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Elsie Joy Davison (née Muntz)

(1910-1940), Aviator and Airline Director; wife of William F. Davison

Sitter in 2 portraits

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Steve Chamberlain

03 July 2016, 11:50

She was fascinated by flight as a child, gained her flying certificate at the age of 20, and by 23 was a ‘well known flyer’. In the 1930s she became the first woman director of an aircraft company in the UK, running Utility Airways with her husband Frank Davison.

The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) which during wartime was based at Whitchurch Aerodrome in Bristol. Though women only flew non-combat missions, they still risked their lives. Shortly before her death, Davison wrote in a letter to a cousin that her work was ‘extremely dangerous now, and I don’t know whether I will come out of it’.

Elsie died on 8th July 1940.

Davison was cremated at Arnos Vale and as an appropriate tribute to her life’s passion, her ashes were scattered from an aircraft. --------- PRESS RELEASE 07.07.10 ELSIE DAVISON, AVCT, West Lodge, Bath Road, Bristol, BS4 3EW Tel 0117 971 9117 [email protected]

Steve Chamberlain

03 July 2016, 11:44

“She was always crazy about plane,” said one of Elsie Davison’s uncles in her obituary. “Even as a little girl she could think of nothing but flying and puttering around motors.” Elsie moved to Britain with her mother and sister when her father died in an accident. In 1933 she married Frank Davison and the two of them ran a small aviation business in Cheshire. According to Tatler magazine, “the romance developed while Mr Davison was engaged on photographic tidal records for the Liverpool Dock Board, Miss Muntz piloting the plane.” Her sister organised her cremation at Arnos Vale, and her ashes were later scattered from an aircraft. Her name is on one of the memorial stones to the war dead at Arnos Vale. Read the Arnos Vale press release issued to mark the 70th anniversary of Elsie Davison's death. Elsie Davison was the first of five servicewoman to be commemorated at the cemetery.

There were 166 ‘ATA girls’, including volunteers from Canada, New Zealand, the USA, Poland, South Africa, the Netherlands and Chile. Fifteen lost their lives, including Amy Johnson. It was dangerous work; they flew unarmed, usually without radio, often without fully functioning navigation instruments. Accidents were common, and an unlucky encounter with a German fighter was usually fatal.

Steve Chamberlain

03 July 2016, 11:37

Quote from "The Forgotten Pilots" (Lettice Curtis):

Page 61: "Back at Hatfield, my turn to go to Central Flying School (CFS) Upavon for 'conversion' to fly Oxfords and Masters came in early October.

There were three of us on this particular course, Audrey Sale-Barker, Connie Leathart and I (Lettice Curtis, Henk).

Some fourteen women pilots had attended the course before us and had passed out successfully with the exception of Joy Davidson - better known as Joy Muntz - an experienced pilot, ground engineer and co-director of a small airline who, whilst doing the CFS course preparatory to joining ATA, was killed with her instructor (Sgt Edgar Francis J. L'Estrange - ser. no. 745060) when the Miles Master in which they were flying (RAF registration no. N7539) 'went in' whilst on a circuit of the field.

The reason for the accident was at the time unknown but later it was attributed to carbon monoxide fumes".

2nd Officer Elsie Joyce (Canadian, born Muntz, Toronto, Ontario on 14 Mar 1910) RAF Air Transport Auxiliary (secondary Regiment: BOAC).

A wonderful photo of her can be found at:

A Licensed "Ground Engineer" she had been a Co-director of Utility Airways (UK) Ltd. and she joined the RAF on the 1st of July, 1940 with nearly 1,300 hrs of previous flying experience while flying for the N.A.C. with Portsmouth, Southsea and I.O.W. Aviation, based at Cardiff.

Of her nearly 1,300 hours she had:
about 600 is on twins and
about 100 night.
Normal peace-time occupation is Commercial Pilot; age: 29

British Pilot's ‘B’ Licence No 2567. (The B license allowed a pilot to fly for hire and carry passengers)
Types flown:
Moth, Avian, Puss Moth, Fox Moth, Cadet, Swift, Desoutter, Drone, Proga, Monospar, Tiger Moth, Klemm, Airspeed Courier, Airspeed Ferry, Miles Falcon;
Privately she owned a Cadet;
Experience: British Isles only.

There weren't very many women pilots available in 1938, this was because "up to 1938 women pilots hitherto have consisted only of those with large enough bank balances" - Gabrielle Patterson ATA pilot WW2

Married RAF air observer Davidson in 1933 but was seperated / divorced as of 20/11/39.

Exactly one week after joining the ATA, her aircraft went into a ‘spiral dive’ (not a spin) at about 600-700ft. "It continued in this spiral until it hit the ground and eye-witnesses, who were experienced pilots, stated that they had no reason to consider that it was out of control but, for some unknown reason, it remained in the spiral until it hit the ground."

Pauline Mary de Peauly Gower MBE, Senior Commander of the Women's ATA wrote straight away to Joy’s mother:
“I should like you to know how we shall miss your daughter. She was a most kind and cheerful member of this Section, and a first class pilot. May I offer you our most sincere sympathy in your bereavement."

Nearly a year later, on the 4th July 1941, Joy’s sister, Hope Muntz, wrote to Pauline Gower, asking her if possible to ‘write a few lines to my mother on the 8th…. If you could give any news of the ATA and of Jenny Broad & Mrs Patterson I know she would be so pleased.”

Pauline, wrote back to say; “we shall be thinking of Joy and wishing she could still be with us.”

Joy was one of the original 8 women in the ATA in WW2 and purported to be the first woman pilot killed in WWII

Her death is registered at Devizes in 3rd qtr of 1940 (8-7-1940) and she is commemorated on Panel 1 of the Bristol (Arno's Vale) Crematorium, Glos.

"FEMALE PILOT WAR CASUALTY" - GLOBE AND MAIL headline, 24 July 1940 (gives her age as 26)

The first four-engined ATA training aircraft was a Focke Wulf FW 200A-02 Condor (werknr. 2894 registration OY-DAM "Dania") owned by "Det Danske Luftfartsselskab" (Danish Airlines).
OY-DAM was flown from Denmark to London UK by its peacetime pilot, Captain Harald J. Hansen on 8 April 1940 when he escaped from Europe. OY-DAM was re-registrered G-AGAY and assigned RAF serial no.DX177 and was later destroyed on 12 July 1941.

Captain Harald J. Hansen died 23-7-1941 of injuries sustained after whilst taxying his Anson was hit by another aircraft making an emergency landing on 21-7-1941

Thanks to Henk Welting, Floyd Williston

"In England you can count on one hand the women who are making a living directly from flying. Probably foremost among them are the two girl flyers, Pauline Gower and Dorothy Spicer, who work in partnership at joy-riding. Miss Gower is the pilot and Miss Spicer the mechanic." - Amy Mollison

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