They were doing the much needed job of ferrying every type of warplane from the factories to the waiting fighter pilots.  Their motto  "Anywhere to Anywhere."  Thus, in July 1940, Jackie was invited to report to Hatfield to take up duties as an ATA pilot. She found herself as the fifteenth girl pilot  in No 15 Ferry Pool, an all women Pool  based at Hamble, near Southampton.

Jackie was delighted to be flying again, this time as a First Officer in uniform. Candida informed us that in all the ATA employed 1,600 men and 168 women pilots out of which,  around 10% of the men were killed in service and likewise around 10% of the women pilots also died whilst ferrying these often faulty new planes or rickety old planes sometimes as many as five different types a day. Bearing in mind the conditions under which they had to fly, this was a good safety record. The aircraft had no radios, they were not allowed to fly into or above cloud level, not allowed to fly at night and they had only ground training for any of the single seaters it was an enormous range of aircraft types they flew. They were each presented with a small pocket-size flip pad which contained a page for about 150 types of aircraft. As you can imagine the details were sparse, but sufficient to take off, transit and land safely with care and concentration.  Jackie has flown 82 different types by the end of the war.

ATA pilots did have to be qualified for categories of aircraft, e.g.. single engine, twin engine or four engine, so a Tiger Moth biplane trainer and a 24 cylinder Tempest fighter bomber were all in a day’s work, likewise a sedate Anson and an all-powerful Mosquito (it is like a dream come true to us arm-chair ‘wallahs’ isn’t it).

(Taken with thanks from RNAS Yoevilton Museum Magazine following a Spitfire Girl talk Oct. 2019) at Fleet Airarm. Yeovil)

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Pauline Gower campaigned for her girls to have equal pay in the ATA. She was ahead of her time! See 75 Anniversary below. 

 World War II

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Visit the

ATA Museum

link here https://atamuseum.org

"We had returned to a different world.

Had taken off in peace at nine-thirty and landed in war at noon."

My Uniform

"Navy blue, severely cut, black buttons, a crisp gold stripe on each epaulette, rich gold-embroidered wings on the left breast and an absurd little forage cap that seemed to transform my face."

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Jackie poses with fellow Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot Hazel Raines on the wing of a Spitfire. Photo taken at RAF Brize Norton in 1943.

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Jackie lived here in 33 Gloucester Place Witney

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"If I had judged it correctly we would sink gently and without a bounce on to the grass skimming beneath the wheels. Please, please, I begged, let it be a good landing.

It was, and I was in the Air Transport Auxiliary"

"I pulled off my helmet.

‘Good God. It’s a woman!"

First Spit

On 13.10.41 Jackie flew her first spit from Cowley to Ternhill  a thrill that she repeated many times as she went on to fly 500 spitfires in her lifetime. 

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"There was one aircraft, the most illustrious of all, which I longed to fly."

 

"The Spitfire, a machine with the simplicity of features of a beautiful woman, stood outside the hangar basking as proudly as a thoroughbred in the warm sunshine. I clambered into the cockpit as warily as a rider mounting a highly spirited stallion and sat gazing absently at the instruments. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to be sitting there in the cockpit, as though my entire life had led to this moment.

 

A few second later I found myself soaring through the air in a machine that made poetry of flight. Carefully I familiarized myself with the controls as the ground fell away at fantastic speed and felt exhilarated by the eager, sensitive response. Singing with joy and relief I dived and climbed and spiralled around the broken clouds, before turning on to course."       (FROM Spitfire Girl  my life in the sky)

"It was evident even to the most ill-informed, that the war would not be over by Christmas."

" I  parted company with my bicycle and sat on the wet leaves gazing at the name plate just above my head: Creek Cottage. Hastily I got up and tried to make myself presentable, but it was too late.

‘You wouldn’t be coming to stay with us, would you?’ enquired the elderly gentleman"

 

"Picturesque bungalows, their backs to the river, peeped cosily through the rust-tinted trees. One in particular caught my eye with its neat tiny drive and mellow air

The Greenhills, though retired, took me to their home as naturally as though I were their own daughter."

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Part of Jackie's navigational equipment works like a slide rule to compute fuel burn, ground speed and ETA as they only had a map and a compass no radio contact with the ground.

