Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis do not have any blue plaques in their honor but we here at Virago, think that these incredible women deserve one and at least an article for you to know about their story !
Joy and Mary were two World War 2 pilots. They flew planes before any navigation system was installed. Both of them were part of the only 168 ‘Attagirls’ who served. Women in the Air Transport Auxiliary were the first in Britain to claim equal pay
Joy Lofthouse decided to join the ATA after her sister and her saw an ad in a magazine which was seeking women to learn how to fly. Only 17 out of 2,000 applicants were accepted, including Joy, who had never even driven a car, and her sister Yvonne. Her job was to deliver aircraft from factories where they were made to the airfields where they were to be flown from by Royal Air Force pilots. Lofthouse flew 38 different types of aircrafts. After World War 2, Joy became a teacher.
At 92 years old, Joy Lofthouse flew a Spitfire more than 70 years since her last flight. It was to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day. The allies formally recognised Germany’s surrender on the 8th of May. Lofthouse passed away on the 16th of November 2017 at the age of 94. She was one of the final two surviving World War Two Spitfire Girls and will aways be remembered here at Virago as a powerful and inspiring woman.
Mary Ellis is the last known surviving pilot of the ATA. She joined the ATA in 1941, after hearing an advert for women pilots on BBC radio. Mary flew 76 different types of planes and most of the time, without any instruction at all. All she had was a compass, stopwatch and map to find the airfields.
The veteran celebrated her 100th birthday in February 2017. After flying the Spitfire again few months ago, Ellis told the BBC this particular airplane was a symbol of freedom. She has been awarded the Freedom of Isle of Wight at a council meeting in Newport earlier this year.
To mark 100 years of the Royal Air Force brothers Ewan and Colin McGregor met these two female WW2 pilots for a BBC documentary.
By Justine Chalabi