May 27, 2022 1:20 pm

An Argentine against the Nazis: she was born in Quilmes but her passion for flying led her to war and to be a “Cover Girl”

Wars are errors of humanity, they are breaks in the life of each one of those who participate in them. But not everyone is part of it in the same way. There are those who necessarily participate in them and those who, seeing them as injustices, bring out their heroic side.

Full of courage, courage and daring Maureen Adele Chase Dunlop de Popp was an Argentine who in 1942, in the midst of the world war, embarked on an Argentine ship bound for the British Isles to participate as a pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), whose mission was to fly the new warplanes from the factories to the various air bases.

His life began in 1920, in the city of Quilmes, Province of Buenos Aires, but during a vacation in England Maureen Dunlop came into contact with airplanes and became interested in them, at only 16 years old he took his first flight classes, a fact that over time would be relevant.

The daughter of an Australian agricultural businessman and an English mother, she was educated in Argentina, at the Santa Hilda School in Hurlingham. However, her destiny was not written, in those days her life was not going along the path that her companions traveled and her rebellious spirit led her to make decisions out of the ordinary for a young woman of her time: upon returning to our country, without Still old enough to continue with her idea of ​​being a pilot – and continue with the lessons – Maureen had to intrepidly resolve that “bureaucratic detail” and falsified her certificates in order to continue her instruction at the Aeroclub Argentino.

First Officer Maureen Dunlop (1920 – 2012), of the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) next to a Fairey Barracuda torpedo bomber while consulting her pilots’ notes, September 1944Leonard McCombe – Picture Post

At the age of 19, the Second World War broke out, and from the memory of her father’s stories about his participation in the “Great War” she immediately knew what to do: Maureen would go to collaborate in the fight that the United Kingdom would wage against Germany. Nazi.

She along with her sister Joan felt the duty to enlist in the army. His sister, however, provided services for the BBC network. Maureen continued with her desire although it did not have an easy beginning, in those days female pilots had to have a minimum of 500 flight hours, double what was required of men. Although millions of people participated in the war, only 164 were women who served for England.

Maureen Dunlop was capable of flying 38 types of warplanes, flying iconic fighters like Spitfires, Mustangs o Typhoons, as well as bombers WellingtonAlthough his favorite was De Havilland “Mosquito” as commented. And although he did not have confrontations on the battlefield, his great contribution in the world struggle was testing, testing and moving planes from factories to combat bases. As they were test ships, there were many controversies, experiences and adventures that they had to go through to deliver these ships, highlighting the danger of these missions because their pilots not only had to test the new planes in flight, but many times they were easy targets, it was known that statistically one in ten died on their missions, either due to shooting down or mechanical failure, and this is why the British felt special recognition and admiration for the value of the ATA pilots. Reason to vindicate the extremely risky work of our heroine, Maureen.

“She surprised everyone when she arrived because no one expected her to be a woman, but she took off her cap and her hair fell below her shoulders,” recalls Sheila Lanktree, a Rosario daughter of Irishman Bernabé Lanktree, who met her when she left. volunteered.

On September 16, 1944, the cover of the magazine “Picture Post” places her on its cover, Maureen Dunlop became famous and became “Cover Girl”, the photo describes her as Sheila had done, removing her hair from face after descending from a fighter plane. That photograph was intended to raise morale and show that women could preserve their femininity and participate in war, that they could be brave and glamorous at the same time, breaking down stereotypes. Her image became the archetype of women integrated into the war effort, eliciting male sighs and female empathy. His photography went around the world and became historic.

Cover with the image of Maureen Dunlop
Cover with the image of Maureen Dunlop

After the war, she continued working, they knew her as “the Pilot of the Pampas” she was a flight instructor of the same Royal Air Force, at the Luton air base where he instructed pilots of the nascent Aerolineas Argentinas. Back in the country, he joined the Argentine Air Force and later worked as a commercial pilot. Later, he founded an air taxi company and actively flew there until 1969.

In the year 1955, at a reception at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires, life crossed her with who she would fall in love with: Serban Popp (died in 2000), a Romanian diplomat who was already retired. Together they not only had a son and two daughters, but after moving to Norfolk, in the United Kingdom, they dedicated themselves to breeding thoroughbred Arabian horses and, at the same time, introduced Creole horses in that country.

In 2003 Maureen Dunlop was one of three ATA female pilots awarded the medal ‘Airbender Pilot’ of the air pilots and navigators guild. “I was very lucky, it was good to be able to help the English in the war,” he said.

Despite having resided and obtained British citizenship during World War II, Maureen Dunlop proudly maintained her Argentine citizenship until her death, which occurred in 2012, which she did not renounce even during the painful Malvinas War.

Isla Dewar’s novel Izzy’s War was based on her life experiences, and wanted to popularize her figure since her story is very little known.

The book on the life of Maureen Dunlop
The book on the life of Maureen Dunlop

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