Clare Mulley reveals their stories

Aviatrixes risked their lives, either delivering thousands of aircraft to their RAF colleagues, or as pioneers for the future generation.

Anna Leska-Daab waited until the early hours before climbing quietly over the airfield fence. She was on home turf, so despite the pitch darkness she knew her way around the hangars - but everything else had changed. It was late September 1939. Poland had been invaded first by Nazi-Germany less than four weeks earlier, and then by the Soviets. Forced to retreat, the remains of the Polish armed forces were regrouping overseas. A liaison pilot with the Polish Air Force who had become separated from her unit, Leska-Daab had been ordered to surrender.

Still wearing the blue uniform of which she was so proud, she now disobeyed a direct command, stole across the dark expanse of the Nazi-occupied airfield, and clambered into the nearest cockpit.

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