Page 4, 13th December 1946

13th December 1946
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Page 4, 13th December 1946 — I Catholic Profiles : 831
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Locations: London, Paris

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I Catholic Profiles : 831

PAULINE GOWER

pAULINE Mary de Peauly '

Gower, while still in her teens, decided she was going to make a career for herself in aviation. After leaving the Sacred Heart convent at Tunbridge Wells (she was received into the Church there at the age of 17), she went to Paris

to complete her education. Back .•in England she set about realising e'

her ambition in a practical way by ; going Of to Stag Lane aerodrome and asking to be taught the rudi

ments of flying. Another girl— se Dorothy Spicer — had also arrived Os

there with the same idea. Amy Johnson, then at the peak of her fame, met the two girls, and far from resenting this feminine intrusion into what had hitherto been her exclusive territory. welcomed and encouraged them. The friendship of the three was only broken by Amy Johnson's tragic death. The two who remained made between then aviation history. Pauline and Dorothy got little financial assistance from their respective families, who looked coldly on what they considered at best a youthful " stunt " and at worst a dangerous hobby. And so they had to pay for their training themselves, and one of the ways in which Pauline gathered some money was " inflicting violin recitals on people," as she herself has said.

Anyone who read the newspapers between 1930 and 1936 will have seen these girls' names in the headlines pretty frequently. When they were both qualified as pilots they formed a business partnership, ultimately called " Airtrips Ltd." The risks they took in those days now makes their blood run cold! But once they had got over the excitement of being able to fly, and having experienced some hairbreadth escapes from death, they applied themselves seriously to the mastering of their craft. Pauline became the pilot and her partner. the engineer.

IR Robert Gower, K.C.V.O., who was then M.P. for Tunbridge Wells, once he realised that family discouragement was having no effect on his daughter's ambition, bought her a Spartan two-seater for her 21st birthday. It was in this " bus" that many members of the British public, greatly daring, went for their first joy-ride. Pauline will never forget the day that a party of gipsies lined up for a trip and the particular gipsy who had looked too long on the beer when it was golden. In mid-air he tried to climb out on to the wing until the resourceful girl reached out for a spanner and hit him neatly on the head with it—whereupon he subsided and was no further trouble.

Interspersed with joy trips were participations in air circuses given alt over the country in which Pauline was flying in company with the " ace " pilots of the 1930's. Altogether she flew 30,000 passengers without one serious mishap. By that time she held the " A " pilot's licence, " B" commercial licence, second-class navigator's ticket, blind-flying certificate, and aircraft wireless telephony operator's licence. She is thus entitled to become chief pilot on any of the major air-routes.

SIR Kingsley Wood, in 193$, sent for Pauline and appointed her to serve on a committee—the only woman—on flying over populated areas and in 1940 she was made Controller of Women Pilots for the Air Transport Auxiliary. Their job was to fly aircraft of all types, including Wellingtons and Hudsons, from factory to airfield. And they never had an accident. When they were banteringly described as " Always Terrified Airwomen " Pauline only smiled. She had met this good-humoured leg-pull from the very beginning and in any ease she has a very highly developed sense of humour.

Awards and recognitions came crowding in. The M.B.E., appointment as government director on B.O.A.C.; the Freedom of the City of London; the Freedom of the Company of Pattermnakere.

In 1945 she was married to Wing Commander William Cusack Fable, R.A.F., V.R.




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