SUMMER SERIES: World Famous in Whanganui


They named a rest home after Whanganui aviatrix Jane Winstone and it stands as fitting memorial to a remarkable woman.

Winstone was born at Whanganui in September 1912, the daughter of Lina Storme Clapham and her husband, Arthur George Winstone, a chemist. She grew up in the family home on Durie Hill with her two younger sisters.

But flying was a passion and at 16, while still a pupil at Sacred Heart Convent, she took up flying as a hobby, travelling to New Plymouth and Hawera for lessons until an aero club opened in Whanganui. She flew solo at 17, the country's youngest woman pilot at the time and gained her pilot's licence in August 1931 - the 15th woman to be granted a licence in New Zealand.

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Winstone left school and worked in her father's chemist shop but much of her spare time was spent at the flying club. She took part in air pageants around New Zealand and excelled in competitive events.

In 1934, when Jean Batten toured New Zealand after her record-breaking flight from England to Australia, Winstone and the club's three other women pilots, Trevor Hunter, Eva Parkinson and June Summerell, flew down the coast in their de Havilland Gipsy Moths to meet Batten and escort her to Wanganui, then on to New Plymouth and Hawera.

It was through flying that Winstone met and became engaged to fellow pilot Angus Carr MacKenzie. In 1940 he joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force. He flew in raids over Germany and France, twice surviving forced landings in the sea.

But his fiancee was also keen to help the war effort and offered her services to the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in Britain. The ATA's main task was ferrying aircraft from factories or maintenance units to RAF bases around the United Kingdom. Winstone's application was accepted, but she had to find her own way to England and pass medical and flying tests. Sadly, in June 1942 and shortly before leaving NZ, she received word that MacKenzie was missing on a raid. His body was never recovered and he was later officially presumed dead.

Winstone arrived in England in August 1942 and after passing her tests was appointed to the ATA, one of five New Zealanders (Trevor Hunter was another) among the 90 women who served in the ATA.

Ferrying was hazardous work. Pilots usually flew solo, radio contact was forbidden and sudden changes in the weather meant unscheduled landings in difficult circumstances. But Winstone worked her way up to second officer, ferrying many types of aircraft, including Spitfires and Hurricanes.

After taking off on February 10, 1944, the engine of her Spitfire failed. The aircraft crashed and Winstone, 31, was killed

The Jane Winstone retirement village on St John's Hill, Whanganui, named after the famous flier.
The Jane Winstone retirement village on St John's Hill, Whanganui, named after the famous flier.