A Fleeting Peace

Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire

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Mr G P Fairbairn King's Cup in 1930

The Hon Mrs Margaret 'Margie' Fairweather

 

b 23 September 1901 in Northumberland

b 23 September 1901 in Northumberland, the eldest daughter of Lord Walter and Lady Hilda Runciman.

Her brother Walter (co-Director, with Connie Leathart (q.v.), of Cramlington Aircraft, First Director-General of BOAC, Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron, OBE, etc, etc) became the 2nd Viscount Runciman of Doxford, and her sister Katherine ('Kitty') was adjutant for the Women's Section of the ATA from March 1941.

I sometimes feel that Margie gets a bad press; she was, apparently, quiet and rather withdrawn, (nicknamed 'Mrs Cold Front') and, in photos, always seems to have that far-away look in her (green, btw) eyes. But, her ability, and her devotion to duty and to her friends, were never in doubt.

Margaret King-Farlow 1937 RAeC 1937

She got her RAeC certificate in 1937. In fact, she acquired her first aeroplane from her brother Walter; a 1931-reg D.H. Puss Moth G-ABLG, which he had flown in two King's Cup races.

She had married Roderick Nettleton King-Farlow in July 1925. Their daughter Ann was born in 1931, but they divorced in 1936, and she then married Douglas Keith Fairweather in March 1938. He was a businessman from Glasgow, and her complete opposite - outgoing, irreverent, and very eccentric. 

Margie then sold her aeroplane, and she and Douglas re-registered his Puss Moth G-ABYP in their joint names. Later they also bought a Leopard Moth, G-ACXH.

She had a horrible experience in 1939 when her friend, Dr. Elizabeth Cook, was killed by walking into the propeller of the aeroplane Margaret was about to pilot; they were going to fly to Paris for a holiday, and the plane was standing with the engine ticking over.

Margie Fairweather FAI Cert FAI 1939

So, prior to WWII she was one of the most experienced women pilots in the country, with 1,050 hours of civilian flying, and (from late 1937) was an instructor with the Scottish Flying Club. She had flown Miles Whitney Straights, D.H. Moths, Puss Moths, Tiger Moths, Fox Moths, Leopard Moths, Hornet Moths, Dart Kitten, Taylor Cub, Potez, and Percival Vega Gull, in Belgium, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, France Switzerland and Austria.

mini - margaret fairweather

Not surprisingly then, she was one of the 'First Eight' Women ATA pilots at Hatfield, starting in January 1940. Her training went well: "The handling characteristics of the Service trainer were entirely novel to Mrs. Fairweather, but having once mastered the take-off, she had no further difficulty, and is now able to fly both Master and Oxford satisfactorily. Her cockpit drill is excellent'"

Douglas also joined the ATA as a pilot. He was devoted to Margie; as Lettice Curtis says in Forgotten Pilots: he was once heard to say, "I love Margie, better than any dog I  ever had," and then more thoughtfully, "or even a pig or a cat."

douglas fairweather ata [For more about Douglas, I can recommend 'Brief Glory - the Story of the ATA']

On the 3rd March 1941 she was one of the four women especially praised by Pauline Gower: "The following pilots during the past year have been outstanding from the point of view of hard work and have set an example to others:- Mrs M Wilberforce [exceptional devotion to duty], Miss M Cunnison [great devotion to duty], Hon Mrs M Fairweather [has shown great devotion to duty, and worked hard and conscientiously as a taxi pilot], and Miss J Hughes [has shown devotion to duty]."

[Mona Friedlander, Rosemary Rees, Lois Butler, Gabrielle Patterson and Winifred Crossley also get a mention [they have 'worked hard and conscientiously'], and Pauline added that "had Miss Amy Johnson still been with us [she had been killed on the 5th January], her name would have been particularly mentioned".]

 In May 1941 Margie requested extra leave:

"Dear Commander Whitehurst,

As you know I have a daughter of twelve years of age. She is at boarding school during the term time, but for half of the period of each holidays I am responsible for her care. With the assistance of my family I have managed up to now fairly well without interfering with my work, but I now, owing to reasons of health and occupation I can no longer count on this help and paid help is almost impossible to come by.

In these circumstances I am writing to enquire whether ATA would consider granting me an extra week's leave in the summer, and a fortnight's extra leave at both Xmas and Easter, it being understood that any leave so granted would be without pay."

The request was granted, and Margie and Douglas took Ann for a holiday in a small farmhouse in Western Scotland [where they acquired a baby goat, which Douglas later took with him on at least one ferry flight.]

