No announcement yet.

Farewell To A Brave Lady

This topic is closed.
Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts
  • Moggy C
    • Jan 2000
    • 20534

    Farewell To A Brave Lady

    Diana Barnato Walker. RIP

    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.
  • peppermint_jam
    Rank 5 Registered User
    • Jan 2006
    • 409

    I feel embarresed slightly by never having heard of her, a fact I intend to correct. Autobiography is on it's way curtosy of amazon.

    Rest a while.

    "If you kick a Tiger in the ass, you'd better have a plan to deal with it's teeth!"


    • trumper
      Rank 5 Registered User
      • Aug 2003
      • 6652

      What a life to have,may she R I P.I feel a trip to the library coming on,


      • Firebird
        Avons with attitude
        • Mar 2003
        • 2148

        The photo of her infront of the Lightning T.4 after her supersonic flight appears in most of the various Lightning books.

        Pity that obit is written in a way that implies the RAF just handed over a Frightning to her for a flight as opposed to a passenger ride in a two seater, although once up there, I dare say she was allowed a good bit of stick time...
        I was with it all the way until letting the brakes off..........


        • Guest's Avatar

          It was a huge privilege to have known her well as a family friend for the last twenty years or so. I shall miss visiting her on her birthday with her favourite chocolate cake or the summer visits for strawberries and cream. A truly amazing and unique lady and I can honestly say that she was just about the most interesting person anyone could have ever hoped to meet. What a lady. What a life. You will be missed by many friends.
          Last edited by Tangmere1940; 29th November 2012, 17:47.


          • Paul F
            Retired Lawnmower Racer
            • May 2005
            • 1104

            I had the pleasure of hearing her speak a year or two back at Shoreham, a fascinating lady, with no end of stories to tell - most are captured in her excellent, and very readble, autobiography.

            RIP Diana, it was a pleasure, and an honour, to spend the evening listening to you recounting your stories.

            Paul F


            • pimpernel
              Warbirds, keep em flying
              • Jan 2000
              • 876

              I did not realise she was that old.

              The lightning flight is stuck in my mind with all that paperwork to fill in before her flight.

              Blue skies Diana Barnato Walker MBE.

              Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.


              • adrian_gray
                Which idiot let HIM in?
                • Jan 2000
                • 2937

                And, IIRC, the only person to survive a Typhoon structural failure. By bringing it back "intact" (albeit minus a hefty chunk of fuselage skinning including the cockpit floor) she may well have helped to save lives.

                Blue skies, Diana.

                "Snow clearing equipment has been found under snowdrift" - message sent from RNAS Hatston, Orkney, 1944.


                • Gsa
                  Rank 5 Registered User
                  • Mar 2007
                  • 35

                  Ironically Im in the middle of reading the book on the ATA girls. It's rather interesting.



                  • SadOleGit
                    Remember Gallipoli
                    • Jan 2005
                    • 170

                    Farewell Diana! RIP. You really were 'top class.'

                    "Atagirls" - I have read every book on the ATA I could get my hands on, including my precious copy of 'Brief Glory', but never before seen the expression 'Atagirl' - much used in her obituary. Is there really any historic precedent for that term - or is it a Telegraph invention?



                    • Pete Truman
                      Senior Member
                      • Nov 2004
                      • 2316

                      I'm sure that she was a very brave lady, and I salute her for that.
                      Reading these obituaries however doesn't exactly endear me to her and her lifestyle.
                      It makes me wonder whether the delivery pilot system was pretty much the realm of the rich and famous, immortal gels having a bit of fun that got dangerous and suddenly realising there was no way back. Fair enough, they had to help the war effort by doing something, after all, having the ability to party, party, and swig 2 bottles of champagne and remain standing during the depression with half the country out of work wasn't going to win any battles was it.
                      I like the statement that she paid for the flying lessons out of her own pocket money, no comment needed.
                      My mother spent the Blitz fire watching on a roof with a bucket of water for incendiaries and shrapnel falling on her head, in between times she was making parachutes to keep aircrew alive, and mosquito nets to stop them from catching malaria. Unfortunately, this very astute and intelligent woman never got the chance to get anywhere near an aircraft because she wasn't rich enough or had the right connections. She never got a medal for her efforts either.
                      I would imagine that this criteria applied to many many women in her situation at the time.
                      Lets not forget them either.


                      • kev35
                        Terminally Bewildered
                        • Jan 2000
                        • 7375

                        Having a bad day Pete?

                        "It makes me wonder whether the delivery pilot system was pretty much the realm of the rich and famous, immortal gels having a bit of fun that got dangerous and suddenly realising there was no way back."

