This book looks at the invaluable work carried out by members of the Air Transport Auxiliary during the course of the Second World War. Comprised of both men and women, it was a civilian organization tasked with the collection and delivery of military aircraft from the factories to the RAF and Royal Navy stations. Men who undertook the role had to be exempt from having to undertake war time military service due to health or age, but other than that there were very few restrictions on who who could join, which accounted for one-legged, one-armed, one-eyed and short sighted pilots being accepted.
Initially it was only men who were allowed to carry out this service, but by December 1939, British authorities were persuaded by Pauline Gower (the daughter of Sir Robert Vaughan Gower, a wartime Conservative MP, and an accomplished pilot in her own right), to establish a women’s section of the Air Transport Auxiliary, of which she was put in charge. The first eight women were accepted in to the service, but it would not be until 1943 that its male and female members received the same pay.
By the end of the war 147 different types of aircraft had been flown by the men and women of the Air Transport Auxiliary, including Spitfire fighter aircraft and Lancaster bombers. These brave pilots were not just British, but came from 28 Commonwealth and neutral countries and their efforts sometimes came at a price: 174 Air Transport Auxiliary pilots, both men and women, died during the war whilst flying for the service.