burma leg on Spit
Spitfires to Burma
In 1954 an unusual opportunity occurred when Jackie joined three male pilots who were tasked with delivering 30 Israeli Spitfires from Turkey all the way to Burma. It entailed 9 stops en-route plus the inevitable disbelief that a woman should be capable of, let alone involved and entrusted with, such an important role. Flying the dangerous route (see map top of page) along the borders of Iran and Iraq, not knowing if the desert below them was friend or foe was a fear they all had to overcome. However being a women over war-torn dessert who would know what faced her should she need to do a forced landing on route? This series of exciting adventures are best told in her book, Spitfire Girl my life in the sky. See book link.
Burma here we come!
We set off feeling very brave,
To blaze a Spitfire trail
Across the sky o’er half the world
With ne’er a thought of fail.
The Spits though old and tattered
Did fly so very well,
Until the engine cut on one
But why? no one can tell.
Now out of three, there were but two
To carry on the pace
To reach the land of lovely girls
Led by a Squadron Ace.
Page 2 missing
That here at last they were at home,
The struggle too had ended.
And thinking back they realised
The many they’d befriended.
Now think of all the good it does,
To cross so many lands.
Remember that the world is yours
You hold it in your hands.
By Jackie Moggridge
Now as the RAF(VR) was disbanded Jackie took the job with three men to fly 30 Israeli spitfires to Burma over 6000 miles with 9 stops and did six extremely dangerous trips as had to fly along the border with Iran and Iraq over miles of dessert One morning Rangoon control tower heard her voice on the radio and said to Gordon Levet Squadron leader “You got a woman up there?” he replied "Yes" “What’s she doing sitting on your lap?” On landing they spent 2 hours searching the planes for the fourth pilot not believing it could have been a woman.
‘Yes,’ he affirmed, ‘we have a contract with the Burmese Government to ferry Spitfires from Cyprus to Burma.’
We have full clearance to fly over Lebanon, Syria and Iraq but if the Arabs find out these Spitfires originally came from Israel we’ll be up the creek without a paddle. So keep your mouths shut!’
The route would be: Cyprus-Habbaniya- Bahrain-Sharja-Karachi-Jodhpur-Cawnpore-Calcutta-Rangoon.
"There was an extra tank slung snugly beneath the belly of the Spitfire giving it a mildly obscene pregnant look, and doubling the range from a normal 350 miles to approximately 700. It was a tricky business to change tanks"
"The Spitfires responded obediently to our growing confidence. Below, four miles below, the rivers Tigris and Euphrates flanked us on either side like friendly sheep dogs pointing the way."
"The Spitfire, in a remarkable metamorphosis, became a sleek entity speeding through the air with the grace and omniscience of a bird."
"My Spitfire appeared, parked on the edge of the airfield, as though born of the desert,"
"Shaking, I throttled back until the panic roar of the engine subsided to normal climb power and switched on the radio."
"My parachute straps persisted in slipping off my shoulders and the perspiration struck coldly against my back. Around me the slim cockpit fitted as closely as the latest fashion line."
"Our conflicting and irascible observations confirmed that we were completely lost.
With the aid of a primitive chamois-leather filter we finished refuelling from four-gallon cans as the sun flirted with the horizon and sent blood-red beams across the desert."
Jackie in Israel. Picture for an Israeli newspaper, see press cutting in Arabic in Press Gallery