The Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum is honoured to be dedicating a memorial to the brave and daring aircrews of the Air Transport Auxiliary on Saturday 11th April. The Memorial Plaque will be unveiled by Air Transport Auxiliary veteran Martin Nicholson, (who lives in Otley) who is one of the approximately 12 known surviving ATA aircrew, making him a rare breed indeed. There are expected to be further veterans travelling from the South of England for the special day and families of ATA pilots
Members of the Air Transport Association & direct descendants of aircrew will gather at the Museum from across the UK to witness the unveiling of this tribute to the men and women who undertook the hazardous journeys to deliver aircraft of all types including fighters and bombers from manufacturer to front line squadrons.
Known as ‘ferrying’, the pilots had often never flown particular aircraft types before. To fly the aircraft, they had to refer to the famous ‘Ferry Pilots Notes’, a basic instruction manual of all types that flew with the RAF and allied services during WWII.
They mainly flew alone (even big 4-engined bombers) and without radio communication, which made them very vulnerable to our own anti-aircraft defences. The women pilots were famed in the wartime press as glamour models and included the famous 1930’s air champion, Amy Johnson, from Hull who was tragically killed whilst flying with the ATA in 1941.
Martin Nicholson recalls some details of his ATA service:
“My service career commenced as a volunteer in the Fleet Air Arm when at school in April 1942 training at H.M.S. Daedalus, Lee-on-Solent in the last days of that year. The navy required you to be a seaman before any thoughts of emulating the birds so I passed through H.M.S. St. Vincent at Gosport, Southampton as a ‘Pompey rating’ en route to No.24 EFTS at Sealand, Cheshire where RAF instructors taught me to fly in DH Tiger Moths – going solo in 8.05 hours. At the end of the course I was grounded for some obscure medical reason but as a volunteer I was able to transfer to ATA and continue flying for the remainder of the war. With time and experience I progressed onto twin engine aircraft but I was principally engaged in flying most types of single-engine aircraft, the likes of Hurricanes, Spitfires, Mustangs and Barracudas and Hellcats of the Fleet Air Arm, some twenty types in all.”
Ian Reed, Museum Director comments: “We are delighted to have been asked to add this Memorial to the nation’s Allied Air Forces Memorial, and that these rare veterans like Martin are able to join us to recognise this important chapter in our history. The Museum has previously recognised the women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary within our Women’s Air Services Memorial, but this now includes the men as well. The women stole the glamour within the media but the men made up the bulk of the service.”
The ceremony will commence at 13:30pm on Saturday 11th April in the Memorial Garden. The Standard of the Air Transport Auxiliary is expected to be in attendance, along with that of the Royal British Legion Women’s Section, Paraded by YAM volunteer Marie Taylor. The ‘Last Post’ will be played by Hannah Bandy, a member of our Nimrod crew team, to complete the Act of Remembrance. The ceremony will be conducted by the Revd. “Taff” Morgan MBE RAF Rtd., who is our Honorary Chaplain.
On the day, Nimrod MR2 XV250, is celebrating the 5th Anniversary of its arrival at the Museum with two high speed runs after the ATA ceremony. Other aircraft including WWI fighters, De Havilland Devon and Victor V-Bomber will carry out engine runs during the day.