|Copyright Wendy Gray 2012
Eileen was told she would be flown by plane and that something special would happen on her return. Eileen said: “I’ve never had such an exhilarating weekend. It was originally planned that I would be transported by helicopter, but instead I sat in the co-pilot’s seat. I had to shuffle on my bottom along the wing, to reach the seat, and once settled, was told not to touch anything. In front of me were a multitude of dials and a control stick to direct the aircraft. I relaxed and enjoyed the view of the glorious countryside around me.
The fabulous weather brought out a lot of air-traffic, and the pilot had to check into Air Traffic Control in Cardiff, then Gloucester as well as several other places along our journey to report our height and position and to be of approaching aircraft.”
After the secret meeting in Duxford Eileen returned to Cardiff via the same aircraft. Just as they were preparing to leave, the pilot asked Air Traffic Control: “What is the schedule?” The reply came: “Port side three minutes.” The pilot turned to Eileen and said: “Look out of the window, we have organised a surprise for me.” To her great joy, there was a Spitfire alongside with the cockpit open! She said: “We were escorted for about twenty miles by this iconic plane. It was a wonderful sight. We were flying side by side. Just as his journey was finishing, and he was returning to base, he waved at me; through the cockpit and performed a Victory Roll. That was an incredible thing to witness. It brought me right back to the days of the Blitz. I have memories of this being performed, as a celebration displayed when a German aircraft had been shot down. The whole day was very much breathtaking, and something I really wasn’t expecting at ninety-one-years-old!”
Written by Rebecca Jenkins