It can be surprising what catches your eye looking through our weekly Just Ordered list (available as a RSS feed from our website). A couple of months ago I spotted the title Spitfire Women of World War II by Giles Whittell, the brief description told me that it was about the women who ferried military aircraft from the factories in Britain to the bases. Some time ago I had read about American women performing the same task on a website A People At War.
Spitfire Women tells the stories of the remarkable women who came from all over the world to fly a variety of aircraft, often with no more preparation than an hour with a handbook, in all kinds of weather and without any instrument training. They came from a variety of backgrounds, from aristocratic European families to South American farmers – some didn’t even speak English and only two (from Poland) were considered part of the military. While they all started out on the older and slower craft, it was the Spitfire that they all wanted to fly as they felt that its graceful lines and fine controls were designed just for them.
Shortly after returning this fascinating book I spotted another, similar looking book, Spitfire: portrait of a legend by Leo McKinstry. This one tells the story of how the Spitfire came to be the fighter plane that every pilot, male and female, wanted to fly. As in the Spitfire women book, the personalities loom large and in many cases seem to threaten the project, and Britain’s defence, from the start. It’s more history than biography, however, and sometimes gets a bit bogged down in the politics, but nevertheless its engaging reading.
Two things have come out of this reading for me – one is a renewed interest in the second world war – and there’s no limit to the reading and watching that the library has available on that topic. The second is a renewed interest in flying and I’ve been on my first training flight at the Christchurch Flying school. Its a great thing to have a go at, and a fabulous gift – if you want to give it a go there are a number of places that you can go to: see our listing of flight schools in CINCH.