In WWII American, British and German women flew aircraft from factories to the squadrons, taught other pilots to fly, or worked as test pilots.
None of them saw combat.
In the Soviet Union they did things differently.
The Soviets had the "Night Witches". A regiment of women pilots who terrified German troops by bombing them at night. They would swoop in silently, in the cover of night, with their engines turned off, drop their bombs, start their engines and get away as fast as they could. A lot of them were killed in action.
They also had bomber pilots attached to predominantly male squadrons and fighter pilots - some of whom were very successful.
They struggled to get into the Soviet air force to begin with and once in they faced great difficulty overcoming the unsympathetic attitudes of their male compatriots. And if they came down, and ended up in German hands, the consequences were too awful to think about.
These were very brave and determined people and I want to include them in my body of work on WWII pilots - which so far is all male.
I want to find as many of these women pilots as I can, meet them, interview them and photograph them in the "then and now" style I have used with my male WWII pilots (I have photographed* and interviewed 24 WWII pilots in six countries).
* Mike Schoenholtz photographed my American pilots and I interviewed them.
Risks and challenges
In terms of meeting, interviewing and photographing the pilots I have done this so many times now, I am an old hand at it.
The main problem I have is time. These fine old women are very old now and they will not be with us for much longer. In fact one died last week. So there is a real imperative to get out there and get the job done.
Ideally I would like to present the work in a book, but in order to do this I need more money than I am asking for in this KickStarter project. That is why I am offering the photos and stories of the women pilots in a folio of loose pages of black-and-white now-and-then prints with their respective stories being told in the accompanying eBook. However, if a funding threshold of £8,000 is reached, then I shall present the work in a (conventional) book form as well as an eBook.
- (30 days)