The Golden Age of Hollywood

Maureen Adele Chase Dunlop de Popp

Research for my forthcoming novel, Sunshine, The Golden Age of Hollywood, Book Two.

Thanks to her appearance on the cover of Picture Post, Maureen Adele Chase Dunlop de Popp (26 October 1920 – 29 May 2012) became the ‘cover girl’ of the Air Transport Auxiliary, a team of pilots who ferried Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs and more between factories and airfields.

Maureen was born in Quilmes, near Buenos Aires. Her parents were Australian farm manager Eric Chase Dunlop, a World War One veteran and a sheep farmer in Patagonia, and his English wife, Jessimin May Williams.

Educated mainly by her governess, Maureen became an expert horse rider. She also developed a fascination for aeroplanes and during a holiday in Britain in 1936, she took flying lessons. Upon her return to Argentina, she backdated her birth certificate and continued flight training with the Aeroclub Argentino.

At the outbreak of World War Two, Maureen decided to support the war effort. However, to join the Air Transport Auxiliary, female pilots needed a minimum of 500 hours’ solo flying, twice that of a man.

Colourised version of Maureen walking away from her Fairey Barracuda

After increasing her flying hours, in April 1942 Maureen joined the ATA. She flew thirty-eight different types of aircraft, logging 800 hours of flight time. She flew Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs, Typhoons and Wellingtons. Her favourite aircraft to fly was the de Havilland Mosquito. 

Maureen flew from the all-female ferry pool at Hamble, Southampton, which specialised in delivering Spitfires from Supermarine’s factory at RAF Southampton.

On at least two occasions, Maureen was forced to make emergency landings, once when the cockpit canopy of her Spitfire blew off after takeoff and secondly when the engine of her Fairchild Argus failed in the air.

Maureen Dunlop

After the war, Maureen served as a flying instructor at RAF Luton. She returned to Argentina where she instructed pilots for the Argentine Air Force and became a commercial pilot, retiring in 1969.

In 1955, Maureen married retired Romanian diplomat Serban Victor Popp. The couple met at a British Embassy function in Buenos Aires. They had a son and two daughters, and raised them on their farm Milla Lauquen Stud, in Norfolk, where they also bred pure-blood Arabian horses. 

Serban died in 2000. Maureen passed away at her home in Norfolk on 29 May 2012, aged ninety-one.

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