Putting 1940s glamour in the frame at Montrose Air Station

Charlotte Yates, cover star of the Spitfire Girls Calendar 2016.
Charlotte Yates, cover star of the Spitfire Girls Calendar 2016.

Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre is to launch a calendar commemorating the 80th anniversary of the first flight by a Spitfire.

The Spitfire Girls Calendar 2016, which also marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, features images by local photographer Neil Werninck of girls from the Montrose area dressed in the World War Two uniforms of the legendary Spitfire Girls, as the female pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) were known.

Having been inspired by the tales of the wartime Spitfire Girls, Neil photographed 13 models in the atmospheric surroundings of Montrose Air Station.

“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, during World War Two,” said Neil, a founder member of the 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.’’

Curator Dr Dan Paton explained that although the women pilots of the ATA did fly Spitfires, in practice they also flew a great variety of aircraft, from Tiger Moths to Lancaster bombers.

He said: “They often had experience of flying far more types of aircraft than many RAF pilots. 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.

“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!”

The Barber’s Shop in Montrose helped with hair and make-up for the girls.

The Spitfire Girls calendar will be launched on Friday (May 29) when the girls from 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.

Dan concluded: “This will certainly bring back a touch of 1940s glamour to Montrose Air Station.”

The calendar features Review reporter Nikki Mitchell in the month of June.

The Spitfire Girls Calendar 2016 is available from Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre and costs £6.99.

It can also be ordered online at www.rafmontrose.org.uk at a cost of £6.99, plus £2.99 post and packing.

All proceeds will go to Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.