Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre
Broomfield Industrial Estate, Montrose
To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first flight by a Spitfire and the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre is about to launch The Spitfire Girls Calendar 2016.
The calendar features fabulous photographs taken by local photographer Nell Werninck of girls from the Montrose area dressed in the World War 2 uniforms of the legendary Spitfire Girls, as the female pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) were known.
“I was thinking about producing a charity calendar for Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre when I watched a TV programme about the ATA’s women pilots delivering aircraft to air stations, including Montrose Air Station, during World War Two,” said Neil, who is a founder member of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.
“I suddenly realised that this was the perfect theme for a calendar to raise funds for Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, especially as it has its own replica Spitfire, The Red Lichtie.”
Historian Dr Dan Paton of Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre explained that, that although the women pilots of the ATA did fly Spitfires, in practice, they flew a great variety of aircraft, from Tiger Moths to Lancaster bombers. “They often had experience of flying far more types of aircraft than many RAF pilots,” continued Dan.
“They were not expected to fight the enemy but it was still dangerous work, flying to many different destinations in all weathers. In fact, 15 of them lost their lives, including the famous pilot Amy Johnson, who delivered twin engine Oxfords to Montrose Air Station.
“Despite the danger, Spitfire Girls were not allowed to forget they were women and their uniform featured a skirt, not the most practical garment for flying a plane,” continued Dan. “One ATA pilot recalled getting lost in a Spitfire in bad weather and being faced with a dilemma. Should she bale out or try to find out where she was? She decided that parachuting in a skirt would not be decent so she stuck with the plane and landed safely!”
Having been inspired by the tales of the wartime Spitfire Girls, Neil photographed his 13 models in the highly atmospheric surroundings of Montrose Air Station, the oldest military air base in the UK. “To ensure we captured the look of the Spitfire Girls, The Barber’s Shop in Montrose offered to help with hair and make-up and, as a result, all our calendar stars are the epitome of 1940s glamour,” said Neil.
The Spitfire Girls calendar will be launched on Friday, May 29, when the girls who appear in the calendar will be the stars of a special media event at Montrose Air Station. Wearing full-length evening dresses supplied by Jezabelle in Murray Street, the girls will be photographed with their calendar pages alongside the Red Lichtie Spitfire. “This will certainly bring back a touch of 1940s glamour to Montrose Air Station,” said Dan Paton.
The Spitfire Girls Calendar 2016 is available from Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre and costs £6.99. The calendar can also be ordered online at www.rafmontrose.org.uk at a cost of £6.99 + £2.99 p&p. All proceeds go to Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.
For more information about Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre or the Spitfire Girls Calendar 2016, visit www.rafmontrose.org.uk.
Caption: Charlotte, cover star of theSpitfire Girls Calendar 2016.
Credit: Photo by Neil Werninck