The story of the unsung heroines who flew the newest, fastest, aeroplanes in World War II – mostly in southern England where the RAF was desperately short of pilots.
Why would the well-bred daughter of a New England factory-owner brave the U-boat blockades of the North Atlantic in the bitter winter of 1941? What made a South African diamond heiress give up her life of house parties and London balls to spend the war in a freezing barracks on the Solent? And why did young Margaret Frost start lying to her father during the Battle of Britain?
They – and scores of other women – weren't allowed to fly in combat, but what they did was nearly as dangerous. Unarmed and without instruments or radios, they delivered planes for the Air Transport Auxiliary to the RAF bases from which male pilots flew into battle. At the mercy of the weather and any long-range enemy aircraft that pounced on them, fifteen of these women died, among them Amy Johnson, Britain's most famous flyer. But the survivors shared four unrepeatable years of life, adrenaline and love.
The story of this 'tough bunch of babes' (in the words of one of them) has never been told properly before. The author has travelled to four continents to interview all the surviving women pilots, who came not just from the shires of England, but also from the U.S.A, Chile, Australia, Poland and Argentina. Paid £ 6 a week, they flew up to 16 hours a day in 140 different types of aircraft, though most of them liked Spitfires the best.
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‘Thrilling…I love this kind of book.’ Times
‘Some of the Air Transport Auxiliary's female pilots may have objected to being called “tough” simply because they were women – but they were as tough as nails all the same, as this superb account makes clear. They flew unarmed, without instruments, in atrocious weather, and hardly paused to grieve when their comrades started crashing into hillsides. At long last these magnificent women have the tribute they deserve.' Sir Ranulph Fiennes
‘Impeccably researched and written…and absorbing.’ Times ‘Books of the Year’
‘The strength of Whittell's book is as a collection of stories of unusual young women living colourful loves and doing skilled, resourceful, brave and risky work, which cost sixteen of them their lives.’ TLS
‘[a] most engaging book…[with] intensely human stories. Whittell tells the story with suspense, perfect context and technical detail. It is quite impossible to read Whittell's book without emotional engagement…one is all but overwhelmed by the sense of utter admiration. And of gratitude, indeed.’ Times
‘An eye–opening and at times very moving illustration of the courage and sacrifice of women who deserve to be remembered alongside their more celebrated male counterparts.’ Literary Review
‘The breadth of Whittell's research leaps of the page in telling encounters with the now–aged survivors’ The Scotsman
'Extraordinary stories of women who had little fear and minimal concern for the enormous step they were taking in banging “Good grief, it's a girl!” condescension on the head.' Good Housekeeping
‘Giles Whittell's affectionate book reads like a Boy's Own adventure turned on its head…and uncovers some exceptional tales.’ Financial Times
‘A stirring story, well told.’ TabletReview:
'An extraordinary tale of stoicism and sisterhood...their story is remarkable...this book is a fitting memorial'
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Book Description HarperPress, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110007235356
Book Description HarperPress. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0007235356 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW4.0002370
Book Description HarperPress, , 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0007235356
Book Description HarperPress, , 2007. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service!. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0007235356