Jane Winstone was born at Wanganui on 24 September 1912, the daughter of Lina Storme Clapham and her husband, Arthur George Winstone, a chemist. The eldest of three sisters, she grew up in the family home on Durie Hill. At 16, while still a pupil at Sacred Heart Convent, she took up flying as a hobby, travelling to New Plymouth and Hawera for lessons until an aero club opened in Wanganui. She flew solo at 17, becoming the country’s youngest woman pilot at the time. After joining the Western Federated Flying Club, she gained her pilot’s licence on 14 August 1931 – the 15th woman to be granted a licence in New Zealand.
On leaving school Jane worked in her father’s chemist shop. Much of her spare time was spent at the flying club and she participated in numerous air pageants around New Zealand, excelling in competitive events. She was a member of the club’s committee and organised several gatherings for distinguished aviators visiting Wanganui. Among the larger aeroplanes she flew was Charles Kingsford Smith’s Southern Cross. In 1934, when Jean Batten toured New Zealand after her record-breaking flight from England to Australia, Winstone and the club’s three other women pilots – Trevor Hunter, Eva Parkinson and June Summerell – flew down the coast in their de Havilland Gipsy Moths to meet Batten and escort her to Wanganui, then on to New Plymouth and Hawera.
Through flying Winstone met and became engaged to fellow pilot Angus Carr MacKenzie, the company secretary of a local garage. In 1940 he joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Commissioned as a pilot officer in June 1941, he flew on raids over Germany and France, twice surviving forced landings in the sea. Winstone was also keen to help the war effort and offered her services to the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in Britain, whose main function was to ferry aircraft from factories or maintenance units to Royal Air Force bases within the United Kingdom. It also delivered and collected mail, signals and secret documents, and transported service personnel on urgent duties. Winstone’s application was accepted, subject to her making her own way to England and passing medical and flying tests. In June 1942, shortly before leaving New Zealand, she received word that MacKenzie was missing on a raid over Essen; his body was never recovered and he was later officially assumed ‘lost at sea’.
Winstone arrived in England in August 1942. After passing her tests she was appointed to the ATA, one of five New Zealanders (Trevor Hunter was another) among the 90 women who served in the ATA during the war. She completed her initial training at White Waltham, Berkshire, the headquarters of the ATA, then undertook further training in handling different aircraft. Ferrying was hazardous work: pilots usually flew solo, radio contact was forbidden and sudden changes in the weather could necessitate unscheduled landings in difficult circumstances; pilots also had to be on constant alert for barrage balloons. In January 1941 the famous English pilot Amy Johnson had been killed flying for the ATA.
Working her way up to second officer, Winstone ferried many types of aircraft, including Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes. Among her more unusual assignments was delivering a Gloster Gladiator for use in a film. On another occasion she accompanied a recruiting party from the Air Ministry on a tour of women’s colleges.
Winstone was based for a time in Luton, Bedfordshire, and by early 1944 was flying from Cosford airbase in Shropshire. After taking off on 10 February 1944 the engine of her Spitfire failed at 600 feet. The aircraft spun into the ground near Tong Castle and she was killed; she was 31 years old. Members of the ATA acted as pallbearers at her funeral, at the Church of St Joseph, Maidenhead; she was buried in a section of the local cemetery set aside for ATA casualties. After the war Trevor Hunter took Winstone’s logbooks to Wanganui and gave them to Jane’s mother. A talented pilot and a courageous woman, Jane Winstone was one of 16 women from the ATA killed during the war.