She and Douglas were both posted to Prestwick (4b Ferry Pool, Northern Area) in November 1941.

On the 14th December, she wrote to Pauline Gower:


"Sunday,

Dear Pauline,

I was hampered in talking to you the other day by the crowd around the telephone, amongst which were persons about whom I wanted to speak.

I am not sure we can make good use of the lady in question at this moment. We need a second ground person in this office but he or she must, as well as doing adjutant duties, be a good shorthand typist. Unless we combine the jobs there isn't sufficient to do. The lady's counterpart is doing 'ops' just now with only moderate success. It would be a pity to get her up here if that falls through. She is too 'choosy' for our mixed bag of aeroplanes to come only as a pilot. I am sorry we raised her hopes so high. Perhaps in a week or two the matter might be reconsidered if you have no other plans in view for her.

I have at last caught a Wellington for myself. I flew it with great pleasure from Prestwick to Sherburne today and am now here on my way back with a Hurricane. I found it very like a big Anson, & I can see no reason why any of the normally hefty of us should find them too heavy. It was tough today & at slow speeds as when coming in to land you have to heave and push but forewarned there is no difficulty. I wonder who of the others have had one and what they think.

We have had a tragedy already in no. 4b FPP. A charming American called Wiley who was posted to us left Speke on Wednesday afternoon & has not been heard of since. It is strange (or perhaps just a matter of psychology) how it always seems to be the nice ones that go and the toughs who remain.

Living in the … hotel as we are doing amongst all the over-night ATA one gets a bit of a … about humanity. I was almost pleased to see Mary H[unter], & Veronica [Volkersz] yesterday by contrast! Douglas is in his element entertaining his visiting pilots; clearly our post war job must be public house proprietors with Douglas as 'mine host'.

Please make Kitty write to me again soon. I loved getting your letters. When are you coming to inspect me? I wish you would.

I would love to have a talk. Are you likely to be at W[hite] W[altham] without warning if I cadge an aeroplane to that point?

with love, Margie."


She was promoted to Flight Captain in February 1942, in charge of the Women's Flight at Prestwick. Her Commanding Officer said that she was a "very reliable and steady ferry pilot ... she has been a very real help to me." Shortly after that, she had her spat with Irene Arckless (q.v.)

 She also had an 'incident' on the 24th March 1943 - flying a Halifax (she was one of only 11 women cleared for 4-engine aircraft), the bolts securing an engine cowling broke away and fouled a propeller. Luckily, she was uninjured.

However, she was in big trouble in May 1943 - some Flight Captain or other (I can't make out the signature) wrote to Pauline:

"It is observed that F/Capt Mrs Fairweather is not complying with Standing Orders re. her hair. Also, this pilot still persists in wearing grey coloured stockings, whereas black is the order. Will you please be good enough to point out to this pilot that the Commanding Officer's Instructions in regard to 'Dress Regulations' must be complied with."

There is a scribbled note "Is anything ever done?", but, indeed, no sign of anything else happening ...

 And then, on the 14th September 1943, (so, when Margie was nearly 42), and rather out of the blue , came this:

"Flight Captain Mrs Fairweather is pregnant and I recommend that her contract is terminated with three months' pay in lieu of notice."

[The ATA policy was that women who became pregnant would have their contracts terminated, to give them 3 months salary. However, Pauline soon discovered that Margie was "not interested in the financial aspect, but would rather have her contract suspended" and added,"I think we might well meet her wishes in this case."]

So, her contract was suspended, and she duly returned back to work on the 15th June 1944. By then, sadly, Douglas was dead; he and ATA Nurse Kathleen Kershaw had crashed in the Irish Sea, on a mercy flight to Prestwick. Douglas and Margie's daughter Elizabeth was born a few days after his death.

And then Margie herself was killed in another crash soon after, on the 4th August 1944. It happened on a communications flight in Percival Proctor III LZ801; the engine 'faded out', she force-landed in a field near Wrexham, but hadn't seen a ditch at the end of it. The aircraft went nose first into the ditch.

percival proctor

She, and her sister Kitty suffering from severe fractures to her right leg, were taken to Chester Royal Infirmary. Margie had serious head injuries; the third person on board, Lewis Kendrick, had minor abrasions. Margie died at 11 p.m., without regaining consciousness.

The technical investigation showed that the vent pipe of the port fuel tank was completely blocked by a film of dope, causing the tank to collapse. "In these circumstances the petrol gauge is likely to have indicated that the tank still contained fuel, when in fact it was dry."

