Herne Bay, Kent
Amy Johnson CBE (1 July 1903 โ 5 January 1941) was a pioneering English aviator who was the first female pilot to fly alone from Britain to Australia.
In 1940, during the Second World War, Johnson joined the newly formed Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), whose job was to transport Royal Air Force aircraft around the country โ and rose to First Officer. Her former husband also flew for the ATA throughout the war.
On 5 January 1941, while flying an Airspeed Oxford for the ATA from Prestwick via Blackpool to RAF Kidlington near Oxford, Johnson went off course in adverse weather conditions. Reportedly out of fuel, she bailed out as her aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary near Herne Bay.
The crew of HMS Haslemere spotted Johnson's parachute coming down and saw her alive in the water, calling for help. Conditions were poor โ there was a heavy sea and a strong tide, snow was falling and it was intensely cold. Lt Cmdr Walter Fletcher, the commander of Haslemere, dived into the water in an attempt to rescue Johnson. Fletcher failed in the attempt. As a result of the intense cold he died in hospital days later.
A memorial service was held for Johnson in the church of St. Martin in the Fields on 14 January 1941. Walter Fletcher was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal in May 1941.
Johnson had been one of the original subscribers to the share offer for Airspeed. It has been more recently hinted her death was due to friendly fire. In 1999, it was reported that Tom Mitchell, claimed to have shot Johnson's aircraft down when she twice failed to give the correct identification code during the flight. Mitchell explained how the aircraft was sighted and contacted by radio. A request was made for the signal. She gave the wrong one twice. "Sixteen rounds of shells were fired and the plane dived into the Thames Estuary. We all thought it was an enemy plane until the next day when we read the papers and discovered it was Amy. The officers told us never to tell anyone what happened." #hernebay #history #aviators #kent