AN EVENING ONLINE WITH THE AIR TRANSPORT AUXILIARY

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Lincolnshire Branch of the ESU commemorates The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) on the 75th anniversary of its disbandment.

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The 30th November 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the disbandment of this remarkable band of men and women. A commemoration at White Waltham would have been a fitting occasion to pay tribute to them; with the pandemic this has not been feasible, but it is the privilege of the Lincolnshire Branch of the English Speaking Union to present a virtual commemoration of that day, with a talk about its achievements and stories about its members.

The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was a British civilian organisation, set up during the Second World War and headquartered at White Waltham Airfield, that notably ferried new, repaired and damaged military aircraft of all types from factories and maintenance units to active service squadrons and airfields. Famously,1 in 8 of its pilots were women - a total of 166 served and played a crucial part in delivering more than 309,000 aircraft of 147 types to the front line.

ATA’s aircrew came from Britain and 25 other countries, with the women hailing from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, the Netherlands and Poland. Of ATA’s 173 casualties, seventeen women lost their lives in the air, including the British pioneer aviator Amy Johnson and commercial pilot Joy Davison – ATA’s first female loss. Two of the women pilots received the Commodore’s Commendation, and six received an MBE, including the founder of the women’s section, Pauline Gower. A notable American member of the ATA was legendary aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran who returned to the United States and started a similar all female organization.

Lord Beaverbrook, the World War II Minister of Aircraft Production, shortly before the ATA was disbanded in 1945, said:

Without the ATA the days and nights of the Battle of Britain would have been conducted under conditions quite different from the actual events. They carried out the delivery of aircraft from the factories to the RAF, thus relieving countless numbers of RAF pilots for duty in the battle.”

Our Speakers are: Minnie Churchill, the Honorary Commodore of the ATA Association, will give a brief introduction with some reflections about her father. She is the daughter of ATA’s founder, Sir Gerard d’Erlanger; fittingly she follows in her father’s footsteps as he held the rank of Commodore when he commanded the ATA throughout its existence.

John Webster, Secretary of the ATA Association, has carried out extensive research of the ATA’s history, including interviews with those who served in it. His talk will be both commemorative and well illustrated to suit the occasion.

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