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Forces War Records Blog

LIFE OF A WWII ATA PILOT: FAILING TO DELIVER COULD DAMAGE BRITAIN’S ATTACK

Blogger: GemSen Even though it was 73 years ago, World War II, Air Transport Auxiliary pilot, Joy Lofthouse, will never forget the scenes that were playing out in Britain’s skies, during the Battle of Britain. She will also never forget those who lost their lives during the vital aerial conflict between the British Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe. Taking place from July to October,1940, the Battle of Britain was the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date. At the time of the battle, 90-year-old, Ms Lofthouse had not yet joined the ATA and was working in a bank at the time. She knew of friends who were killed in the conflict though, including a boy who was a good pal of hers and a former grammar school classmate who was also killed in action. This never put her off joining the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) though, and at just 20-years-old she decided to train as a pilot in 1943, after hearing the news that they had fallen short of qualified flyers.
 
The necessity of training more pilots in secondary roles to release front line pilots for active service led to the formation of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). Over the course of the war, 150 women flew with the ATA, and duties included delivering new planes from factories to RAF units and shuttling planes back for repairs. All ATA pilots were civilians, as the RAF thought it unacceptable to have women pilots flying military aircraft. Ms Lofthouse’s life during wartime changed drastically and as a pilot in the ATA she learned how to expertly fly 18 different planes. Then she adopted the dangerous task of transporting them from manufacturing factories to RAF bases, all over the UK.

Serious responsibility This was a serious responsibility and failing to deliver could damage Britain’s attack against the enemy. Every fighter pilot that flew into the Battle of Britain was buttressed by thousands of civilian and military personnel of the support teams, and the ATA worked behind the scenes making sure that fighter aircraft went into battle and got back to base. After two years, Ms Lofthouse retired from the ATA but she still looks back with fond memories of her time as a pilot in the ATA. “My time in the airforce was fantastic, I absolutely love it,” Ms. Lofthouse told local news website ‘this is Gloucestershire’. “During those days, we were not so affected when you heard someone had died. It was a case of stiffening your back and getting on with it. When you think about how many were killed during those days, everyone lost a loved one. It was tough, we had to go on, but we remember them all,” she added. After the Battle of Britain, the RAF claims to a casualty of 1495 aircrew - the names of which can be found in a memorial book, which can be found in the Battle of Britain Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Source: War History online & ‘This is Gloucestershire’ Can any of your family members remember what life was like during World War II and the Battle of Britain? Did any of them serve? Are you looking for more information? Visit Forces War Records and search our wealth of records. Delve into our ‘historic documents’ library and read some of the interesting war diaries that we get sent – there’s nothing quite like reading a personal account of war as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. Forces War Records are fortunate to receive such amazing real life war stories involving lashings of courage, and now you can read some of them – completely free of charge.
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