As She led a most Fascinating life…
Once again, your Humble No Fenders Scribe is running extremely way behind the Pack, Uhm Race! Since this story’s been gaterin’ Moss Here upon thou Oregon Coast the past two years now. But like the late Kurt Vonnegut famously said: “so it goes…”
I first listened to The New York Times Obituary article about Roberta Cowell Wayback’ in June, 2020, when All sorts of Mayhem was occurring! Not to mention my own struggles to migrate successfully to my new, cough Cough, Ahem! Improved, Yeah that’s supposedly the ticket! Windows 10 Operating system, which simply was a Nightmare!
As I’d hoped to tie this No Fenders story into that year’s Annual Pride Month, But Y’all Know thee Drill here in Nofendersville. Now aiming to post it on the Anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots instead, which Y’all can learn more about in the following link.
Whilst Ye Waves ‘O Synchronicity splashed upon thoust once again, when “Reading,” Err listening to The New York times Obituary section earlier this month about the totally unknown to Mwah Clela Rorex,
Who became the first U.S. County clerk to issue a Marriage licence to a Gay Couple in Colorado in 1975.
As we All know now, the typical, yearly Pride Month Festivities were completely wiped out two years ago due to the Deadly COVID 19 Pandemic, with just over 133,000 Americans succumbing to the Corona Virus when I initially began typing this…
Whilst as a Nation, we’ve “Moved On” from Covid, albeit I know we’ve long surpassed the One Million Death mark from this Deadly virus! With No idea how soon, or if we’ve already eclipsed 1.2 Million American Deaths from COVID-19? Which by my very rudimentary Math would equate to More than 20 times the U.S. Military’s total Vietnam Casualties of 58,000!
And couple this with the Gruesomely Heinous Death of George Floyd on Memorial Day (2020) no less! And it's easy to see why that year's June's Annual Pride Month went virtually unnoticed.
Yet obviously this is why Roberta Cowell's long forgotten Death was finally published that June in the New York Times obituary section in it's series of Overlooked persons Deaths nearly a Decade after her passing, Say What?
As Y'all may be Sayin' what's All ye Gory Fuss over Roberta Elizabeth Marshall Cowell? Well she was actually born Robert Marshall Cowell on April 8th, 1918 before becoming Roberta in the early 1950's, which at that time was extremely Taboo in Bloody great Britain! And was the first known Trans Woman to have Sex Reassignment Surgery in 1951.
Yet I suppose I wouldn't have become so infatuated by Roberta's exploits if not for learning that she was a British Racing Driver, along with serving as a Pilot in the Royal Air Force during World War II.
Roberta's interest in Fast Cars reportedly dates back to her early School years at the Whitgift Boys School, where She was a member of the School’s Motor club before leaving School at Age 16. Roberta then briefly served as an Apprentice Aircraft Engineer before leaving to join the Royal Air Force in 1936 as a Pilot Officer on probation before being discharged due to Air sickness.
Yet I suppose Military service was in Her DNA, since Her Father Major-General Sir Ernest Marshall Cowell was a prominent Surgeon who served in both of the “Great Wars,” i.e.; World War I and World War II. And during 1944 was made Honourary Surgeon to King George VI.
Also during 1936 while studying Engineering at University College London, Powell began motor racing in earnest. Winning Her Class at the Lands End Speed Trial that year, whilst Cutting Her Teeth as a volunteer Mechanic at Brooklands.
As Powell’s Highwater mark in motor racing came when participating in the 1939 Antwerp Grand Prix, a Sports Car race, before WWII consumed All of Europe.
Having obtained Her Private Pilot’s license prior to the outbreak of War, Powell first was commissioned as a pilot in the Royal Army Service Corps in 1940. Then transferred to the RAF in 1942, and eventually was flying reconnaissance missions in a Spitfire PR.XI variant.
Roberta made a lucky escape on June 4, 1944 when suffering an Oxygen system failure at an Altitude of 31,000 feet! As Her Spitfire continued flying for an Hour’s time with the pilot now Comatose! Before regaining semi Consciousness at low Altitude and safely returning to Base.
Later flying an Hawker Typhoon RF IB on November 18, 1944, Powell wasn’t as lucky. As Her Typhoon reconnaissance Airplane had it’s engine knocked out by German Anti Aircraft fire. And upon making a Dead Stick landing, Powell was captured by German troops.
Failing to escape twice, Powell was sent to Stalag Luft I, where She lost 50lbs during Her five months internment before Stalin’s Red Army liberated the Camp on April 30, 1945.
To continue reading the second part of this Roberta Powell retrospective, please visit the following No Fenders link below.