Pauline Gower

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Pauline Gower
Pauline Gower.jpg
Pauline Gower at a Women's Engineering Society awards dinner in the 1940s
Pauline Mary de Peauly Gower

22 July 1910
Tonbridge, Kent, England
Died2 March 1947(1947-03-02) (aged 36)[1]
Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
William Cusack Fahie
(m. 1945)

Pauline Mary de Peauly Gower Fahie (22 July 1910 – 2 March 1947) was a British pilot and writer who established the women's branch of the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War.

Early life and education[edit]

Daughter of MP Sir Robert Gower, and educated at Beechwood Sacred Heart School, she first flew with Alan Cobham and was fascinated by flying. Gower met Dorothy Spicer at the London Aeroplane Club at Stag Lane Aerodrome[2] and they became friends. In August 1931 they established a joy-riding and air taxi service in Kent.[3] Gower was licensed to carry passengers for 'hire or reward', and held a 'B' Pilot's licence after completing the test requirements which included a solo night flight and one hundred hours plus of flying in the day.[4] Spicer was qualified as a ground engineer and held an 'A' (private) pilot's licence.[5] They hired a plane and later bought a Gypsy Moth for the business, but struggled to make a living so decided to join the Crimson Fleet air circus and later the British Hospitals' air pageant.[6]

Piloting career[edit]

In 1932, to support British Hospitals, they toured the country with an Air Circus, giving air pageants in 200 towns.[7] They joined the Aeronautical Section of the Women's Engineering Society in 1932.[8] Gower also wrote for Girl's Own Paper and Chatterbox and published a collection of poetry, Piffling Poems for Pilots, in 1934. As a writer she was acquainted with W. E. Johns whose character Worrals was based on herself as well as Amy Johnson.[citation needed]

Engineering work[edit]

Gower in the cockpit of a de Havilland Tiger Moth

In 1935 she was appointed as a council member for the Women's Engineering Society.[9] She chaired a meeting on "The History of British Airships", where Mr. M. Langley championed the airboat and Hon. A. F. de Moleyns the airship.[10]

In 1936, Gower was the first woman to be awarded the Air Ministry's Second Class Navigator's Licence.[11] Later that year, Gower and her colleague Dorothy Spicer ('daring aeronauts') presented a technical paper at the Women's Engineering Society Annual General Meeting on the treatment of metals for aircraft engineers.[12]

In 1938, she was appointed a civil defence commissioner in London with the Civil Air Guard. That year her work on women in aviation—Women with Wings—was published.[13]

Air Transport Auxiliary[edit]

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Gower made use of her high-level connections to propose the establishment of a women's section in the new Air Transport Auxiliary —the ATA would be responsible for ferrying military aircraft from factory or repair facility to storage unit or operational unit—to the authorities. Based at Hatfield, Gower formed a ferry pool, initially made up of eight female pilots in December 1939.[14] Joan Hughes, Margaret Cunnison, Mona Friedlander, Rosemary Rees, Marion Wilberforce, Margaret Fairweather, Gabrielle Patterson and Winifred Crossley Fair were known as the First Eight.[15]

Gower was appointed as the head of the women's branch, and commenced the selection and testing of women pilots, the first eight being appointed by the ATA on 1 January 1940. Early members included ice-hockey international Mona Friedlander, Margaret Fairweather (Lord Runciman's daughter) and former ballet dancer Rona Rees.[16] Later members included Amy Johnson, Lettice Curtis and former Olympic skier Lois Butler.

