THEY flew Spitfires thousands of miles as a select group of women employed to transport fighter planes during the Second World War.

And now two Oxfordshire ‘ATA-girls’, Molly Rose and Mary Ellis, have been honoured after the unveiling of memorial plaque at RAF Brize Norton yesterday,

Mrs Ellis, aged 100, was flown in from the Isle of Wight for the ceremony and told the Oxford Mail of her great friendship with Mrs Rose, from Bampton, who passed away on October last year aged 95.

The pair were known as ‘Spitfire Women’ during the Second World War and flew hundreds of fighter planes to air bases around the country.

Mrs Ellia, born in Langley, west Oxfordshire, said she flew 63 Spitfires into RAF Brize Norton and recalled a time when she was forced to crash-land a plane after its engine seized.

The former First Officer of Air Transport Auxilliary, said returning to the place she delivered fighter planes was ‘quite fantastic and absolutely out of this world’.

She added: “Everything is so different and yet the memories are so vivid.”

Mrs Ellis said she wanted to fly ever since she was ‘knee high to a duck’ and joined the Air Transport Auxilliary in 1941 on hearing women needed to replace men as pilots.

Mrs Ellis added she and Mrs Rose were the ‘best of friends’ and was sorry her friend was not alive to witness the memorial.

She said: “It means an awful lot. Molly was such a wonderful person and I pay tribute to her as well as the other girls. She was a magnificent companion and I miss her. I miss her very much.

“That was life, it was marvellous. The four or five years I did, it was great, it was nice to help the country and the King as it was back then.

“100 does not seem any different from 90. I feel very well. I’m still standing. I am thrilled to be remembered alongside my dear friend.”

Joined by members of Mrs Rose’s family, Group Captain Tim Jones and Rev Flt Lt Jonathan Stewart led the ceremony and planted a Mary Rose tree. A plaque read how the pair contributed to the ATA’s 309,111 missions without which the frontline squadrons could not have operated.

Mrs Rose delivered 273 Spitfires with the ATA. Her son, Graham Rose, from Appleton, said he found the ceremony ‘very moving’ and ‘beautifully done’.

Group Captain Jones said the ATA kept things going behind the scenes. He added: “Without them and without these local ladies of Brize Norton, the whole operation during the Second World War would have ground to a halt.”