Engineer of the Week No.108: Pauline Mary de Peauly Gower MBE (Mrs Fahie) (22 July 1910 - 2 March 1947)
In Remembrance Week we remember Pauline Gower who set up and commanded the women’s Air Transport Auxiliary, in WW2
Pauline Gower, although from a privileged background, had to find her own way in her chosen career as a pilot, due to family opposition. She supported herself giving music lessons, in order to take her first flying lessons, gaining her A licence (private pilot) in 1930 and the following year got her B licence (commercial pilot) after lessons at the London aeroplane club, Stag Lane. This was where she met Dorothy Spicer with whom she went on to set up a commercial flying company, with a Gypsy Moth plane. Whilst Pauline went on to get every possible pilot’s qualifications, Dorothy did likewise in the aero-engineering side. However the business was short-lived and they went to join various air-display teams which were popular at the time. In 1938 she was invited to become a member of the Gorrell committee on aircraft safety.
As the Second World War approached, Pauline campaigned for women pilots to be allowed to do their bit. In 1939 she was appointed a commissioner of the Civil Air Guard. Later that year she was appointed as an Air Transport Auxiliary second officer and given the job of forming a women's section. The number of women pilots rose to 150, with a few flight engineers too, and they eventually flew all types of aircraft, from light trainers to four-engined bombers. Some of ‘her girls’ even gave their lives, including the most famous of all, her friend Amy Johnston. Pauline campaigned for and finally obtained the same pay for her women pilots as the men received for doing the same work, and was awarded an MBE in 1942. Her exceptional leadership skills led to her appointment as a director of British Overseas Airways, the first woman in such a senior position in any national airline.
Pauline joined the Air Section of the Women’s Engineering Society in 1931, and was an active member, speaking, writing articles for The Woman Engineer and promoting flying careers to members. In 1935 she joined its national council.
In 1945 she married and two years later gave birth to twins, but unfortunately died shortly afterwards.