Visit the

ATA Museum

link here https://atamuseum.org

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"My flying had reached a stage where accidents would be caused not by inexperience but by carelessness. And I was much too frightened to be careless."

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Lots to see at the ATA Museum Maidenhead Heritage Centre

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"Casualties in the A.T.A. were infrequent but not sufficiently infrequent to let us forget that one could take off never to land again."

Jackie met Captain Reg Moggridge of the Royal Engineers at a party. She was very shy, he found her hiding behind a curtain. She said he looked like a Greek God, but they had to part as he was sent to India for 2 years to train troops.  He insisted they got engaged before he left.  They married on Jan 12th 1945 in Taunton.  Reg was ahead of his time allowing his wife to continue flying, they had two daughters Veronica and Candida.

Love letters & chocolate!

The ATA flew new planes from the factory which had various snagging faults but perhaps more worrying were the old planes they returned - the graveyard run! - They often climbed into these with a note pinned to them with faults that had been recorded and some that were a surprise!

Approximately 10% of the 1246  ATA pilots died - 17 women out of 168 and 157 men out of 1078.  

Jackie kept the press cuttings when she saw her friends killed. On July 5th 1941 her thoughts were of Amy and she penned an ode to her heroine who was so kind to her.  see Ode to Amy below.

AN IMPORTANT 75TH ANNIVERSARY FOR WOMEN

July 19th 1941 was an important milestone in the progress of ATA women towards equality with their male colleagues.  Although ATA had recruited its first 8 women pilots in January 1940, they had been restricted to trainers and communications aircraft, with the boys’ toys like Hurricanes and Spitfires being reserved for their male colleagues.

 

PAULINE GOWER, Director of ATA’s women personnel, waited patiently for 18 months until her girls had proved their mettle before pressing the case for them to be allowed to fly front line aircraft.  So on 19 July 1941 a Hurricane fighter was sent from Air Transport Auxiliary’s headquarters airfield at White Waltham to Hatfield so that a group of ATA’s women pilots could have a go.  The first four were Winnie Crossley, Margaret Fairweather, Joan Hughes and Rosemary Rees, who demonstrated without any drama at all that of course they could fly a Hurricane.  The following day Philippa Bennett and others also flew their one circuit flight, lasting 15 minutes.  They and their colleagues rapidly progressed to Spitfires, Mosquitos, Wellingtons and scores of different types of plane.  Eventually 11 women would even fly 4-engined bombers, but it would take until May 1943 for them to receive equal pay.  ATA’s Spitfire women not only defied the many men still kidding themselves that only ace male pilots could fly fighters.  Pauline also successfully negotiated equal pay for her girls, a first in Britain, however equal pay resorted back to 2/3rds for women after the war.

 

They were also trailblazers, opening up a whole new future for women in aviation, so that  ATA pilot Jackie Moggridge could become  Britain’s first female airline Captain.   Jackie and her 168 female colleagues are amazing role models for young women today, and their story of courage, skill and sacrifice is told in our permanent Grandma Flew Spitfires exhibition at Maidenhead Heritage Centre.

 SPITFIRE SIMULATOR FLIGHTS AVAILABLE TO VISITORS TO GRANDMA FLEW SPITFIRES EXHIBITION.  PLEASE PHONE 01628 780555 TO BOOK YOUR FLIGHT

Taken from Maidenhead Heitage Centre website.

Equal Pay

"‘You all right?’ shouted the crash crew as the engineer slid back the side panel and poked his head through."

"I felt a childish glow of pleasure athteh surprised and impressed glances. A single-engine landing occurred a dozen times a day in the air force. But it was my first and I had pulled it off in an unfamiliar aircraft."

Jackie would often tell the story of how during the war, she attached a love letter to her 2oz bar of ration chocolate before dropping it from her aircraft as she flew over Aylesbury where,  our father to be,  Reg  was posted at the time. Tied to her parcel was a note telling the finder to keep the chocolate, but please deliver the letter to Reg Moggridge! He always received his post.  A perfect example of our mother’s  adventurous, romantic, fun loving spirit.

"A spokesperson was needed; perhaps I should say a spokeswoman. She appeared in the person of Miss Pauline Gower. Her name was internationally renowned, her influence in flying circles formidable. It would have taken a courageous person to resist the cogency and urgency of her arguments."

