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The Wings To Fly - a Story of a Female Pilot in World War Two

Updated on April 19, 2017

The Female Pilots of World War Two

This was a fascinating chapter of history. When we think of World War Two and particularly the Battle of Britain we tend to think of the brave young men who flew in Spitfires and Hurricanes against German bombers. The casualty rate among these brave young men and boys was terrifying. Many did not even survive training, let alone their first mission. The same applied to the Eagle Squadrons who came from the States to join the RAF before America had entered the War. Someone had to keep them supplied with new and reconditioned aircraft and that burden fell on the ATA, or Air Transport Auxiliary.

The ATA was a group of men and women who flew aircraft from factory to airfield, from RAF camp to repair establishments and they flew as civilians. Some were retired RFC (Royal Flying Corps) and RAF pilots, many were flying enthusiasts and some were young girls who just wanted to fly and emulate heroines like Amelia Earhart.


Amy Johnson A Heroine of World War Two

Amy Johnson, legendary aviatrix from Hull, who was killed while flying for the ATA.
Amy Johnson, legendary aviatrix from Hull, who was killed while flying for the ATA.

Jackie Cochran

Jackie Cochran, founder of the WASPs in the USA and outstanding aviator, who organised for the "Ladybirds" to go to the UK.
Jackie Cochran, founder of the WASPs in the USA and outstanding aviator, who organised for the "Ladybirds" to go to the UK.
Jackie Cochran with General Hap Arnold who assigned her to investigate how the British were using female ferrying pilots in the war effort.
Jackie Cochran with General Hap Arnold who assigned her to investigate how the British were using female ferrying pilots in the war effort.

Jackie Cochran, the ATTA Girls, Ladybirds and WASPs

The women pilots in Britain were drawn from the ranks of aviators and enthusiasts. Many were highly competent fliers; some, like Hull's Amy Johnson, were legendary. American aviatrix, Jackie Cochran, was interested in training women pilots to perform a similar role supporting their male colleagues in non-combat positions in the US Army Air Force and was assigned by General Hap Arnold to investigate how the women pilots in Britain performed their duties with the Air Transport Auxiliary. With Arnold's blessing, she flew a bomber across the Atlantic to Scotland, spoke to the female pilots in Britain, flew with them as a ferry pilot and trained a group of experienced American female pilots to fly with the ATA in Britain. They were sometimes called Ladybirds in Britain and Jackie herself called them the ATTA Girls.

In The Wings to Fly, the main character Midge is selected to go to England and fly with the ATA. Later, she returns to the states for family reasons and joins Jackie Cochrane's WASPs.

The Wings to Fly Cover Reveal

Amelia Earhart in 1928

Amelia Earhart poses by her biplane in 1928
Amelia Earhart poses by her biplane in 1928

What is the Wings to Fly about?

Midge, the main character has always loved flying and the novel is also a coming of age experience for her. In the novel, she discovers who she really is and grows through both love and loss. It is written in an autobiographical style and takes in her childhood, adolescence, and first love in the first section. Amelia Earhart is a great influence on Midge early in the story. She wants to fly more than anything in the world but her wings are clipped by an early marriage to Richard Brayburn.

Then when war breaks out she is drawn in by her father's wartime experience with the RFC. She applies to join the "Ladybirds" and goes to Britain as a ferry pilot with the ATA when Richard joins the Marines. When she crashes a Tiger Moth trainer near Wellingore in Lincolnshire, she meets land girl Rose, who is no stranger to tragedy herself, and her whole world is thrown into chaos. Along the way, we learn about the vital work of the land girls in Britain and the relationships between them and the RAF boys also stationed in Lincolnshire. We experience the exhilaration and the reality of flight and also the poetry of John Magee Jnr, who makes an appearance as a tragic character in the story. The controversial truth of Amy Johnson's death is told, as is Jackie Cochran's story.

Finally,when Midge's brother is killed on a Morlaix mission with the Eagle Squadron, she returns to the USA to support her mother and Lizzie, whom she now realises she loves. Her husband Richard is injured in an act of heroism at Guadalcanal and her flying is brought to an end when she discovers that she is expecting his child and that he will need care.

What will become of them all? To find out, you must read The Wings to Fly for yourself. It is free with Kindle Unlimited.

The Work of the Women's Land Army

Throughout the war, feeding the population of Britain as well as its Armed Forces was a huge undertaking. Most men who were fit to work went to fight even though farming was a protected occupation. Throughout the nation, women were drafted into factory work, munitions and of course farming. Colleges were set up to train some, others were trained on the job. These women worked very hard and a large part of The Wings to Fly tells a story about their work and living conditions, the fun they had, the hardships and the heartbreak they experienced.

Backs to the Land with the Women's Land Army

John Gillespie Magee Junior, Poet and Pilot

John Magee Junior, Poet and Pilot

John's story is woven into the novel as he was based at RAF Wellingore and billeted near Wellingore Hall. Sadly he was killed while in training for a "Big Wing" formation. It was a freak accident and, after losing a wing in the mid-air crash, he was too close to the ground for his parachute to open. Much of the tragedy of war for me is the unrecognised loss of young lives in training. John Magee was a young man with tremendous energy and talent and his poem High Flight has rendered him both world famous and, in a way, immortal. In The Wings to Fly, John is shown as a pleasant, adventurous and modest young man, a life cut far too short, and he is remembered fondly in our part of the world to this day for his sacrifice.

Spitfires

High Flight

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

Where to get The Wings to Fly

The Wings to Fly
The Wings to Fly

The Wings to Fly is a historical novel about pilots, land girls and the female ferry pilots of the Second World War. It is available worldwide in Kindle and also Paperback in the USA, Canada and Great Britain. It is free to read with Kindle Unlimited and will interest WW2 aviation enthusiasts, those who want to learn more about women's roles in wartime and anyone who enjoys LGBT history.

 

Spitfire Sisters - a full length documentary

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    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 6 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Oh that was really was interesting to read. Amy Johnson was, indeed, a heroine.

    • profile image

      Janiel Mbofana 6 months ago

      Great storyline, super creative. Unique and seems mature and very interesting to read. Very apealing to both young and old people