Saturday 25 January 2020

One of the last surviving female World War Two pilots dies aged 101

Mary Ellis died at her home on the Isle of Wight on Wednesday.

Mary Ellis delivered spitfires and bombers during the war(Ian West/PA)
Mary Ellis delivered spitfires and bombers during the war(Ian West/PA)

Josh Payne

One of the last surviving female Second World War pilots has died at the age of 101.

Mary Ellis delivered spitfires and bombers during the war as a member of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA).

She flew over 1,000 aircraft during the conflict before moving to the Isle of Wight to manage Sandown airport from 1950 to 1970.

In 1961, she married fellow pilot Don Ellis, who she lived with by the runway of the airport until his death in 2009.

She joined the ATA in 1941 after hearing a radio advertisement and flew over 400 spitfires and 47 Wellington Bombers during World War Two.

Earlier this year, she was given the freedom of the Isle of Wight after being described by council leader Dave Stewart as a “national, international and island heroine”.

Eleanor Wadsworth, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, Nancy Stratford, who lives in the US, and Jaye Edwards, who lives in Canada, are now the only three surviving female pilots from the Second World War.

Leading tributes, the head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, tweeted: “Another terrible loss. Mary Ellis, pioneering female aviator, Air Transport Auxiliary veteran, an inspiration to generations.

“I’ll always remember her proudly reminding us at RAF100 events that she was older than the RAF itself! RIP Mary.”

Paying her own tribute to Ms Ellis, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Twitter: “As an Air Transport Auxiliary veteran, Mary Ellis was truly a pioneering female aviator.

“Meeting her just last month to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Air Force was an honour.

“She was an inspiration to so many. My thoughts are with her many friends and family at this time.”

Red Arrows pilot Mike Ling also tweeted a tribute, saying: “More awful news. RIP Mary Ellis.

“A legend of the Air Transport Auxiliary. Over 1000 aircraft; 76 different types and over 400 Spitfires alone.

“I hope you’re enjoying a well-earned sherry up there with Joy Lofthouse again. Blue skies Ma’am #LestWeForget.”

RAF veteran Sally McGlone said: “RIP Mary Ellis, you have inspired so many women to fly.

“You will always be remembered, with love and thanks. Blue Skies Thank You. Aetheris Avidi – Eager for the Air.”

Last week, Geoffrey Wellum , one of the youngest Spitfire pilots to have fought in the Battle of Britain,  died at the age of 96.

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