Blame was heaped on everyone involved in ensuring the aircraft had been fit to fly: The Chief Engineer, and the Engineers in Charge at White Waltham, for failing to ensure that it had been serviced properly;  the Officer-in-Charge Air Movements Bay; the Engineering Inspector, for failing to ensure that the fitters were competent, and the two fitters who failed to notice the blocked vent.

The report recommended that procedures were changed, and Proctors modified, to prevent it happening again.

The cause of death was 'extensive skull fracture'; I've not come across any reference to Margie's spectacles shattering and contributing to her death, although this has been suggested recently.

She is buried, together with Douglas, in Dunure Cemetery, South Ayrshire. Near Prestwick.

Fairweather Grave Dunure http://scottishwargraves.phpbbweb.com/

 


28th August 1944

 

Dear Mr d'Erlanger,

You will I hope forgive me for being slow to thank you for your kind letter & for what you say of Margaret's work, and I would like especially to thank you for all the kindness and consideration shown to my daughter Ruth & for all the arrangements made for the funeral which we could not have wished otherwise. I would be grateful if you could also pass on our thanks to whoever in the RAF was responsible for allowing her to lie in that little war cemetery beside Douglas. We very greatly valued the kindness that prompted that decision.

I am afraid it will be a long time before Kitty is up & about, but we are glad to have no real anxiety about her.

Hilda Runciman

 


Margie's loss was "a great blow to ATA, for she was not only one of our best women pilots, but in her modest and enthusiastic manner set an almost unequalled example of unselfish devotion to duty."

One of the ATA Women

photo: 1932, aged 17

photo: c.1955, aged c.40

Mr Roland John Falk

'Roly', forever remembered for rolling an Avro Vulcan at Farnborough in 1955, presumably wearing his habitual pinstripe suit and tie.

"Trained by the London Aeroplane Club at Stag Lane. Started commercial flying with Air Commerce Ltd, now [i.e. 1936] busy flying daily Dawn Express newspaper service from Croydon to Paris. Chews his C.D.C. [whatever that means] Thrives on fog."

RAE Farnborough during WWII, including flights on captured German aircraft. Post-war Avro test pilot (especially the Vulcan, of course).

OBE in 1955; died 1985 in Jersey

[With thanks to John Falk, who is Roly's son, and Bill Thorn's (see below) grandson]

King's Cup in 1936

in 1916 when a Flt Sub-Lt, RN

photo: 1920

Flt-Lt Joseph (aka John) Stewart Temple Fall DFC AFC

b. 17 Nov 1895 in Cowichan, Vancouver B.C. Canada

WWI ace with the RNAS (36 victories, making him the 7th-highest scoring Canadian); he stayed in the RAF from its inception in 1918 until he retired in 1945 as a Group Captain.

d. 1988.

Aerial Derby in 1920

photo: 1930, aged 32

Mr Thomas Constantine Fawcett

A Engineer from County Durham

King's Cup in 1931

photo: 1927, aged 29

Mr Austin Bruce Ferguson

A Stockbroker from Surrey

King's Cup in 1930

EB Safety First Feilden

Capt. Earl Bateman 'Safety First' Fielden

b. 14 Oct 1899, Shipley, Yorks

May 1938: "Cdr. E. B. Fielden, of British Airways, has now flown over 100,000 passengers without so much as bruising the very tenderest of them. A lot of his flying was done in the early joy-ride days, operating from small fields, and when chief pilot to Sir Alan Cobham's circus he once took up 768 people in a day. "

Just shows you can't believe all you read: August 25, 1933, "TWO MEN TRAPPED WHEN 'PUANE CRASHES. Pilot Jumps Clear In Time. Three airmen had remarkable escapes when an aeroplane crashed in arriving from Kidderminster for the Scunthorpe (Lincolnshire) hospital air pageant (BHAP) at Ashby yesterday. They were: Captain E. B. Fielden. of the Royal Club, London, the pilot; Mr Clifford Jones, of Blackwood; and Mr Frederick La Croix, Finchley, London. They were taken to Scunthorpe Hospital, but Captain Fielden was not detained.

The aeroplane was about to land when it got into difficulties and crashed into a field of sugar beet near the ground where the pageant was held.  In striking the ground the 'plane toppled over but Captain Fielden managed to jump out. Mr Jones and La Croix were trapped in the cabin, but were soon rescued by Captain Fielden and officials who rushed from the pageant ground. On inquiry at the hospital early this morning it was stated that neither of the men who were detained appeared to be very seriously injured.

