'Remarkable' pilot Lettice Curtis dies aged 99

'Remarkable' pilot Lettice Curtis dies aged 99

Lucy Elder

'Remarkable' pilot Lettice Curtis dies aged 99

A distinguished pilot who served with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) during the Second World War has died at the age of 99.

 

Lettice Curtis climbs into a Spitfire. Photo from the Maidenhead Heritage Centre archives.

 

Lettice Curtis, who lived in London Road, Twyford, for decades, passed away on Monday, July 21.

She served with the ATA from July 6, 1940, to November 30, 1945, at Hatfield, Hamble, White Waltham and Ratcliffe and spent time ferrying war planes between factories and front line squadrons.

"She was absolutely remarkable, once met never forgotten," said Maidenhead Heritage Centre chairman Richard Poad.

Mr Poad, an ATA expert, said Lettice was brought up in Devon before studying maths at Oxford University, where she was captain of the women's lawn tennis and fencing teams.

She learnt to fly in Sussex and in May 1938 began flying for an air survey company.

In 1942, she became the first woman to fly a four-engined bomber, a Halifax, and went on to ferry a total of 1,467 aircraft.

This included 364 four-engined bombers, 162 Spitfires and 125 Mosquitoes. She even survived an emergency landing in a Hawker Typhoon.

For the ATA's closing pageant at White Waltham at the end of September 1945, she brought in a white-painted Liberator bomber.

After the war, she worked as a technician and flight-test observer at Boscombe Down and then with Fairey Aviation at White Waltham.

Lettice took part in air racing and raced planes including a Spitfire and a Wicko G-AF JB. In 1991, she obtained a helicopter licence.

The pilot is also known for her 1971 book, The Forgotten Pilots.

* Further information about ATA is available from Maidenhead Heritage Centre in Park Street which holds one of the largest collections of ATA memorabilia in the world.

It also has a Spitfire simulator for visitors to fly.

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