As some of you might already know I am a bit of a Battle of Britain nut, so I was recently intrigued to hear that the surviving female members of the Air Transport Auxiliary are expected to be honoured with a special badge to commemorate their service.
These women may not have actively fought in the battle itself but a case could be made that without their contribution the battle would never have got off the ground. The ATA was responsible for delivering aircraft to RAF bases for their male counterparts to clear the skies of the invading Luftwaffe. It\'s not as easy as it sounds. They may not have been under fire but they were expected to fly in all weather conditions from bad to downright dangerous often without any radio system and in planes they were unpractised in and as a result a number were killed in the line of duty, including the most famous member of the ATA, Amy Johnson. An incredibly experienced pilot she had been the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930. However, she was caught in bad weather while flying to RAF Kidlington. When the aircraft\'s two tanks ran out of fuel she clambered onto the fuselage with her parachute and jumped, but tragically landed in the Thames Estuary and drowned. Nor did the ATA only serve during the Battle of Britain but throughout the course of war logging up an incredible 415,000 hours of flying, delivering more than 308,000 aircraft of 130 types. A total of 164 women flew with the ATA and today there only 15 remain. Personally I think a commemorative badge is probably the least we can do.
If you are interested in reading more about the women of the ATA then Giles Whittel has published a book entitled Spitfire Women of World War II. He highlights some of the real characters of the ATA from the South African diamond heiress to Margot Duhalde, just 19 and from Chile, who travelled all the way to England to fight the Germans. It makes for fascinating reading.