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Spreading My Wings: One of Britain's Top…

Spreading My Wings: One of Britain's Top Women Pilots Tells Her Remarkable… (edition 2008)

by Diana Barnato Walker

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193537,190 (4.08)5
Title:Spreading My Wings: One of Britain's Top Women Pilots Tells Her Remarkable Story from Pre-War Flying to Breaking the Sound Barrier
Authors:Diana Barnato Walker
Info:Grub Street (2008), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library, Read in 2012 (inactive)
Tags:Biography, Kindle, 2012

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Spreading My Wings: One of Britain's Top Women Pilots Tells Her Remarkable Story from Pre-War Flying to Breaking the Sound Barrier by Diana Barnato Walker

  1. 00
    Woman pilot by Jackie Moggridge (Service)
  2. 00
    Spitfire Women of World War II by Giles Whittell (antisyzygy)
    antisyzygy: Whittell's book covers the background to the ATA while Barnato Walker gives a very personal account of time with them.

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Intrigued by the glamorous introduction to this adventurous pilot in Giles Whittell's book Spitfire Women, Diana Barnato Walker is now one of my heroines. Brave and beautiful, with enough inner strength and energy to take to the skies and survive the lows, Diana is truly inspiring. From debutante to 'atagirl', Diana flew over 80 types of aircraft during the war, including Spitfires, lost a fiance and a husband in tragic circumstances, then went on to break the sound barrier, battle cancer, and was awarded a well-deserved MBE in recognition of her spectacular career. If her life was packed into a novel, I would have a hard time swallowing such implausible achievements, but Diana Barnato Walker did all this and more.

Her early life is slightly less impressive, even though her family's wealth and connections set Diana up for her later career. Her father was Woolf Barnato, a famous racing car driver, and she basically took up flying to escape all the 'nannies, governesses, companions and chaperones' of well bred young women. Reading about all the hunting, parties and posh houses of her expensive lifestyle makes Diana sound like a flying Mitford sister, but she really proved her mettle during the Second World War. 'Despite the supposed glamour,' she tells the reader, 'the life was hard for all ATA pilots, not least the women, who had to prove themselves able to do the job as well as the men' (which they did). Two whirlwind romances were also cut short, when Diana's fiance was killed in 1942, and then three years later her husband died in a senseless accident in peace time while ferrying a plane between two airfields. Diana and Derek Walker, 'a leader of men' with a 'swashbuckling step' and 'jutting chin', once delivered two Spitfires across to Brussels in wartime, displaying a truly equal partnership. After losing Derek, Diana never remarried, but did have a son to her married American lover. Fact trumps fiction once again.

If you can adjust to Diana's hale and hearty narrative style, her memoirs are an education and an inspiration to read. The Kindle format needs smoothing out, but at least there are illustrations, which were missing from Whittell's ebook. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Dec 28, 2012 |
I really wanted to like this story... ok I did finish it... and I did like the flying anecdotes and war stories. I really had a hard time getting past her seeming obliviousness to her own privilege and the opportunities her wealth afforded her. I suppose that's a British class thing, and as an American I tend to be overly sensitive about it... ( )
  clif_hiker | Mar 5, 2011 |
An excellent read. Diana Barnato was a privileged pre-war socialite, granddaughter of one the De Beers diamond brokers founders, daughter of a 'Bentley'. Her early life was one of fast cars, luxury homes and glamorous parties. Having had the opportunity to fly pre-war, she turned that hobby into an important contribution to the war effort, as one of the hundred or so pilots with the Air Transport Auxiliary, ferry planes from factory to airfields.
This biography concentrates on those war years, and she writes with a very easy, natural style, exactly as you would imagine her telling it in person at a family event. Not afraid to make fun of herself, nevertheless she manages to convey the seriousness and danger of the work, not stinting when it comes to dealing with the losses of those close to her. It is, in the end, a personal account, rather than the dealing with the politics of women pilots in that era. ( )
2 vote antisyzygy | Oct 1, 2010 |
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Born into great wealth, Walker, now in her 80s, chose to step beyond the chaperoned world of privilege, becoming a pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary, and going on to break the speed record for women pilots. This book gives an insight into the glamorous world of the rich, and the hazards of wartime flying. Originally published: Sparkford: Patrick.… (more)

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