One of last surviving female WWII pilots dies aged 101

Mary Ellis died at her Isle of Wight home on Tuesday (Ian West/PA wire)
Mary Ellis died at her Isle of Wight home on Tuesday (Ian West/PA wire)

ONE of the last surviving female Second World War pilots has died at the age of 101.

Mary Ellis delivered spitfires and bombers during the war as a member of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA).

She flew over 1,000 aircraft during the war before moving to the Isle of Wight to manage Sandown airport for twenty years between 1950 and 1970.

She had an interest in planes from a young age, thanks to her parents.

“I was interested in aeroplanes from almost the year dot,” she said.

As a child, her father paid a flying circus to take her on a pleasure flight in a de Havilland 60 Moth. “I think that sealed my fate forever,” she later recalled.

In 1961, she married fellow pilot Don Ellis, who she lived with by the runway of the airport until his death in 2009.

She joined the ATA in 1941 after hearing a radio advertisement and flew over 400 spitfires and 47 Wellington Bombers during World War Two.

Earlier this year, she was given the freedom of the Isle of Wight after being described by council leader Dave Stewart as a “national, international and island heroine”.

However her war efforts were not always fully appreciated.

In a previous interview, she described the moment she landed a plane and the men on the ground didn’t believe that a woman had landed the Wellington bomber she had just flown.

“They actually went inside the aeroplane and searched it,” she recalled.

“Everybody was flabbergasted that a little girl like me could fly these big aeroplanes all by oneself.”

Leading tributes, the head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, tweeted: “Another terrible loss. Mary Ellis, pioneering female aviator, Air Transport Auxiliary veteran, an inspiration to generations.

“I’ll always remember her proudly reminding us at RAF100 events that she was older than the RAF itself! RIP Mary.”

Red Arrows pilot Mike Ling also tweeted a tribute, saying: “More awful news. RIP Mary Ellis.

“A legend of the Air Transport Auxiliary. Over 1000 aircraft; 76 different types and over 400 Spitfires alone.

“I hope you’re enjoying a well-earned sherry up there with Joy Lofthouse again. Blue skies Ma’am #LestWeForget.”

RAF veteran Sally McGlone said: “RIP Mary Ellis, you have inspired so many women to fly.”