Yet another fascinating news story for Chilcotts Auctioneers, who asked me to promote the sale of medals and memorabilia of Joan Hughes, a female WW2 pilot.

Joan was awarded a Civil MBE in 1946 in recognition of her extraordinary contribution to the war effort flying new planes to RAF bases around the country.

Amongst the memorabilia was a scrapbook created by a fan. It contained some interesting and entertaining nuggets of information, which I incorporated into the press release.

Joan was 15 when she took her first solo flight and jsut 17 when she received her pilot’s licence to become the youngest flyer in England. During WW2 she was invited to join the women’s section of the Air Transport Auxiliary, which was responsible for delivering new or repaired planes to RAF bases, freeing up fighter pilots to concentrate on training.  Joan who was the youngest of the group.

She was such a good pilot that she was trained to fly many different types of aeroplane including Hornet Moths and Leopard Moths. She also flew Stirling and Lancaster bombers, although she had to sit on a high cushion, and needed an engineer on board to help her reach the levers and controls. By the end of the war she had flown nearly a hundred different kinds of aeroplane.

The story took an interesting turn when, after the war Joan began a glamorous career as a stunt pilot. She flew Kenneth More’s Spitfire in “Reach for the Sky”; she piloted a replica of the diminutive 1909 Demoiselle in “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines! For me, the best was her turn as Lady Penelope’s stunt pilot in the original Thunderbirds series (which I watched as a child), famously flying under a motorway bridge on the M40 when it was being built. When she retired from flying she moved to live on a farm not that far from where I live, in Dulverton, Somerset.

The story was not just interesting to research, it also left me in awe of this daring woman who seemed to have no fear. I listened to a recording of an interview with her, and she was incredibly down to earth about it all.

Coverage secured includes:

Antiques Trade Gazette

Midweek Herald

Devon 24/7

Also Express & Echo & Medal News

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