Monday, May 05, 2008

diana barnato walker r.i.p.

the story of another incredible woman - diana barnato walker was the first woman to break the sound barrier. the telegraph obit is one of the finer ones, containing many amusing and impressive vignettes. my favourites include:

"she described an occasion when, delivering a Spitfire, she decided to try some aerobatics but got stuck upside down: “While I was wondering what to do next, from out of my top overall pocket fell my beautifully engraved silver powder compact. It wheeled round and round the bubble canopy like a drunken sailor on a wall of death, then sent all the face powder over everything.”"

"The two girls were brought up by their mother and an army of nannies and governesses in a large house on Primrose Hill, but often went to stay with their father, who indulged them by allowing them to stay up late for dinner. Once Diana was placed next to Dudley “Benjy” Benjafield, the 1927 winner of Le Mans with SCH “Sammy” Davis. Noticing that her neighbour was nodding off into his soup, Diana politely tapped his bald head with her spoon. Later he presented her with a fine cashmere scarf for “saving” him from drowning."

"One evening in 1963 in the mess at RAF Middleton St George, the Wing Commander Flying, John Severgne, idly suggested that Diana might like to fly one of the RAF’s new supersonic Lightnings. She jumped at the chance and on August 26 1963, following clearance from the Ministry of Defence, she took off and reached a speed of Mach 1.65 (1,262 mph), making her the first woman to break the sound barrier."

another amazing aviatrix - may she rest in peace!

grauniad obit

1 comment:

  1. I used to own and fly an old army trainer -- a Luscombe 8A -- and know the incredible joy and terror of being alone in an airplane. Of course, the sound barrier and I never met. However, I once did achieve a ground speed of fifty-five miles per hour.