Mabel Glass served in the Air Transport Auxiliary during World War Two. Born on 1st April 1913, she was the daughter of Mrs. Mabel Glass of Whitehead, Co. Antrim. Her mother was a friend of world-famous aviation pioneer Amy Johnson who flew solo from London, England to Australia.
As a young woman, Mabel and her sister Sheila Glass took flying lessons at Heston Aerodrome, London in the 1930s. On obtaining a flying license in 1934, Mabel began racing with her sister in their mother’s De Haviland Gipsy Moth.
In 1936, the sisters competed in an early race from London, England to the Isle of Man, flying alongside experienced RAF and civilian pilots. In 1937, the sisters flew over 3,500 miles from London, England to Cairo, Egypt. The journey took them via France, Italy, and Libya and took around 2 weeks.
I am a fatalist. In the air, they face no greater danger than they face in London traffic. I put them in for flying because I believe it teaches courage, resourcefulness, and initiative. I’m proud that my girls have ambition and the determination to realise it.
Mrs. Mabel Glass speaking to the Sheffield Independent on 16th March 1937.
Mabel Glass during the Second World War
With the outbreak of World War Two, Mabel Glass was among the first women to fly Royal Air Force planes. With the Air Transport Auxiliary, she transported Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane planes. In June 1940, Mabel arrived at RAF Hatfield, Herefordshire where she and other ATA members had billets in a small wooden building. Among them were Lois Butler – wife of the Chairman of De Haviland, and Amy Johnson.
According to the autobiography of Lettice Curtis, there were 3 rules from the Air Ministry in 1940.
- Avoid interference with or confusion amongst the active or passive defences of the country.
- Avoid the risk of false air raid alarms.
- Avoid the risk of being shot down by our own defences.
They trained in Miles Master and Airspeed Oxford planes. Mabel completed her conversion course in the more difficult Oxford at RAF Upavon, Wiltshire. She flew her first Hawker Typhoon from Dumfriesshire to RAF Manston, Kent on 7th December 1942. The Commanding Officer announced the event to be:
Very good for morale.
The book ‘Petticoat Pilots’ claims that throughout the course of World War Two, Mabel Glass flew around 900 RAF planes.
After the Second World War, Mabel Glass and Shiela Glass settled with their mother in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. Mabel continued to compete in aviation races until her death at 5 Melrose Avenue, Westville, Durban, South Africa on 4th November 1967.