Veteran of organisation unveils plaque at air museum

Martin Nicholson, left, and Peter Garrod with the plaque, Derek Smith, bearing the Air Transport Auxiliary standard and museum volunteer Marie Taylor carrying the Royal British Legion Women's Section standard.
Martin Nicholson, left, and Peter Garrod with the plaque, Derek Smith, bearing the Air Transport Auxiliary standard and museum volunteer Marie Taylor carrying the Royal British Legion Women's Section standard.

A new memorial has been formally dedicated at Elvington’s Yorkshire Air Museum to the brave aircrews of an organisation set up during World War Two.

The memorial plaque, which is a tribute to the Air Transport Auxiliary, was unveiled by a veteran of the organisation, Martin Nicholson, who is one of the approximately 12 known surviving Air Transport Auxiliary aircrew.

Another veteran, 94-year-old Peter Garrod, drove alone from Southampton to attend the event.

He laid the wreath at the foot of the memorial, in memory of the 173 members of the Air Transport Auxiliary who lost their lives in service.

Members of the Air Transport Auxiliary Association, mostly direct descendants of aircrew, gathered 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 a particular aircraft before being required to deliver it. 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 World War Two.

They mainly flew alone, even big four-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.

Ian Reed, Museum Director, said: “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 and Peter were 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 ceremony took place last Saturday in the Memorial Garden.