                        So immortal that of the 166 women pilots who flew with the ATA some 14 of them died while carrying out their duties. To suggest that they thought it "a bit of fun" is disingenuous to say the least. Would you suggest the same of carousing Fighter and Bomber Command aircrew?

                        A few statistics:

                        The ATA's total of aircraft movements for the period of their existence was 308,567. This included deliveries, ferry flights, flights from Operational Squadrons to Maintenance Units (and their subsequent return) and the inevitable air taxi service which was required to move ATA personnel as and when required.

                        ATA Personnel amassed some 742,614 flying hours.

                        ATA Personnel flew some 147 different types of aircraft.

                        Of the 1152 men who flew as pilots with the ATA, 129 were killed. The figures for losses are roughly proportional between both men and women. These figures do not count the number of other aircrew serving with the ATA such as Flight Engineers and Navigators.

                        I, nor I suspect would the majority of people, ever think to draw a distinction between what your mother did during the war or the the likes of Diana Barnato Walker. They were people of the time fulfilling the roles that they could. My Mother assembled hand grenades. Perhaps, just perhaps, one of those she assembled played some vital role in an action? Or conversely perhaps they were all used for training purposes and the only thing a grenade she assembled blew up was a few yards of Kent Coast. it doesn't matter, she did what she could and what was required of her. I personally don't feel the need to categorise the actions of a Spitfire pilot as above those of a fire watcher or munitions worker. They all served their purpose and should be celebrated for it.

                        Just remember that with the money and lifestyle Diana Barnato Walker had before the War she could easily have gone and lived in luxury away from any chance of personal involvement. Instead, priveleged or not, she actively sought involvement, much the same way as your Mother did as a voluntary fire watcher. Two women who fought the War in their own way. I see no difference in them at all.


                        The Forums only '"blithering anorak" as endorsed by ZRX61


                        • Resmoroh
                          Rank 5 Registered User
                          • Apr 2007
                          • 978

                          I roundly applaud Kev35's penultimate paragraph!! In most cases, in WW2, you (civilians and uniformed) did what you could. Sometimes it was difficult to see it as part of the Great War Effort. Some got headlines - many did not, but quite a lot got headstones
                          Meteorology is a science: good meteorology is an art.


                          • Guest's Avatar

                            To Pete Truman I would say that you clearly know little of the ATA or of the amazing people that made up its ranks. Yes, Diana came from a rich and privileged background - no argument about that. However, that seems to be the main basis for Mr Truman's sneeringly dismissive remarks about a truly remarkable woman. As has been pointed out, she could have lived out the war in more than just relative comfort but, to her credit, did not do so. Rich or famous or poor and unknown there is no difference when it comes to putting your life on the line. Your mother was a Fire Watcher and got no medals. My mother worked in a factory making "dummy" or decoy Hurricanes and got no medals either, although I am unclear what you point is, here, Mr Truman? The fact is, Diana got the same medals as many who, one might argue, took far lesser risks. Namely; 1939-45 Star, War Medal and Defence Medal. During the course of the war she lost one boyfriend in action, a fiance in a flying accident and her eventual husband in another flying accident - as well as dozens of her close friends. I think she more than played her part and paid the price of war, too. Her MBE (1965) was awarded in 1965 for services to British Aviation, and in particular her work with the Womens Junior Air Corps/GVC. I consider myself fortunate to have had Diana as a good family friend for over twenty years and take exception to your comments about her.


                            • bazv
                              olde rigger
                              • Feb 2005
                              • 5852

                              Like SOG I have done a lot of reading about the ATA girls and (I think) all the autobios.
                              Yes agreed that a many of them came from priviliged backgrounds but that is hardly their fault is it !! It is just the luck of the draw with your ancestry
                              I do think that some of them had a great time during WW2 but so did others who would not have had the chance to become RAF pilots etc without the war happening.
                              My Hat is off to all the ATA girls and of course all the Ancient Tattered Airmen.

                              Blue Skies D


                              • Diseca
                                Voodoo Firewall
                                • May 2008
                                • 36

                                Thanks for posting that, sad to learn of her passing, but a life lived.

                                ATA members were certainly an extraordinary group of people, all individuals barred from combat service due to contemporary attitudes towards age, 'disability' and gender. Whilst class analysis is always interesting and pertinent its no more so than race and gender; at the time it wasnt enough simply to be wealthy if one wished to live a full life, 'tho, as ever, it helped. It's often forgotten how many appalling values had an ordinary, common currency in the UK of the 30s & 40s: snobbery, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia. Aside from a desire to make a contribution, many in the ATA may have felt that they had something more personal to prove which found expression through their service.