Love Note

"I had dispensed with the refinement of a handkerchief parachute since I had landed in a Hurricane under the eyes of a very senior A.T.A. officer with Reg’s note fluttering brazenly from the tail."

Jackie and Reg July 1942 during a precious weeks leave

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"Radio communication, the most powerful weapon in flying’s unceasing battle against weather, was denied us for security reasons. Once in the air we were on our own: ex-communique."

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"As I recognized the face that had inspired me during my brief flying career and had flitted on the world’s headlines for a decade. Idiotically I rushed to her and gushed:

‘Miss Johnson, may I have your autograph?’ She stared at me, astonished. There was a painful silence. Oh God, I wished the floor would open up and devour me. How could I have behaved so inanely. Suddenly she grinned:  ‘My dear child. I’ll swap it for                                     yours."

Visit the ATA Museum Maidenhead Heritage Centre

Ann Diamond has!

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ATA Museum website

link here https://atamuseum.org

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After Pauline's tremendous organisation of the women in the ATA Jackie's mentor sadly died giving birth to her twin boys.  But she left a legacy for women to achieve anything the boys could.

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"If I were lucky I would be over the hill-less sea. If not, I had not long to live."

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Jackies Logbook: The ATA  often flew 5 or more planes a day.

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Jackie wrote this poem on a tiny

scrap of paper.

 

Ode to Amy

‘Twas a cold and foggy night

At Warton’s secret field

The controller shook with fright

At what the clouds revealed

An aircraft from the past

Did glide towards the ground

And he did stare aghast

At the ghost which made no sound.

 

Instead of space age jets

Which scream and tear in from the sky

He watched the ghostly Anson slide quietly by

He thought the night’s dark tricks

Where playing on his mind

For when the craft stopped still, a young girl, out she climbed

With a jaunty skip and red lipstick and hair blowing in the wind.

But stare as he might that misty night, sight of the pilot he could not find.

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"I was the last to depart, my destination commonplace Downhill Farm, a mile or two away."

The ATA made  309 thousand and eleven  deliveries Jackie was to make 1438 of them.

Pauline Gower with the first 8 ATA women. Their uniform was a skirt which proved difficult when flying so they were allowed to wear trousers to fly hence this sign found outside the Mess.

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The first ATA Pilots reminder book was very serious the 2nd edition here was filled with amusing cartoons to get the message across.

The Mess sign said:

"ALL LADIES MUST REMOVE

THEIR TROUSERS ON

ENTERING THE MESS."

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Candy at WW2 party wearing her mothers uniform, her Dad did a double take when he saw her.

‘What’s going on?’ I gasped giddily.

‘Do ye no ken?’ he grinned broadly.

‘Is it Peace?’

"Peering through a veil was a singular experience after a decade of peering through goggles. I took a quick look at Reg sitting beside me and felt a wave of encouragement that he too wore the stiff mask of shyness."

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This silver card tray was given to Jackie engraved with all the girls names in No 15 Ferry Pool

ATA bases over UK from where they flew 147 types of planes, often five a day!

"A typical day started by reporting to the pool at 8 a.m. to collect the ferry-chits and board the milk-run aircraft that set off each morning on a round-robin flight dropping off pilots at their first collecting point. From there the pilot would start the day’s programme; usually two or three flights, e.g. a Wellington from aerodrome A to aerodrome B. A Hurricane from B to C and a Hudson bomber from C to D and then a dreary train journey with parachute, helmet and maps, back to base and bed. I was still young enough to enjoy every minute of every day"        taken from Spitfire Girl.

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ATA Hamble shows Jackie offering Lady De Billis a sweet. It says Vogue on the back of this picture, 1942.

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"A.T.A., with few mourners, died with the autumn, despite efforts to find a square hole for it in the paroxysm of peace."

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Jackie and Reg were married on 12th January, 1945 at St George’s Catholic Church in Taunton. Here they are pictured with their bridesmaids, Sally Malthouse (left) and Barbara Gill (right).

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Jackie in a Kat Oxford 1944

Note written by jackie on back of Picture taken at 2000ft in an Anson March 1943   and sent to Reg on the back.

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Galmour ATA covergirl in Picture Post. Jackie is featured inside examining logbook and inside a Spit

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Did you have a job in the olden days Granny?

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