Britain's last surviving female World War Two pilot dies aged 103

Britain’s last surviving female World War Two pilot who flew Spitfires, Hurricanes and Hellcats dies at the age of 103

  • Pilot Eleanor Wadsworth died in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk last month
  • She was the last surviving female World War Two pilot before her death
  • She joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) trainee pilot scheme in 1939 

Britain’s last surviving female World War Two pilot has dies aged 103 decades after she flew Spitfires, Hurricanes and Hellcats.

Eleanor Wadsworth died at her home in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk last month, reported The Sun. 

She joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) trainee pilot scheme after war broke out in 1939.

Born in 1917 in Nottingham, Mrs Wadsworth was the last surviving British woman pilot to fly in the Second World War.

Eleanor Wadsworth joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 and continued to serve until 1945

Ms Wadsworth, pictured bottom left, flew 22 types of aircraft during her career with the ATA

Mrs Wadsworth, pictured here on an American Hellcat, was one of  166 women in the ATA

She was one of 166 women who were accepted on ATA and managed to fly 22 different aircraft including the iconic Hurricane, Spitfire and Mustang.

Amazingly, after completing her service at the end of the war, Mrs Wadsworth never piloted another aircraft again

The then 25-year-old was originally working as an architect’s assistant when she saw a notice recruiting people with no flying experience.

Mrs Wadsworth said: ‘The thought of learning to fly for free was a great incentive.

‘We would be trained to transport planes and pilots to and from various airfields.

‘I was one of the first six to be accepted. Only 25 per cent got verified out of everyone who applied.

‘I put my name down without thinking anything else about it and was accepted after passing all the medical checks.

‘Anybody who fulfilled the necessary training was quickly accepted.

‘It was out of a wide range of people, it wasn’t just females – they wanted people who had never flown before.’

Mrs Wadsworth was sent to Haddenham Airfield in Buckinghamshire, to start the first leg of her training.

Details of Mrs Wadsworth’s career are contained in her flight log books, pictured

In total, she spent 590 hours in the cockipit with 430 of them flying solo

Since then, the great-grandmother of seven and grandmother of five, had flown to the United States, around Washington, Seattle, Alaska and around the United Kingdom.

Mrs Wadsworth said before learning how to fly she had to learn about the weather as well as the various aircraft systems such as the engine. She also had to learn how to navigate.  

She said: ‘I was able to fly solo after 12 hours of training – from never being able to fly before. But it takes a life time to be able to learn to fly perfectly. It is not particularly difficult to learn if you are taught to fly properly.

‘You had to have a good idea of maps. Navigation was also really important because we never had any air to ground connection in those days.

This is a painting of one of the spitfires delivered by Mrs Wadsworth during the war

‘We couldn’t phone or get in touch with anyone else. Once we were in the air we were on our own.’

Mrs Wadsworth spent the next few years posted at several of ATA’s 14 ferry pools, earning her Class 3 licence which allowed her to fly light twin-engine aircraft.

Mrs Wadsworth, who was married to Bernard Wadsworth – a flight engineer for ATA – for 71 years, said she was in the cockpit until the very last day of the war in 1945 when the ATA was closed down.

She said: ‘I haven’t piloted or flown a plane since then.

‘I got married at the same time ATA closed, to my husband who continued to work as an engineer.

‘We had our two boys, George and Robert, and I decided to settle down into the domestic life until they grew up.’

At the end of the war in 1945, Mrs Wadsworth had flow 590 flying hours, 430 of which were flown solo.

She added: ‘It’s a very new experience and everybody finds it difficult at first to think in three dimensions rather than two like when you’re driving.

‘But if you are taught properly, it is fine.

‘Now, when I look back at my log book and my pictures I remember little details about that time and it all comes back to me.’ 

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