                                Certainly the women had to fight very hard against ingrained prejudices at all levels in order to be permitted to do the job they did so well. They accomplished this at some cost in lives lost and I imagine, for many, in their lives postwar. Attached are images from the contemporary logs of one such woman, Veronica Volkersz; wealthy, but a person who found expression through her ATA service that would very likely have eluded her simply because of gender. The entries for Aircraft Flown at the end of her Form 414 for 1945-46 vividly illustrate the wide range of types routinely flown by all ATA pilots.

                                - and on September 15th 1945, Ms. Volkersz very quietly made history as the first woman anywhere in the world to fly an *operational* jet fighter, a thirty-minute flight in a Meteor III from the Gloster factory to RAF Molesworth, a small event touched on nicely in Giles Whittells recent book.

                                Clear skies.
                                Attached Files


                                • bazv
                                  olde rigger
                                  • Feb 2005
                                  • 5852

                                  Hi welcome to the forum Diseca
                                  I have a copy of veronica's book and very much enjoy reading it,post war was very frustrating for many ATA pilots M or F.
                                  I posted a pic of Jackie Sorour a few weeks back taken in front of a meteor,she was in wraf uniform and wearing a 'budgie badge' (elementary flying badge) but do I vaguely remember reading that one of the WRAFVR girls actually did qualify for the full flying badge (wings) ??not sure as it was a long time ago.


                                  • mike currill
                                    Big pistons rule
                                    • Jul 2003
                                    • 8791

                                    A most amazing woman. May she forever have blue skies and a following wind.
                                    RIP Diana, I reckon you've earned it.
                                    The mind once expanded by a new idea never returns to its original size.


                                    • 'D-Day'
                                      Rank 4 Registered User
                                      • Mar 2008
                                      • 30

                                      I had the great pleasure of speaking with her at her home in Kent from time to time.

                                      She was always most kind and gracious, we used to enjoy afternoon tea sometimes and, she certainly knew her stuff too, bright as a button.

                                      A truly lovely Lady in every sense.

                                      RIP Diana.



                                      • Pete Truman
                                        Senior Member
                                        • Nov 2004
                                        • 2316

                                        Tangmere, don't accuse me of sneering, thats objectionable, I'm not knocking what she did, just the way she got there, and yes I agree, she could have bogged off to some safe island in the Carribean and lived the life of Riley, but didn't, but I'm sure many that could have helped the war effort did in fact do that, certain members of the Royal Family spring to mind, however much you believe they were forced into pointless exile.
                                        The 20's and 30's were very turbulent times, split between the very rich and the very poor, unfortunately, the very rich attempted to scupper the General Strike by attempting to take things over, like the sad incidence of driving buses and trains, and didn't want to understand the reasons why this had happened, why should they, it was their family fortunes and lifestyle at risk. They were understandably too frightened over what had occured in Russia, in some ways I can't blame them, the threat of Communism throughout Europe and what had happened to the Romanovs must have been an awful thought for these people, particularly the De Beers who had made their fortune on the legal slavery of black South Africans, forced to work down the diamond mines for a pittance.
                                        Sorry, I'm not a lefty, socialist saddoe, I'm interested in social history and the effect that the class system has had on this country, I still think that as in the past, this country is still split by ridiculous class differences, I'm trying to sit on the fence here, and it doesn't look good from there at the moment, Livingstone to Boris in charge of London, don't make me laugh.
                                        Following my diatribe, I was interested to read a letter in Flypast about W/C Darley, obviously a 'working class' boy made good, but shunted off because he didn't fit into Leigh Mallories old boy network, it makes brilliant reading.
                                        My old man came from a wealthy background, we're not talking about De Beers millions here, just a few quid earned from small print shops.
                                        He was orphaned at a young age and was brought up by an aunt, he decided to make his own way in life and began a printers apprentiship.
                                        When the war started, his wealthy cousin Noel, was commisioned in the RAF, became a pilot officer, flew Blenheims and was eventually awarded the DFC.
                                        When my old man tried to go along the same route, he was shunted off into the Royal Artillery, loads of excuses about no places available, but I can't accept that, bearing in mind the situation in 1940, and we're talking about a young, athletic bloke here with the sight and hearing of a hawk.
                                        Later in his army career he volunteered to become a glider pilot, but was refused on the grounds of being too valuable to the RA, maybe this was true, who knows, he's gone now, his acts of bravery gone unrewarded by the cowardly antics of wealthy career officers, whose lives he saved, but thats another story.
                                        Do you want more.


                                        Unconfigured Ad Widget