SPITFIRE WOMEN OF WORLD WAR II – Giles Whittell (2007, HarperPress, £20, ISBN: 978-0007235353)

The book is a tie-in with a TV programme, describing the small band of women flyers of the Air Transport Auxiliary, who delivered newly built aircraft from the factories to operational airfields. Of necessity, the young women were nearly all from a slice of pampered and leisured pre-war society, who had had the money and means to learn to fly. The outbreak of war brought down most of the British class system, with not the least impact on these women. They flew any and every kind of aircraft, from single-engined fighters, to seaplanes and four-engined bombers – usually without any tuition, always single-handed (without a crew, even on the big planes). They often had to navigate by dead reckoning. Treated at first with derision by the operational pilots (all male, of course), they quickly showed that they were the equal of any of them.