Audrey Sale-Barker

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Audrey Sale-Barker
Medal record
Competitor for  United Kingdom
Women's Alpine skiing
World Championships
Silver medal – second place 1932 Cortina d'Ampezzo Slalom

Audrey Florice Durrell Drummond Sale-Barker[1] (b. 1903 in Chelsea, London,[2] d. 21 December 1994 in Dorset, England[3]), nicknamed Wendy,[4][5] was a British alpine skiing champion and prominent aviator. She was born into high society, the daughter of children's writer Lucy Sale-Barker and Maurice Drummond-Sale-Barker.[6] After her marriage to George Douglas-Hamilton, 10th Earl of Selkirk in 1947, she became Audrey Douglas-Hamilton, Countess of Selkirk.

Skiing career[edit]

An inaugural member of the Ladies' Ski Club organized by Sir Arnold Lunn, she was the first female skier to win the diamond badge at the prestigious Arlberg-Kandahar race, signifying at least four top-three finishes in the combined race. She won the combined title at the second A-K race, held in St. Anton in 1929.[7]

American skier Alice Kiare described Sale-Barker as a striking figure:

Audrey Sale-Barker made an extraordinary impression on everybody who saw her ski. Very tall, extremely slim, her height accentuated by trousers so long that they touched the ground around her boots, pale honey-coloured hair, a vague dreamy expression, and when she skied I can only describe her as a sleep-walker. She stood very erect, with both arms slightly lifted in front of her, she had little or no reserve strength in a race, gave everything she had, and often collapsed and fainted when a race was over. She had incredible courage, and I will never forget seeing her take the last steep slope of Dengert at the finish of the 1928 Arlberg-Kandahar absolutely straight, with lifted arms like someone in a trance.
— [8]

Sale-Barker was captain of the British women's team at the 1936 Winter Olympics, held at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, the first Olympics to include alpine skiing.[9]

During her ski career, Sale-Barker was romantically linked to Alexander Edward John Bulwer-Lytton, Lord Knebworth (1910-1942), an "impossibly dashing" young viscount who served as president of the Kandahar Ski Club before dying in a plane crash during World War II.[9]

Audrey Sale-Barker in 1932


In 1929, Sale-Barker earned her Aviator's Certificate.[10] In October and November 1932, she and another female pilot, Joan Page, flew from London to Cape Town in a de Havilland Gipsy Moth. They were held up for a time in Cairo when Sudanese authorities wouldn't permit them to fly through the country.[11] On their return from Cape Town, they crashed near Nairobi; Page broke her leg, and Sale-Barker suffered a minor head injury. According to one contemporaneous account, the women were sighted by scouting plane and then located by a rescue party.[12] But according to another, more persistent account, the aviators were saved when a Maasai tribesman came upon them, and Sale-Barker sent him for help with a note written in lipstick, reading "Please come and fetch us. We've had an aircrash AND ARE HURT."[5][13][14]

In June 1940, Sale-Barker joined the Women's Section of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), a British military department charged with ferrying planes from one place to another.[15] She was a close friend of famed ATA pilot Amy Johnson.[3] On November 30, 1945, it was Sale-Barker who was charged with lowering the ATA flag for the last time.[16]

Marriage and later life[edit]

On 6 August 1947, she married George Douglas-Hamilton, 10th Earl of Selkirk and assumed the Douglas-Hamilton surname; they had no children.[6] She died in 1994, just one month after her husband.[17] In a remembrance written a few days after her death by her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Douglas-Hamilton, Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon, she described her postwar married life as a selfless one, dedicated to supporting her husband and those in need.[17]

Her nephew is the Scottish Conservative politician James Douglas-Hamilton.[3]


  1. ^ London, England, Electoral Registers, 1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:, 2010.(subscription required)
  2. ^ FreeBMD[dead link]
  3. ^ a b c The Countess of Selkirk, The Herald (Glasgow), 24 Dec. 1994.
  4. ^ Channelography[dead link]
  5. ^ a b Mail Online Glenys Roberts, "Silk stocking and Spitfires: The dark reality of the girls who flew dangerous wartime missions." The Daily Mail, 12 Sept 2007.
  6. ^ a b Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th ed., (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999, vol. 2, p. 2578
  7. ^ Google Books Arnold Lunn, The Story of Ski-ing. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1952, pp. 87, 97, 207.
  8. ^ Google Books Alice Kiare, in Skiing, the International Sport, ed. Roland Palmedo. New York: Derrydale Press, 1937. Quoted in Arnold Lunn, The Story of Ski-ing. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1952, p. 96.
  9. ^ a b Whittell, Giles. Spitfire Women of World War II. London: HarperPress, 2007, p. 83-85.
  10. ^ Flightglobal "The Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, Official Notices to Members," Flight, 25 Oct 1929.
  11. ^ Flightglobal "Girl Flyers to the Cape Held Up." Flight, 10 Nov. 1932.
  12. ^ Fulton History "Girl flyers, hurt, rescued in Africa" (AP), New York Evening Post, 17 Jan 1933, p. 3.
  13. ^ Time "Aeronautics: Lost & Found," Time, 30 Jan. 1933.(subscription required)
  14. ^ IAOPA Europe Nigel Griffiths, "A salute to the ATA, 60 years on." General Aviation, 18 Mar 2008.
  15. ^ British Air Transport Auxiliary Alan Long, "ATA First Eight." British Air Transport Auxiliary, 2001.
  16. ^ Whittell, Giles. Spitfire Women of World War II. London: HarperPress, 2007, p. 272
  17. ^ a b Elizabeth Douglas-Hamilton, "The countess on her wedding day in 1949," The Herald (Glasgow), 24 Dec 1994.