Joy Lofthouse, the ‘Spitfire lady’, has died aged 94.
Joy is pictured here (stood next to the front wheel) by a Barracuda in Shelborne-in-Elmet near Leeds (image source: www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk).
An advocate for gender equality, Joy flew an aircraft during the Second World War before she had ever even driven a car, and became an inspiration to young women in Britain due to her fearless nature.
Joy was a teenager living in Stratton, Cirencester, in 1939 when war was declared. She joined 163 other women in the Air Transport Auxiliary and was responsible for flying planes from their original base or factory to a new location, often to the front lines of the war. Despite being trained to fly 38 different types of aircraft, the crew of ‘Attagirls’ regularly flew aircrafts for the very first time with little navigation.
In a past interview with Forces News, Joy had described flying as easy, but said taking off and landing was particularly difficult in the Spitfire, saying: ‘It’s quite the most powerful thing you ever flew.’ She said she had a motto for life which was: ‘Try anything, it might work!’
After the war, Joy went on to marry and have three children, as well as training as a teacher. Her husband, Charles Lofthouse, was an ex-RAF bomber pilot who had survived 30 raids during the war. The pair were married for 30 years before he died aged 80 in 2002.
Joy’s personal achievements and efforts in the war were not fully recognised until ‘Spitfire Women of World War II’ was published in 2007 by Giles Whittel. Following the book’s release, Joy was a guest of honour at Gloucestershire Airport and Cotswold Airport for commemorative event. In May 2015 she marked the 70th anniversary of VE day by flying in a Spitfire again. Last year, Joy made a special appearance at the Wimbledon Championships at the age of 93.
Across the press and social media, tributes have poured in for Joy and Gloucestershire airport tweeted: ‘Saddened to hear of the passing of Joy Lofthouse. ATA pilot ‘Spitfire woman’ with a genuine zest for life. A regular visitor to Staverton from 1941 onwards with @ProjectProp and .@fly2help. May she rest in peace.’
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