In 1941, Gower's portrait was created by Ethel Léontine Gabain as part of a series commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee, it is now held by the Imperial War Museum.[17]

Gower received the MBE for her services in 1942[1] In time Gower was able to argue that women in the ATA should be allowed to fly any type of aircraft. In 1943 they achieved pay parity with male pilots. Before that they had routinely been paid only 80% of the male wage.[18]

The British Library holds a recording of Gower talking about her flying experiences over Kent during a night flight as well as her opinions of women being pilots.[19]

Gower received a Harmon Trophy award posthumously in 1950.[20]


A bus company in Hatfield named its eight buses after the "first eight" of the Tiger Moth pilots in the ATA, including Gower.[18] The fifteen surviving women members of the ATA (and 100 surviving male pilots) were given a special award in 2008 by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Gower married Wing Commander Bill Fahie in 1945. She died on 2 March 1947 giving birth to twin sons, who survived.[1][22][23]


  1. ^ a b c "Mrs. W. C. Fahie". The Times. 4 March 1947. p. 7.
  2. ^ Fahie, Michael (23 September 2004). "Spicer [married name Pearse], Dorothy Norman". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/67672. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ ""Thirteenth Annual Report". The Woman Engineer. The Institution of Engineering and Technology. 3 (12): 189". October 1932.
  4. ^ "Aviation As A Career". The Woman Engineer. 111.No.10: 151. March 1932. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  5. ^ Heald, Henrietta (2019). Magnificent women and their revolutionary machines. London. ISBN 978-1-78352-660-4. OCLC 1080083743.
  6. ^ Robinson, Jane (2020). Ladies can't climb ladders: the pioneering adventures of the first professional women. London. ISBN 978-0-85752-587-1. OCLC 1127181285.
  7. ^ "The Woman Engineer (1929 - 1934)". 3. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  8. ^ ""News of Members". The Woman Engineer. The Institution of Engineering and Technology. 3 (15): 247". June 1933. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  9. ^ "Annual Report", The Woman Engineer, 4 (4): 62–63, September–October 1935, retrieved 11 October 2016 – via The Institution of Engineering and Technology
  10. ^ "Autumn Programme", The Woman Engineer, 4 (6): 87, March 1936, retrieved 11 October 2016 – via
  11. ^ "News of Members", The Woman Engineer, 4 (6): 82, March 1936, retrieved 11 October 2016 – via The Institution of Engineering and Technology
  12. ^ The Woman Engineer, 4: 204–205, 1935, archived from the original on 10 May 2019, retrieved 11 October 2016 – via The Institution of Engineering and Technology Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Merry, Lois K. Women Military Pilots of World War II: A History with Biographies of American, British, Russian and German Aviators. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc., 2010. ISBN 978-0-7864-4441-0
  14. ^ Lomax, Judy (1986). Women of the Air. London: John Murray. p. 141. ISBN 0-7195-4293-6.
  15. ^ Poad, Richard (14 January 2020). "ATA's first 8 women pilots". Air Transport Auxiliary. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  16. ^ "ATA First Eight". Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  17. ^ "Captain Pauline Gower of the Women's Air Transport Auxiliary Women's Work in the War (Other than the Services) - Six lithographs by Ethel Gabain". Imperial War Museums. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Inspirational ATA Female Pilots Honoured". Women in Transport. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Gower, Pauline. (n.d.). Ferry pilots".
  20. ^ "Mrs. W. C. Fahie". The Times (London, England). 4 March 1947. Retrieved 28 October 2016 – via Gale.
  21. ^ "Britain's FEMALE Spitfire pilots to receive badge of courage at last". Evening Standard. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  22. ^ Notice of Pauline Fahie's death,, 13 March 1947.
  23. ^ Air-Britain Aviation World, March 2020, p. 37.


  • Curtis, Lettice, The Forgotten Pilots, Nelson Saunders, Olney, Bucks, 1985; ISBN 0-947750-02-9
  • Edwards, Owen Dudley, "The Battle of Britain and Children's Literature" in Paul Addison & Jeremy A. Crang (eds), The Burning Blue: a new history of the Battle of Britain. London: Pimlico, 2000; ISBN 0-7126-6475-0
  • Edwards, Owen Dudley, British Children's Fiction of the Second World War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007; ISBN 0-7486-1651-9
  • Fahie, Michael, A Harvest of Memories: The Life of Pauline Gower, MBE. Peterborough: GMS Enterprises, 1995; ISBN 1-870384-37-7
  • Whittell, Giles, Spitfire Women of World War II. (Hardcover) November 2007 by Harper Press; ISBN 0007235356 (ISBN 9780007235353)

External links[edit]