Audrey MacKenzie (nee Macmillan) and the ATA

Discussion in 'The Women of WW2' started by Alanlweeks, Dec 22, 2012.

  1. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    I am researching the Brocklehurst family of Swythamley, who were lords of the manor round here until 1975. Sir Philip Brocklehurst's 2nd wife was Audrey Evelyn Mackenzie, nee Macmillan, daughter of shipbuilder Hugh Miller Macmillan of Helensburgh in Scotland.

    Audrey joined the Air Transport Auxiliary as one of the first 20 women pilots and I am trying to find out more about her time in the ATA. She doesn't appear to have been one of the more prominent girls and in the books I've read she only gets a brief mention, if at all. If anyone can suggest additional good sources I might tap I'd be very grateful.

    I have read four books on the ATA:

    • Forgotten Pilots by Lettice Curtis
    • Spitfire Women by Giles Whittell
    • Sisters in Arms by Helen Schrader
    • Spreading my Wings by Diana Barnato Walker

    The information I have gleaned so far is:

    Audrey Macmillan

    She joined on 26 June 1940 as a private pilot[FONT=&quot][/FONT] (so presumably had never been employed as a pilot) and left, as Audrey Mackenzie, a 1st officer, on 8 August 1945. She would have flown large twin-engined planes such as the Wellington Bomber.

    She joined at Hatfield. In August 1940 she was sent with Audrey Sale-Barker and Lettice Curis to familiarise themselves with the Fox moth, so they could become junior taxi pilots[FONT=&quot][ii][/FONT] (i.e. ferry transport pilots back home). Shortly after they graduated to Magisters, a monoplane.

    In September 1941 she moved to Hamble with Audrey Sale-Barker, Lettice Curtis and 7 other women – Margot Gore being Captain and Commanding Officer, and Rosemary Rees as Flight Captain. According the Lettice this was ‘about a strong a flying team as we could muster’.[FONT=&quot][iii][/FONT] Hamble had come into being to clear the Spitfires from the factory at Southampton. The main supporting tasks were Oxfords (twin-engines) from Portsmouth and Christchurch, and some American aircraft and Blenheims from Eastleigh, requiring Margot Gore and Philippa Bennett to undergo Class 4 conversion, which also included Wellington bombers. Some male pilots were also at Hamble to fly any aircraft the women were not qualified for.

    The two ‘Audries’ were known as flirts, always angling for male help.[FONT=&quot][iv][/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot][/FONT] Forgotten Pilots p38, p314.
    [FONT=&quot][ii][/FONT] Forgotten Pilots p45.
    [FONT=&quot][iii][/FONT] Forgotten Pilots p109.
    [FONT=&quot][iv][/FONT] Spitfire Women

    Her step-nephew recalls she talked about flying across the Atlantic as well which would suggest she perhaps was seconded from the ATA to something like ATFERO but I have found no evidence to back this up.

    I also have the attached pictures.


    Attached Files:

  2. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    I have read four books on the ATA:

    • Forgotten Pilots by Lettice Curtis
    • Spitfire Women by Giles Whittell
    • Sisters in Arms by Helen Schrader
    • Spreading my Wings by Diana Barnato Walker

    Just read Golden Wings by Alison King too, published in 1956.

    This is a book by an Operations Officer, and written from her perspective rather than a pilot's. It is very informal in style, almost chatty, and conveys the atmosphere well, primarily at Hamble Ferry Pool, together with - necessarily 2nd hand - accounts of some of the pilots' experiences. I wouldn't read it as my first book on the ATA as she makes assumptions the readers know about certain concepts and background. It does convey an interesting, different perspective on the organisation, however.

    Despite Audrey Macmillan/Mackenzie being at Hamble, Alison King doesn't mention her once. But then again some of the others aren't mentioned, either, and even Lettice Curtis, one of the most prominent lady ATA pilots only figures briefly in her story.
  3. RAFCommands

    RAFCommands Senior Member


    The ATA Museum at Maidenhead is an excellent resource for general and some more specific questions. Well worth starting here.

    Air Tranpsport Auxiliary (ATA) gallery

    I've linked to the Gallery page because there is a group photo of the Hamble Spitfire pilots.

    The main service files for the ATA crews are held at RAF Museum Hendon as they were all signed up as aircrew of BOAC. The files include assessments of flying ability, postings and some truncated logs. Also are extensive account and salary notes.

    You need written permission from the NoK to view but if you can get this no better source survives.

    I'll add some redacted images from an ATA service file as examples of content.

    The service files were transferred as part of the BOAC archive to the RAF Museum but other parts includng photos survive in the British Airways Heritage Collection.

    British Airways - History and heritage


    Attached Files:

  4. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    Thanks for that. I must indeed visit Maidenhead sometime. Audrey is almost sure to be on that Spitfire picture taken at Hamble but I can't identify her alas.

    I have tried to trace her only child, a daughter, but so far without success.

    Thanks for the BOAC info too - that is new to me.
  5. richardmcgg

    richardmcgg New Member

  6. Alanlweeks

    Alanlweeks Member

    Thanks Richard, not been on the forum for a while.

    Echo was quite well known in these parts at the time she lived round here. I'll get in touch.


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