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Heroic World War 2 Spitfire Pilot Mary Ellis Dies At 101

Mike Ling MBE/Twitter

The world is in mourning after it was announced Mary Ellis, one of the last surviving female Second World War pilots, has died at 101 years old at her home in the Isle of Wight on July 24.

Ellis was known to be a "pioneering aviator" and served in the UK's Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) by delivering spitfires and bombers to the front line during the war.

Although women weren't initially allowed to fly a military aircraft, the British veteran joined the war effort after she heard a recruit ad for female pilots on the radio in 1941.

By the end of the war, Ellis had spent more than 1,100 hours flying several different planes, including 400 Spitfires and 47 Wellington medium bombers.

In an April interview with Forces News  Ellis talked about being one of the very few female pilots during the war, and what it was like taking off for the first time.

"When I went to collect my first Spitfire the man helping me with my parachute asked, 'how many of these have you flown before?' and I said, 'none, this is the first one' and he nearly died of shock and he fell off the airplane," Ellis said, adding that "a lot of people stood by and watched" her take off.

She also shared what it was like flying the Spitfire, and dubbed it her favorite plane to fly.

"The Spitfire as everyone knows is a delightful airplane. To fly it is absolutely fantastic -- it's so responsive to all the actions you might want," she continued.

After the war ended, Ellis returned to her home in to Brize Norton, England worked on a farm before she went on to manage the Sandown airport from 1950 to 1970.

She married her husband Donald Ellis in 1961 and lived together near the airport's runway until he passed away in 2009.

Months prior to her death, Ellis was awarded the Freedom of the Isle of Wight, where she was described as a "national, international and island heroine."

Since the news of Ellis' death has broken out, hundreds of people have taken to social media to mourn the heroine, including historians and fellow members of the Air Force.

Red Arrow pilot Mike Ling tweeted: "More awful news. RIP Mary Ellis. A legend of the Air Transport Auxiliary. Over 1,000 aircraft; 76 different types and over 400 Spitfires alone. I hope you’re enjoying a well-earned sherry up there with Joy Lofthouse again. Blue skies Ma’am ."

"Another terrible loss. Mary Ellis, pioneering female aviator, Air Transport Auxiliary veteran, an inspiration to generations. I'll always remember her proudly reminding us at RAF100 events that she was older than the RAF itself!  RIP Mary," Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier added.

"Very sad to hear that WW2 ATA pilot Mary Ellis has died aged 101. A truly remarkable lady, she flew 400 Spitfires & 76 different types of aircraft during WW2. Another giant leaves us to john her heroic friends in Blue Skies. Rest in peace Mary; you truly deserve it. Thank you," fellow veteran John Nichol said.

"Mary Ellis, one of Britain's greatest aviators, died yesterday at age 101. Last week I took my kids to meet her. My boy clasped a model plane. She asked what it was. 'Spitfire' he whispered. She leaned down and shared a few private thoughts about the aircraft," historian Dan Snow said in his touching tribute.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of Mary Ellis. May she rest in peace.

For more on heroes from World War 2, be sure to check out these inspiriting stories:

[H/T: CNN, The Independent]

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