A later start today as we were visiting a Museum that was just outside York and not far from our hotel. We had an exchange driver today, Colin, as our own driver, Michael, is on stand down but will be joining us at the Museum. The Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington is an excellent museum and has many aircraft on display, from the first kite flown to the latest jets and much in between. The only Halifax in the UK is here at the museum as is a mosquito that is nearing full restoration.
The airfield is as it was when the war finished and as the squadrons returned to civilian life, the volunteers moved in and therefore the museum reflects those times gone by. Most of the buildings have been restored and are as they were during the War.
There are many stories from those War years that go untold. One such story is that of the Air Transport Auxiliary.
There are many stories from those War years that go untold. One such story is that of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). Air Transport Auxiliary was founded at the outbreak of World War II, was a civilian organization which made an enormous contribution to victory by taking over from service pilots the task of ferrying RAF and RN warplanes between factories, maintenance units and front-line squadrons. During the war, 1245 men and women from 25 countries ferried a total of 309,000 aircraft of 147 different types, without radios, with no instrument flying instruction and at the mercy of the British weather. Often they were presented with a type of plane they had never seen before. 173 ATA Aircrew died during the War and a number have no known grave.
The first 8 women joined ATA on New Yearís Day 1940, recruited into this manís world by Pauline Gower, who had made a living giving joy rides. Despite their experience, the women were restricted to flying non-operational types of plane, such as trainers or communications aircraft. They were also paid 20% less than the men, which was typical of the times.
However, it was not long before all that changed as when Pauline Gower eventually won equal flying opportunities for her ladies. On 19 July 1941 Winnie Crossley was the first woman to be checked out on a Hurricane fighter, and from then on the sky was the limit. In autumn 1942 First Officer Lettice Curtis became the first woman to fly a 4-engined bomber, an achievement shared by just 11 ATA women. Finally, in 1943, the women were awarded equal pay to their male colleagues, making ATA one of the first Equal Opportunities Employers. During the war ATA employed 168 women, including the famous trail-blazing pilot Amy Johnson (killed in January 1941).
Following an excellent visit, we boarded our coach and all headed into York to visit the National Train Museum. Many trains and carriages are there at the Museum and all are in superb condition lovingly restored and then looked after by quite an army of volunteers. Following a meeting with Peter from the Research Centre, our special inaugural Steam Train Tour of the UK in late 2017 is well on track.