Captain Fielden had a narrow escape in September, 1931. when an air liner, of which was the pilot, crashed in flames near Moortown Golf Course in the east Riding of Yorkshire. "

He later 'transferred' to the British Hospitals Air Pageant, (a rival organisation which Alan Cobham regarded as rather a scam), together with Charles W. A. Scott, the Hon. Mrs. Victor Bruce, Pauline Gower. Dorothy Spicer, Capt. R. H. (All-weather) Mclntosh, Capt. Phillips, Capt. Rollason, Flt-Lt. J. B. W. Pugh. Flight-Lieut. A. G. Hill and Col. FitzMaurice, who was the first to fly the Atlantic from east to west.

Later a Wing Commander in WWII; DFC in 1944 for having been responsible for the movements of loaded transports during the Wingate airborne invasion of Burma.

His son, Aircraftman 2nd Class Stanley Earl Spensley Fielden (RAFVR) was killed 8 Mar 1943, age 18.

d. Feb 1985 in Exeter

photo courtesy Phillip Jones

Flt-Lt (Sir) Edward Hedley Fielden KCVO CB DFC AFC

'Mouse', b. 1903. Prince of Wales' (i.e. Edward VII's) pilot, later Captain of the King's (and Queen's) Flights until 1962.

DFC, 1943: "This officer has flown on various operational missions, some of a most hazardous nature. He has displayed a high standard of operational efficiency, setting an example which has contributed materially to the high morale of the air crews under his command. His great organising ability has proved a valuable asset.”

died 1976

King's Cup in 1929, 1930, 1932

photo: 1918, when a Captain in the RAF, aged 20

Capt Maxwell Hutcheon Findlay

killed in the 1936 Schlesinger England-Johannesburg Race; Ken Waller survived the crash

King's Cup in 1930

Schlesinger Race in 1936

photo: 1934, aged 21

Mr Luis Goncelvis Fontes

b. 26 December 1912; brother of Ruth [the family were from Brazil, although he and Ruth were both born in London].

Racing driver [1935 Le Mans winner] and sometime jailbird [spent 3 years in jail - convicted of manslaughter having killed a motorcyclist in a car accident whilst drunk]. Operated a speedboat firm in Torquay.

Killed in WWII: 12th October 1940, when a First Officer with the Air Transport Auxiliary; his Wellington stalled and crashed following engine failure. Buried Mapledurham, Oxfordshire

King's Cup in 1935, 1938

photo: 1933, aged 22

Miss Ruth Fontes

Luis' elder sister

b. 10 March 1911 in London, married Dr Norman Howard-Jones in June 1936.

Her Miles M.2U Hawk Speed Six G-ADOD, was 'built around her', was called 'Jabbawocky' and later competed in the Schlesinger Race to Johannesburg.

d. 1969 in Islington

King's Cup in 1935

photo: 1915, aged 20

Lieut Ernest Leslie Foot MC

b. 19 May 1895 in Pulborough, Sussex

Another WWI ace (5 victories), awarded the Military Cross for 'conspicuous skill and gallantry'.

Killed 23 June 1923 when the Bristol M.1D G-EAVP (which flew in both the Aerial Derby and the King's Cup in 1922) lost a wing and crashed near Chertsey.

Aerial Derby in 1921

Mr Dring Lester Forestier-Walker

born c.1900

1921 was his only Aerial Derby, and he crashed the Sopwith Pup (which he presumably borrowed from its owner Mr Rickards) at Hendon. There is a rumour that he may have been drunk.

The aircraft survived, however (or at least its fuselage did) and is under long-term restoration at RNAS Yeovilton.

d. Dec 1968 in Aylesbury.

Aerial Derby in 1921

photo: 1930, aged 23

Mr Arthur Franklyn

A speedway racer in Manchester in 1929-31 (see also Jack Ormston, below) who was briefly the 'King of the White City'. Retired from speedway and took up a commission with the RAF.

d.1983 in Ipswich, Suffolk


King's Cup in 1931

RAeC 1936

ATA

Mona Renee Vera Ernesta Friedlander

b. 2 June 1914 in London; educated 'abroad', then at the Royal School of Arts in London (Commerce Examinations).

5 foot 5 inches tall; hair and eyes: dark brown. Religion: Hebrew (sic). Father: Ernest Friedlander (German, naturalised 1909). Mother: Russian.

Her uncle, V. Mansfield, was a Colonel in the British Army in WWI.

