100-Year-Old WW2 Pilot Shares Memories Of Military Career


Eleanor Wadsworth joined the ATA at the beginning of the Second World War (Picture: SWNS).

One of Britain's last surviving female pilots from World War Two has shared memories of her wartime role.

Eleanor Wadsworth joined the Air Transport Auxiliary trainee pilot scheme after war broke out in 1939.

Born in 1917 in Nottingham, Eleanor was one of 166 women accepted into the ATA and managed to fly 22 different aircraft including the iconic Hurricane, Spitfire and Mustang.

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

Eleanor, who now lives in Suffolk 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% got verified out of everyone who applied.

Eleanor Wadsworth
Eleanor Wadsworth piloted aircraft until the very end of World War Two (Picture: SWNS).

"It was out of a wide range of people, it wasn't just females - they wanted people who had never flown before."

Eleanor her mother and her two younger siblings, Janet and George were sent to Haddenham Airfield in Buckinghamshire to start the first leg of her training.

Since then, the now great-grandmother of seven and grandmother of five, has flown to the United States, around Washington, Seattle, Alaska, Glacia, Clatonia as well as across the United Kingdom.

Eleanor says before learning to drive the aircraft she had to do meteorological training, learning the internal combustion, different engines and navigation. Eleanor said:

"I was able to fly solo after 12 hours of training - from never being able to fly before.

"But it takes a lifetime to be able to learn to fly perfectly.

Eleanor Wadsworth's logbook
Eleanor Wadsworth's logbook from her military career (Picture: SWNS).

"Navigation was also really important because we never had any air to ground connection in those days.

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

Eleanor 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.

Eleanor, who was married to Bernard Wadsworth - a flight engineer for ATA - for 71 years, said she piloted until the last day of the Second World War - also when ATA closed down in 1945.

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, Eleanor had flown 590 flying hours, 430 of which were flown solo.

Eleanor's 101st birthday is on the 15 October.

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