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Spitfire Women of World War II [Paperback]

Giles Whittell
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

7 July 2008

This is the incredible true story of a wartime sisterhood of women pilots: a group of courageous pioneers who took exceptional risks to fly Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancasters to the frontlines of World War II.

The women pilots of Air Transport Auxiliary came from all countries and backgrounds. Although not allowed into combat, they demonstrated astonishing bravery in their supporting role: flying unarmed, without radios or instruments, and at the mercy of the weather and enemy aircraft, they delivered battle-ready planes to their male counterparts, the fighter pilots of the RAF.

The story of these remarkable women pilots – among them Amy Johnson and Lettice Curtis – is a riveting account of women in wartime, and a fitting tribute to their spirit and valour.

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Spitfire Women of World War II + The Female Few: Spitfire Heroines of the Air Transport Auxiliary + Spreading My Wings: One of Britain's Top Women Pilots Tells Her Remarkable Story from Pre-War Flying to Breaking the Sound Barrier
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st Harper Perennial Edition edition (7 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007235364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007235360
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘Superb…At long last these magnificent women have the tribute they deserve.' Sir Ranulph Fiennes

‘Thrilling…true adventure stories.’ The Times

’The breadth of Whittell’s research leaps off the page in telling encounters with the now-aged survivors.’ Scotsman

‘Extraordinary stories.’ Daily Mail

‘Giles Whittell’s affectionate book reads like a Boy’s Own adventure turned on its head…and uncovers some exceptional tales.’ Financial Times

‘Reading it is a bumpy flight as well as an exciting one…the author’s enthusiasm carries the day.’ TLS

'Extraordinary stories of women who had little fear and minimal concern for the enormous step they were taking in banging “Good grief, it's a girl!” condescension on the head.' Good Housekeeping

‘An eye-opening and at times very moving illustration of the courage and sacrifice of women who deserve to be remembered alongside their more celebrated male counterparts.’ Literary Review


'An extraordinary tale of stoicism and sisterhood...their story is remarkable...this book is a fitting memorial'

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rebuttal! 6 May 2008
No idea what these bad reviews are about - I found the book absolutely fascinating, well-researched and engagingly written. Nothing can take away from the sheer guts these women had, and the book inadvertently gives a vivid picture of just how much death permeated everyday life during the War: colleagues, friends, loved ones - and one's self, of course - could cease to exist at any moment, frequently quite horribly. It very eloquently shows women living under such terrific strain while behaving with almost incomprehensible bravery in fulfilling their own missions.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page-turner of a read and fascinating 29 Aug 2008
By Art
By coincidence I'd just read Diana Barnato Walker's autobiography when I came across this book. Very much enjoyed the additional insights from other pilots and also it helped that the author was also able to put things in historical context. I found the book a real "page-turner" and full of amusing stories and gossip.

I enjoyed reading it even more than I did DBW's own account and also Jeffrey Quill's and Alex Henshaw's biographies which I also read in the past few months.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Guts and detemination 19 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is not a technical book about flying, but a piece of social history about a small group of women who were determined to utilise their flying skills, both for the personal experience it gave them and to assist the war effort. The battles with authority and prejudice represented the social attitudes of the time. The ferry pilots flew without radios and other aids and had only a brief period to learn a new aircraft from notes they nwere given for each aircraft. The women pilots were not taught how to fly on instruments, a particular hazard when flying in bad weather. Although some it appears were taught on an ad hoc basis by male pilots who were had the opportunity to assist them. They were a singular group of women, some insular and some forceful, all brave, a number lost their lives. They flew missions on practically a daily basis, including taking aircraft in poor condition to be broken up. A situation that proved highly dangerous on occasion and called for a high level of skill when things went wrong. All of them wanted to fly a Spitfire, and some undoubtedly would have made good operational pilots. Although this was never considered.

