Aviation info requests

posted in: InfoRequests 5

Reader Michael Traynor has been in touch with a question about two intrepid aviatrixes who settled in Durban and may have been involved in the founding of the Women’s Aviation Association which has been mentioned on this site before. Michael wrote:

I have just discovered your web site and that is a terrific job you are doing. I was delighted to see a reference to the Women’s Aviation Association that you suggest may have been formed in Durban about 1948.
I am currently researching the aviation careers of two Irish sisters, Mabel & Sheila Glass, born near Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1913 & 1914 respectively. They learned to fly in England in 1934 and took part in Air Races and some long distance flights before WW2.
Mabel joined the Air Transport Auxiliary at the start of the war in 1940. Their father died in London in 1947 and his widow also called Mabel, and the 2 daughters emigrated to Kwazulu Natal in 1947.
If you think the WAA was formed in Durban in 1948 I would suggest the Glass sisters had a key role in its formation. Mabel died at 5 Melrose Avenue, Westville on 4 November 1967. I’m unsure if her sister Sheila continued flying when she emigrated to South Africa in 1947.

There are pictures of Mabel in the National Library of Australia presumably because the WAA also had a branch or branches over here. Here is a link to one of them but I can’t put up on this site until I have received permission from the library to do so.

Alan Taylor from the SAAF Museum has been in touch with a few questions of his own. He wrote:

I am working on two research projects and hopefully there are Durbanites who can help me with information so that I can add to what I already have.
During WW2 there was a club-based organization called the “Junior Air Force”. This was run under the auspices of “Wings” magazine – the official organ of the SAAF at the time.
Some 270 clubs were established around South Africa – many in the Durban area – and there were nearly 2 000 school-going boys and girls who joined the JAF. Between mid-1942 and mid-1945, when the JAF was disbanded these childeren were exposed to many different facets of aviation and air force culture.
The JAF had its own emblem and each club had its own distinct badge.
Are there any out there who remember this largely forgotten organization, or who were involved in some way. I am looking for information to write an article on the JAF.
I am researching the history of the Air Force Cadets and would like to contact any ex-members or find details of schools in Natal who might have had Air Force cadets.

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5 Responses

  1. Allan Jackson
    | Reply

    My informant Graham Read mailed me on the subject of Mabel Glass. He wrote:

    (Left to right) Miss Muriel Garrow, (Avex Air, Germiston), Dr Shirley Siew (Johannesburg), Mrs Ann White ( Durban Wings Club), Mrs Marie Godwin (DWC), Miss Norma Law (Secretary of the University of Cape Town Flying Club), and Miss Mabel Glass (DWC). - Picture courtesy Graham Read.
    (Left to right) Miss Muriel Garrow, (Avex Air, Germiston), Dr Shirley Siew (Johannesburg), Mrs Ann White ( Durban Wings Club), Mrs Marie Godwin (DWC), Miss
    Norma Law (Secretary of the University of Cape Town Flying Club), and Miss Mabel Glass (DWC). – Picture courtesy Graham Read.[/caption]

    I was interested to read the post concerning an enquiry from reader Michael Traynor regarding two Irish sisters Mabel and Sheila Glass who were involved with the Women’s Aviation Association in South Africa.

    On Saturday 13 March 1965, I photographed pilots who attended the South African National Flying Championships at Brits in the Transvaal. One of them was Mabel Glass of the Durban Wings Club (DWC).

    I have attached one of my photographs in which she appears. At the time, the national chairwoman of the WAA was Ida van Gelder, the secretary was Milly Houston, and the public relations officer was a Miss S. Hern.

    There were 13 woman pilots among the 60 entrants. Mabel Glass won the Rosamund Everard-Steenkamp Memorial Trophy presented by the South African Air Force. This was the senior open championship for entrants tested at private pilot’s standard. Another member of the Durban Wings Club, Ann White, won the Marie Mills Trophy awarded for the best forced landing carried out in conjunction with the other competitions

    The most outstanding woman pilot of the year and winner of the De Havilland Trophy was Rhenia Blake of Johannesburg. She was the only woman in South Africa to have received the Amelia Earhart Medal from America for outstanding service to flying.

    Other women pilots attending the flying championships included, Muriel Garrow of Avex Air, who was the winner of the Bertha Solomon Trophy open to women pilots with not more than 60 flying hours, Marie Goodwin (DWC), Norma Law (secretary of the University of Cape Town Flying Club), Dr Shirley Siew, Myrtle Brooks, Hettie Jooste, Erna Smit and Molly Lowe.

    Graham Read

  2. Stewart P Evans
    | Reply

    I have a letter written to Miss Glass by the aviatrix Amy Johnson in 1931.

  3. Linda Stewart
    | Reply

    Sheila was my godmother. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with her in her home in Vredehoek until her death in 1989. She was a modern woman for her age and I learned so much from her and admired her immensely. My dad who is 88 knew her for many years and I will let him read your email. Mabel was my sister’a godmother.

    • yvonne russell

      Hello there – I am trying to find out about an aviation clock which hangs in Croydon Bowls Club. It was presented to the club by James Glass prior to 1938. I wondered if it had any connection with Mable and Sheila. Was James their father or brother? Perhps he was related in another way?
      I would appreciate your coments.

  4. Michael Traynor
    | Reply

    Hello Linda,
    I very much appreciate your reply. Thank you very much.
    I would very much appreciate if you might be good enough to correspond directly with me by email please??
    Mine is traynormichael0@gmail.com. (thats a zero before the @ symbol)

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