After the service were Spitfire tributes – hear audio whilst you read this report.
AUDIO LINK: Mary Ellis Memorial Service SPITFIRE DISPLAY over Northwood House, Cowes Isle of Wight, 24th September 2018
The elderly woman behind me in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Cowes, sang with gusto, in her clear, rousing soprano.. ” We plough the fields and scatter… ” She is a link between my generation and the formidable, wonderful woman, for whom the congregation had gathered to pay tribute – ‘ Spitfire Girl ‘ Mary Ellis.
Throughout the service, memories rolled back the years to Mary’s first flight as a young girl, as a passenger in a bi-plane of Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus in the1930’s; hearing an appeal for women pilots on the BBC ‘ wireless ‘; joining the Air Transport Auxiliary. Mary had also told of landing a four engine aircraft only to be confronted by the ground crew, disbelieving that she was the pilot.
Group Captain Anne-Marie Houghton recalls Mary telling her that on 6th June 1944 she had flown above the English Channel and on her return journey noticing that the flotilla of ships, seen earlier in the morning, had departed in the afternoon – D-Day had begun the push for freedom on the Continent. Group. Capt. Houghton realised that on the same day – 6th June, she too was flying in the same airspace, on the same date, as Mary had many years before.
Rosemary Martin, Mary’s niece, felt that her aunt would have been ‘ astonished ‘ at the gathering as she was very modest. ‘ ‘ Mary was never frightened and did just get on with things. ‘ Reverend Andrew Poppe told the congregation that Mary’s contribution was ‘ immense. Her place in the history of the nation and the knowledge of what she did in those heady days of World War 2 have brought her to the forefront…. she was a beacon of what women can do. ‘
The gathering of press and guests gasped and fell silent – the Spitfire, piloted by Dan Griffiths approached at speed and climbed into a loop above Northwood House, Cowes, Isle of Wight. He then gave a display that thrilled and excited all there. Weaving, looping and rolling around the sky, all too soon the display was over and having been ‘ playing in the clouds ‘ as Mary had been won’t to do, he victory rolled the Spitfire a final time and gave our ‘ Spitfire Girl, ‘ Mary the traditional farewell, dipping each wing in turn. Her beloved Spitfire then disappeared into the clear blue skies.
Photographs and words : Tony Knight photography & MEDIA.
44 – (0)1962 – 852124
M 07532 – 697 -902