Amy Johnson was only 37 when she died, in mysterious circumstances, in January 1941 but she had a full and eventful life. She acquired global star status in the 1930s with her triumphant solo flight from England to Australia – the first woman to do so – and subsequent pioneering flights.
But did you know?
- Amy worked as a solicitor’s secretary in London before joining Peter Jones in Sloane Square as a sales assistant in 1928. She was recruited as part of the drive to employ ‘bright, young women’ within the John Lewis partnership. Her earnings went towards her flying lessons at Hendon aerodrome.
- To celebrate her record-breaking flight from London to Darwin an unknown Australian devised a special cake in her honour. It’s an unusual recipe but if you want to try then….
Rub 2ozs butter into 1 large cup S.R flour, sifted with a pinch of salt, mix to firm dough with a little milk. Roll out 1/4″ thick and line a greased cake tin. Spread with raspberry jam and sprinkle with 1/2 cup currents. Then make a sponge mixture: beat 2 eggs and 3/4 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in 1 cup sifted S.R flour and finally 2 tablespoons butter melted in 3 tablespoons of milk. Pour on top of pastry. Bake about 40 minutes in moderate oven. When cold, ice with thin lemon icing and sprinkle with coconut.
- She graduated from Sheffield University with a BA in economics.
- As well as obtaining her pilot’s licence she was the first, and for some years the only, British woman to hold a Ground Engineer’s licence.
- Amy published her autobiography Sky Roads of the World in 1939 and here at Vintage Words of Wisdom we have just made this classic available again as an ebook.
And her mysterious death?
Amy was ferrying an aircraft from Blackpool to Oxford when she and the plane went missing. It is believed she came down over the Thames estuary, which, if so, would place her many miles off course. Theories and suggestions for her disappearance have abounded ever since but there has never been conclusive evidence to confirm exactly what happened.
- Did bad weather force her to search for an alternative aerodrome and run out of fuel?
- Was she on a special and secret mission?
- Was there someone else in the plane with her – who, why and what happened to them?
- Was she shot down by friendly fire? In 1999 Tom Mitchell a former gunner with air defence said, in an article reported in the Guardian www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/feb/06/6 that his battery had shot Amy down.
- Many believe she managed to parachute out of the stricken aircraft only to drown in the Thames.
- Or did she almost reach safety by parachute only to be drowned by the propellers of a warship sent to search for her?
Whatever the circumstances, she was never seen again, but it was over two years before she was officially pronounced ‘presumed dead’. It’s a great opportunity for conspiracy theorists but perhaps it was just bad luck. Unfortunately we shall probably never know exactly what happened to Britain’s greatest aviatrix – a remarkable pilot and a remarkable woman.