Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mary Ellis, better known to many as the brave and inspirational female pilot in WWII, who was recently given the Freedom of the Isle of Wight. Aged 101, she sadly passed away on Tuesday this week.
Mary had her first flying lesson in August 1938 and was later trained to fly fighters and bombers. She served as a First Officer in the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) during the Second World War. Flying over 400 Spitfires and Seafires, Mary achieved an impressive record of aircraft flown and was also Commandant of Sandown Airport for twenty years from 1950.
Image: © Ivan Berryman
The campaign was sparked by an email from Anne who’d had a letter published in the County Press the previous year that led nowhere. OnTheWight agreed to help out and launched a petition as well as opening up dialogue with the Isle of Wight council (IWC).
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Image: © Graham Reading Photography
Eleanor Wadsworth (Bury St Edmunds), Nancy Stratford (USS) and Jaye Edwards (Canada) are the only three surviving female pilots from WWII.
Seely: “An inspiration for generations to come”
Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Bob Seely said,
“The Isle of Wight has lost its greatest citizen and my thoughts are with Mary Ellis’s family at this incredibly sad time.
“Her service in the Air Transport Auxiliary ferrying aircraft to frontline squadrons throughout the Second World War is legendary. Mary was truly a heroine – a trailblazer for women – and one who gave so much in defence of our country.
“She was also someone who made the Island her home and contributed so much to it through her management of Sandown Airport for many years.
“Her death is sadly an end of an era but her duty to her country in its time of need will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come.”
Lilley: Freedom of Isle of Wight was long over due
Cllr Michael Lilley and a founder/trustee of Wight Aviation Museum, said,
“I was honoured to have been a member of Isle of Wight Council that awarded Mary the Freedom of Isle of Wight this year which was long overdue.
“It would have been a travesty not to give her the award whilst she was alive. The women British pilots of the Second World War have had their story for far too long stowed away in the archives.
“They and Mary were real heroines and their bravery of flying the planes from factory to front-line was incredible. Mary flew over 2,000 planes from Lancaster Bombers to Spitfires.
“The Wight Aviation Museum will keep her story and her achievements alive, including being the first woman airport commandant in Europe at Sandown in the 1950s. What an amazing woman and I am proud and honoured to have met her.”
Leader: “So lucky to have had such a wonderful person among us”
Leader of the Isle of Wight council, Cllr Dave Stewart, said,
“I would like to express my sadness at the passing of Mary Ellis, who earlier this year was bestowed with the freedom of the Isle of Wight in recognition of the contribution that she like so many other Islanders made during the Second World War.
“I have now asked council officers to look at appropriate ways in which we can further recognise her remarkable life.
“I would like to pass on my condolences to Mary’s family and friends at this very sad time – including, of course, to our own councillor, Clare Mosdell.
“In Mary, the Island has been so lucky to have had such a wonderful person among us, and who gave such great service to her country.”
9.20am Comment from ML and DS added
Top image: © Cam-ARA