Mona was in the squad for the British Women's Ice Hockey teams who faced France in 1934 and 1935, but Britain lost the first and only drew the second. She was a defender, playing for her club the London Lambs; against France "probably the fastest skater on either side, and certainly the strongest".

From 1st March 1939 to the end of November, she worked as an Army Cooperation pilot, flying in front of anti-aircraft batteries to help them with the aiming and ranging of guns and searchlights.

She was then one of the 'First 8' women pilots of the ATA, joining on 1st January 1940 as a Second Officer. At the time, she had 600 hours experience, on 'most light types'.

She married Major Alan Forward, M.C. in June 1941; by then, she had had 3 accidents: in October 1940, she failed to get the undercarriage of an Oxford down and locked before landing; she had a forced landing in a Lysander when the engine failed, and another forced landing in March 1941 in a Hawker Hind. She ws exonerated in all 3 accidents.

Her report says "First Officer Forward is a good pilot and a hard worker. She has been unfortunate in the matter of accidents but cannot be held responsible for those she has had. On one isolated occasion she showed bad airmanship - this has not been repeated" but added (rather strangely in view of her ice hockey-playing career before the war), "Physical endurance rather below average."

She was promoted to First Officer in May 1942, but in September hit a parked Anson when taxying a Hudson, then in October suffered from 'Carbon poisoning', remained off sick until February 1942 and then resigned.

During her ATA career, Mona flew 32 types of aircraft up to 'Class 4' (Advanced Twin Engined), including 20hrs on Wellingtons and 10 hrs on Mosquitos.

One of the ATA Women

Mr E Fulford


King's Cup in 1930

 rosemary fuller-hall ata2

Rosemary Lilian Fuller-Hall

b. 25 June 1919 in Hampton, Middlesex; daughter of Charles Fuller-Hall.

5' 7", slight build, fair hair, blue eyes (you might as well know).

Got her RAeC certificate in 1939, became a stenographer (which I think is a sort of shorthand typist, but I could be wrong) for the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company of Canada, was in the A.T.S. from September 1938 to February 1939, and then started with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) on the 2nd December 1941. She was 'W.63' - the 63rd woman ferry pilot (out of, eventually, 168).

rosemary fuller-hall ata

She is mostly interesting for the number of accidents she had :-)

Here is the story of the ups ladder and downs snake of her ATA career :-

- 3 May 1942: Completed Class 1 Training.  ladderPromoted to 3rd Officer (from Cadet)

- 23 Aug 1942: Completed Class 2 Training. ladderPromoted to 2nd Officer

- 6 Dec 1942: snake Accident to Master I N8057 at Hullavington. "Whilst taxying, the a/c skidded off perimiter track into ditch due to the pilot taxying without sufficient care on muddy surface. Pilot IS held responsible."

 - 12 Dec 1942: snake Accident to Fairchild EV774 at Hamble. "A/C overshot on landing and collided with fence due to gross error of judgement on part of pilot. Pilot is held responsible."

- 18 Dec 1942: snakeDemoted to 3rd Offficer.

- 21 Dec 1942: Back to School. "A good average pilot whose flying is quite satisfactory. Her recent accidents have apparently little or no connection with her flying skill, but seem to be purely a question of carelessness. " [That's all right, then].

- 1 Feb 1943:  ladderPromoted to 2nd Officer (again).

- 15 Mar 1943: snakeAccident to Mustang I. "Tail wheel punctured & tyre fell off on take off. Pilot is not responsible for accident." [phew].

- 20 Apr 1943: Completed Class 3 Training. "A hard working pilot of average ability whose flying is quite sound but she must pay very particular attention to her airmanship."

- 30 Apr 1943:  snake Accident to Barracuda P9740. "After landing undercarriage retracted. Pilot selected U/C up instead of flaps. Pilot is to blame.

- 7 May 1943: snake Suspended 3 days with total loss of pay and warned that "another accident, for which she is held responsible, will mean termination of contract."

- 13 Aug 1943: ladderPromoted to 1st Officer. "A keen pilot and a well-behaved officer. Her accidents are entirely due to lack of concentration."

- 30 Sep 1943: Class 4 Training Completed. "Somewhat forgetful with cockpit drill which gives the impression of overconfidence. She should be given ample Class 4 ferrying before being considered for 4+. Average Ability."

 

In Dec 1943, she married Mr Peter Pemberton-Legh and resigned from the ATA.

Total Hours ferrying: 459 hrs 15min.

She later moved to Australia, and died there in 1984.

One of the ATA Women

 

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