I Fly Again!

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Most of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Bruce, CB-841200-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available here. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.

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"Mrs. Victor Bruce's Return". Flight. February 27, 1932. pp. 182-184.

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Mary Victor Bruce. 1977. Nine Lives Plus: Record-breaking on Land, Sea, and in the Air. Pelham Books: London. ISBN 0 7207 0974 1

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Brief video available here shows Mary Victor Bruce make a brief statement after a flight in the Focke-Wulf F-19 "Ente".

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A biography has been written about her. Details are at the link. As well, you can read another obituary at the link, which nicely summarizes her life, careers and adventures.

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MARY VICTOR (MILDRED) BRUCE

Mary Victor Bruce, ca. 1930
Mary Victor Bruce, ca. 1930

Mary Victor (Mildred) Bruce entered a life of adventure early, riding her brother's motorcycles and automobile racing. Image, left, during an automobile race. She learned to fly in 1930, bought an airplane, and, with about 40 flight hours' experience, headed east.

Based at Esher, England, she began a major aerial voyage around the globe. She was in the midst of a round-the- world trip when she visited Tucson. She departed her home base in England during September, 1930. She flew eastward to Japan, took a steamer across the Pacific to Vancouver, British Columbia, flew across America, sailed on to France, and from there she returned to London by plane. 

In North America, she departed Vancouver December 17, 1930 and arrived in Medford, OR on December 24, 1930. She  was in Medford for a week, having her plane repaired because she nosed it over on landing. She headed south to California, then eastward.

We find her landing solo at Tucson Monday January 19, 1931. She was eastbound from San Diego, CA to Midland, TX.

She wrecked her plane for the last time in Baltimore.  The plane was repaired in time for her to circle the Empire State Building (see mention of that in her London Globe obituary, below). She made good time in her return to England. Her reception at home followed about a month after her landing in Tucson. The British journal, Flight, (left sidebar) documented her return as follows, "The whole welcome was carried through in a quiet and sensible manner and there was none of that hysterical public heroine worship; actually there could not have been more than 100 people present, but those who were were thoroughly enthusiastic and fully realised the excellence of the flight which Mrs. Bruce had made."

An image from the Flight article is below, showing her being greeted at Heston during her victorious return to England. Her airplane is behind her. It is a Blackburn Bluebird IV (with Cirrus engine), with British registration G-ABDS. You can see the "-A" in the photo. By the time she returned to England, ts wings and body were covered with signatures and messages from people around the world. G-ABDS was displayed for a time in a London subway station. Its fate is unknown. It is not in a museum today.

Mary Victor Bruce, Flight, February 27, 1931, Page 183
Mary Victor Bruce, Flight, February 27, 1931, Page 183

Later in the 1930s she turned her energies to business, developing an air freight and airline company; her planes were the first to carry air hostesses, and made the fastest flights between London and Paris. Her fleet of airplanes and pilots were critical in developing air defenses over London as war in Europe loomed again. 

Mrs. Victor Bruce never lost her love of speed. At age 81, she drove a Ford Ghia Capri once around a racetrack at 110 mph, her best time ever; and at age 83 flew aerobatics in a small Havilland Chipmunk airplane.

Born November 10, 1895, Pilot Bruce flew West on May 21, 1990. I present three obituaries, below, because each of them present a little different detail about her life. The London Globe of May 24, 1990 reported:

"Mary Victor Bruce, the daredevil pilot who broke land, air and sea speed records and was once arrested for flying circles around the Empire State Building, has died, her son said yesterday. She was 94.

She died Monday "of old age," said her son, Anthony Bruce.

The pioneer race car driver, speed-boat captain and pilot once said "going slowly always makes me tired."

In 1926 she married Victor Austin Bruce. A year later the two undertook a 6,000-mile tour through Sweden and Finland, penetrating 270 miles north of the Arctic Circle where they planted the Union Jack after "running out of road," she said."

Another obituary is below.

Mary Victor Bruce, Obituary, Poughkeepsie Journal, May 24,1990
Mary Victor Bruce, Obituary, Poughkeepsie Journal, May 24,1990

The third, from an unidentified source of May 25, 1990, is below.

Mary Victor Bruce, Obituary, May 25, 1990
Mary Victor Bruce, Obituary, May 25, 1990

As happens many times with peoples' lifelong accumulations of memorabilia and personal items, hers were auctioned. The article below presents a brief biographical sketch followed by a listing of some of her belongings to be auctioned.

Mary Victor Bruce, London Times, October 26, 1996
Mary Victor Bruce, London Times, October 26, 1996

 

"Nine Lives Plus"
"Nine Lives Plus"

You may need to magnify it in your browser to read it, but this article implies she bought her airplane on a whim for £550 preferring it over a dress ("frock") she was also looking at. It also conjectures that, with 40 flight hours' experience, Mary Victor Bruce may have been the most inexperienced pilot to fly around the world. Not so. Register pilot F.K. Baron von Koenig-Warthausen began his journey two years earlier with 20 hours. The article also cites her book, right, one of five written about her adventurous exploits.

She had a number of mishaps, crashes and nose-overs, during her flight around the world. She shrugged these off by saying that she welcomed them because, "... the only chance I have to get my hair cut or write is when I crash."

Her pilot log books, pilot license, folders of news clippings and a model she built of her Blackburn were among the auction items. There was also a 78RPM recording of her recounting her world flight. They were expected to bring between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds.

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Dossier 2.4.24

UPLOADED: 11/25/08 REVISED: 07/27/12

 
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Some of the news items and the copy of her book cover were found at the International Women's Air & Space Museum, Inc., 165 Burke Lakefront Airport, 1501 North Marginal Rd. , Cleveland, OH 44114.

Staff member Cris Takacs was especially helpful. Thanks to Cris and her staff for allowing me to access their files on Mary Victor Bruce and other female pilots.

 
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