International Women's Day

Today we celebrate #InternationalWomensDay and focusing on #InspiringWomen, tell the story of Rita Tetlow, an extraordinary woman and incidentally, the great Aunt of our slightly less intrepid web manager, Ewen Brown.

Life was never dull for Rita Telow: Trained as a pilot in the Second World War, Rita flew 26 different types of aircraft including Spitfire, Hurricane and Tiger Moth, delivering them to various RAF bases around the UK. There were no radio links in the aircraft so navigation meant 'map on the knee and looking at the ground' and hoping that the weather would stay fine. 

After the war she joined the newly formed British South American Airways and in 1946 became an air hostess on the first passenger flight to leave Heathrow since 1939. She received instructions from J. Lyons and Co. on how to serve their newly-developed frozen meals and familiarised herself with the converted Lancaster bomber, named 'Stardust', which was to carry her and 13 passengers to South America.

Rita had to design her own uniform, buy and heat the food and do the washing up, as well as supply the aircraft with cutlery and crockery. To supplement her low income, she would buy shoes and silk stockings in South America to sell back in Britain, which was still subject to rationing.

On a stopover in Gambia during her first flight she met the handsome ex-pathfinder Mosquito pilot who was to be her first husband. Sadly, 14 months after they were married, and she was four months pregnant, her husband's plane disappeared in the Bermuda region. The plane was never discovered and the mystery surrounding the incident helped create the Bermuda Triangle legend.

In 1949 she met Christopher Johnson, of the pottery firm Johnson Brothers, and they married in 1949. They had two children and tragically, in 1988, lost her daughter to multiple sclerosis. 

Mrs Tetlow threw herself into voluntary work and was involved with many organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau, the WRV's, the Family Planning Association, Douglas MacMillan Hospice and the Council of Social Services.

In 1973 she became the chairman of The Beth Johnson Foundation, set up to benefit the elderly, and in January 1979 was made an MBE. Rita sadly passed away in 2007.

On International Women's Day we celebrate Mrs Tetlow and the millions of brave and intrepid women throughout history.

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