I would have liked a bit more of the politics of the situation in the Air Minstry as background. But still a fascinating piece of war and social history.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for all the enthusiasts 17 Sep 2009
I'm defnitely a flying enthusiast, and a history enthusiast, and I loved this book. It does focus on the 'first 8' women, as well as the first that came from North America. There is a demographic skew simply because the majority of the early ATA female intake were middle- upper- classes, well educated, and had flown for their own amusement before the war.
However, this book is not a history of the ATA, it is a history of the women of the ATA who flew the Spitfire, and then the other class IV and V aircraft. These were the first women who joined, those with the greatest experience with aircraft, and longevity in the organisation.
The book is interesting, well written and easy to read from a range of angles: WWII history, women's history, flying.......
There is certainly more that could be done with the subject, but that would be another book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the most fascinating stories I have read this year, no it's not highly technical (There are many technical Tours de Force on the Spitfire). Instead it concentrates on the politics and personalities surrounding the remarkable decision to allow women to fly combat aircraft in WW2, and the uniquely challenging conditions under which they did so, traveling from as far away as South Africa and Chile.

It also contains some superbly evocative photographs. (Even though the front cover shows not just a Spitfire & a Hurricane but an ME109! (Actually, it's a Spanish built HA-112, with a Spitfire engine!)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spitfire Women - unsung heroines 18 Dec 2010
By Hugh
This is an excellent and moving read describing the, possibly, little known contribution made by women pilots from all over the world in transporting aircraft during the second world war. Although experienced light aircraft pilots they flew all types of aircraft from Tiger Moths to Lancaster bombers with very little training and without use of instruments or radio, and usually alone. Often, these flights were undertaked in appalling weather conditions in which other fully trained fighter pilots would probably not fly. Many of the planes were badly damaged ones being flown to scrap yards and accounts of failed engines and strucrural failures are many. Loss of life was common and they were vulnerable to enemy attack and unarmed. I am in no doubt that they performed an important job in very difficult circumstances. The book title is slightly misleading but is used to emphasise the significance of graduating to flying the Spitfire; an ambition of every pilot at that time and the women felt that it was a lovely plane to fly, and made just for them!
The book paints a vivid picture of the lifestyle (including partying and a good social life!) enjoyed by namy of these pilots during wartime and the tragedies and loss of loved ones which occurred.
Many of these women were still alive when the book was researched and their accounts and anecdotes greatly add to the accuracy of the book.

An excellent book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars If you want to read about privileged daughters of rich businessmen and...
I do not wish to take anything away from these brave women but i am sure this book does not do them justice. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Mr. R. J. Overton
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
factual account of their exploits
Published 6 days ago by Mr. Kenneth R. L. Horton
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome
Great read. Should be in part of nation curriculum! Wonderful read of amazing women. Very enjoyable and easy to read.
Published 7 months ago by Tasha
4.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly Biggles more Jane.
This is an interesting book about the ATA and the women,many from overseas, that came to a very dreary, war torn England and delivered every type of aircraft and kept the war... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Nigel Richards
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Five Star
Excellent work but dwelt too much an the Americans. You will need a glossary of characters to keep up with the narrative
Published 10 months ago by john copeland
5.0 out of 5 stars I thought the book was great it answered a lot of questions
Being involved with rebuilding Spifires and other vintage aircraft I got to meet
some of the wonderful ladies that first flew them, the book brought it all back to... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Grenville Townsend
4.0 out of 5 stars Tribute to the unsung but gutsy heroines
War is a bad thing by definition, but it does create unusual circumstances in which unusual things can happen. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Book was ok ,had expected a lot more
Book was ok, had expected a lot more. The stories told were not inspiring, proberly least interesting book written about peoples wartime experiences I have read. Read more
Published on 13 Dec 2011 by Pops and abbey
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable women
I read this after watching the television programme and I was enthralled by both. It was fascinating to read the reminiscences of the women of today looking back at their... Read more
Published on 8 Dec 2011 by Olivej
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting subject - poorly presented
The book contains many interesting annecdotes of distinctive women in wartime, but these are frustratingly put together lacking any logical structure or sequence.
Published on 19 Aug 2011 by Stuart W. Pole
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