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Care and Rehabilitation

“I was part of the RAF’s first and only all women’s display team”

Mavis is 91 and came to QEF’s Care and Rehabilitation Centre in September 2023 after a stroke left her unable to walk.  Whilst progress is being made with therapy it feels slow at the moment. Mavis says: “Walking means everything to me. l love going for a walk in the countryside. But at the moment I can’t even go to the shops.” 

Mavis is a very independent lady and still lives in her own home near Coulsdon in Surrey. She has led a very interesting life as a pilot. After gaining her private pilot’s license through an organisation that encouraged women to take part in Aviation, Mavis signed up with the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) as a cadet pilot in 1951, when she was just 18.  After passing a test flight and other checks she was accepted into Elementary Flight Training School based at Redhill where she started flying and training as well. She had lessons and sat in on lectures and she would fly every weekend, developing her skills in advanced flying and even aerobatics. 

Mavis says: “My mother wasn’t very happy about me becoming a pilot, in fact she wished I wasn’t a pilot at all. Because in the war I’d had a brother who was killed in a Lancaster bomber over Germany. I had 2 other brothers – eventually one came home from India after a long time there and my other brother was at home with me. My mother was very nervous about me joining the RAF – she hated me flying even though it was peace time. I had to reassure her all the time that it was safe.

I flew with the RAF for 2 years. I helped out with RAF duties such as internal flights to move aeroplanes around within the UK. I regularly flew a Chipmunk which I enjoyed the most.  

In 1953 I was also part of what I believe to be the RAF’s first and only all Women’s display team. I had a lot of formation training and I loved it. We gave displays on formation flying with my colleagues Brenda and Mickey and we’d fly in different combinations of 2. We did several displays at  White Waltham and Biggin Hill aerodromes. It was the highlight of my time in the RAF. 

Eventually I had to stop as I went abroad to join my husband in Singapore. It was very hard to stop flying though so when we came back to the UK I was employed as a pilot by Rolls Royce for about 15 years.  

Today I am working with QEF’s physio team to try and get me walking again. There is no plan to go home yet – I only want to leave when I can walk! “ 

An older lady with white hair, sat in a wheelchair and smiling


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