WW2 female pilot Eleanor Wadsworth dies aged 103

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Eleanor Wadsworth was one of the last women to have served in the Air Transport Auxiliary of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) which delivered military aircraft to the frontlines during the Second World War. She died at the age of 103, on December 21, 2020.

During the Second World War, most pilots of the RAF were mobilized in combat. Thus, it had to rely on civilian pilots to ferry and deliver military aircraft between factories or maintenance units, and the frontline.  While recruitments were initially limited to men, they eventually spread to women. In total, 164 women nicknamed “Attagirls” joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). Initially confined to non-combatant aircraft, the Attagirls were eventually authorized to fly in the cockpits of legendary fighters such as Hurricanes, Hellcats and Spitfires. Eleanor Wadsworth became one of them when she joined the ATA in 1943.

“Eleanor Wadsworth led the fullest of lives through her career, her family and her volunteering to serve in 1939,” British Defence secretary Ben Wallace said in an homage. “She did so in pioneering fashion, flying 600 hours in 22 aircraft. It was ordinary people doing extraordinary things that defeated fascism and we should never forget Eleanor’s example and achievements.”

Among the aircraft she flew, Eleanor preferred the Spitfire, as she told the East Anglian Daily Times in 2018. Built by the British manufacturer Supermarine, the Spitfire is without a doubt one of the most recognizable fighters of the Second World War. The aircraft, which made its first flight in 1936, was an important contributor to the victory of the Battle of Britain. Fast and agile, it was the perfect interceptor against the dreaded fighters of the Luftwaffe.


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