A few years ago we had the pleasure of doing a video interview with two of the lady members of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). Although commonly know as the ‘Spitfire Girls’ they actually flew many different types of aircraft. Some even qualified and flew bombers including ‘Heavies’ such as the Lancaster. One female pilot, Lettice Curtis had flown 90 different types of aircraft, including the Spitfire, between 1940 and 1942. By 1945 she had delivered over 1,500 aircraft all around the UK.
As my parents served in the war (as did a number of my Aunts and Uncles – one in the US Army Air Force flying a B17 Flying Fortress) the interview prompted many memories. My father was in RAF Bomber Command but would never talk about his experiences despite me constantly asking what he did. So when Molly and Joy spoke about people ‘just doing what had to be done’ and not really talking about it after the war, it reminded me of my parents and their generation.
In the interview Molly and Joy talk about the fact that they only discovered a few years ago that female ATA pilots were probably the first women in the UK to earn equal pay to men. After the war ended equal pay did not continue – even for those women who continued to serve in the ATA until demobbed.
In another of those strange co-incidences our studios are very close to what was RAF Hamble – which is where Molly and Joy were stationed. Some of the barrage balloons mentioned by Molly and Joy would have only been a few hundred metres from where we are. In fact our studios are on a business park called Mitchell Point – named after the designer of the Spitfire – R J Mitchell.