View Full Version : The WAAF and the Spitfire

9th Dec 2009, 07:57
Many years ago I was a member of the Royal Observer Corps (2 Group, Q3). On our 'Post' we had an Observer called Ida Horton who'd had a flight ON a Spitfire draped over its tail. I seem to remember that she was there to hold the tail down whilst the pilot did checks on the engine - the pilot forgot, took off and had rather a fright when he saw the reason for the sluggish response in his mirror!

Does anyone have any further details on this incident? I believe there was an article about it printed in The Lady circa 1960s

9th Dec 2009, 08:53
That story, apparently authentic, has been recounted on here on a previous occasion. Can't remember where/when. Think you'll have to give the search facility a good bending.

9th Dec 2009, 09:00
Spitfire concerned is still airworthy in this country. Can't remember which one off hand. I think it's one of the BBMF ones.

9th Dec 2009, 09:31
Many thanks.

lastgasp, found a post from 2004 with a comment from a RAeS lecture - well remembered Sir, I wish my Little Grey Cells worked so well!!

JEM60, fascinating, I'll try and have a word with the BBMF and see if they know anything further.

9th Dec 2009, 09:36
Think it was Margaret Horton and, yes, the Spitfire concerned is BBMF's MkV AB910!

9th Dec 2009, 10:01
I hope someone got that on film, poor girl , what a high

9th Dec 2009, 12:57
Many thanks for that Treadigraph. I remember the lady concerned as being very slight with a marked stoop and beautiful, blue, twinkling eyes ... and she was red-hot with her aircraft recognition! - of that I am sure, even if I got her name wrong Doh!

9th Dec 2009, 14:47
Kirton in Lindsey, but date n/k - believe late '44. There was an article about it in Air Clues some time ago, as well as (I think) in Aeroplane.

My apologies - I did mean Hibaldstow, as I grew up near there and even flew in a couple of times. Strangely, the link below to the Flight article is about the first Air Display I went to at Shoreham (after my family moved down to the South Coast) and I remember seeing the picture of Miss Horton in the local paper!

9th Dec 2009, 18:42
Quoted from The Spifire Society Website:

Vb AB910

Originally ordered among a batch of Mk I's, the production run coincided with the arrival of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 engines, and the batch were delivered as Mk V. It was delivered to 222 Squadron at North Weald in August 1941. With intervening periods of repair it also served with 130, 133, 242 416, 402 and 527 Squadrons.
While at 53 OTU it had its most famous (infamous?) flight. It was common practice for pilots using high power settings while on the ground to avail themselves of any convenient passerby to lie over the tail of the aircraft to prevent the aircraft from nosing over. Flt Lt Neil Cox was detailed to fly AB910, and was aided in his ground running by Leading Aircraftswoman Margaret Horton acting as a tailweight. After the ground run, the pilot lined up into wind and took off. In the circuit it was clear that the trim of AB910 was not normal, and flew in a tail-down attitude. After the remainder of the 1000 feet circuit, AB910 returned to the ground. On stopping, Margaret Horton was seen sliding off the tail unit where she had been determinedly clinging for the whole of the circuit!
After the War, AB910 was used for air racing before being purchased by Vickers-Armstrongs. After a career of air shows in the hands of Jeffrey Quill, she was presented in September 1965 to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, who operate her to this day. (10/02)

If you Google her name, you'll find other interesting info, including that she was allegedly charged the cost of her lost beret!

Kieron Kirk
9th Dec 2009, 20:03
53 OTU Hibaldstow, February 1945.

ACW2 Horton Margaret article in the "Aeroplane" magazine November 1948.


2/Q.1 Oxshott, 2/Q.4 Headley.
Where was 2/Q.3?

Brian Abraham
9th Dec 2009, 22:50
A photo of the Lady with the aircraft in later years. garland-bianchi linnet | 1959 | 1568 | Flight Archive (http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1959/1959%20-%201568.html)

Double Zero
10th Dec 2009, 11:53
I would think that was an absolutely terrifying experience...then again, with the cost of rides in a 2-seater, maybe this is an alternative - and one could get to say they'd flown on a single seater !

10th Dec 2009, 14:02
Kieron Kirk, please check your PMs.

Thank you all very much indeed for a fund of information ... the power of PPrune strikes again!!

18th Dec 2009, 16:28
Why would the tail need to be held down?

18th Dec 2009, 16:37
So she charged for a new beret.

I'd have thought she would have also charged for a new pair of knickers.

Sorry, I'll get my coat, I'm leaving.


18th Dec 2009, 20:09
As the person in the cockpit has huge numbers of Horse Power available, and only brakes or wheel chocks to stop forward movement, applying that power six feet and more above said restraint, the airframe would nose over pretty quickly. So you need to oppose that, whether by mechanical or, more practically, human avoir du pois, or the tail will rise, nose goes down, end of propellor, and probably engine.

So, on a power check, where you don't want the aircraft to move, it is held on the brakes/chocks, with weight applied on the rear fuselage. No problem. Engine develops full power, no noted misfires etc.. all good and OK to fly. Reduce power, remove restraints and fly, or park up for later flight.

However, the same applies when using the engine to move the aircraft over (eg) boggy ground. Loads of power to get it to get it's wheels to move would also cause a nose over. Add weight. Move to drier ground. You are now ready to fly.

Best to check that the weight has been removed first!

18th Dec 2009, 21:04
Sorry, thought the weight was far enough back on a taildragger to do a run-up solo. I assume that during war-time, ground crew performed morning run-ups?

19th Dec 2009, 11:54
I remember at a show at Duxford, experienced Spit pilot doing a run- up, and, as previously stated, up came the tail, ding went the prop. No more flying for that aircraftthat day. Only a slight touch, so probably no shock loading on the engine.