A novel based on the amazing life of the late Mary Ellis — the Isle of Wight woman who flew Spitfires and other aircraft during the Second World War — has won a major literary award.

The author, Shirley Mann, who lives in Derbyshire, said she was delighted to have won the Romantic Novelist Association's 2021 Romantic Saga Award.

Her winning novel, Bobby's War, was partly inspired by Isle of Wight resident, 101 year old Mary Ellis.

Shirley travelled to the Island to meet Mary just before the hero from Sandown died at the age of 101, to gather research for the book.

"It was that rare thing on the Isle of Wight, a rainy day, and the taxi driver dropped me off on the wrong side of Shanklin-Sandown golf course, so I had to trudge across there in the rain with my little pull along case and was a bit bedraggled by the time I arrived at Mary's home," said Shirley.

"But she was charming an gave me a good amount of time which formed important background for Bobby's War."

Read more: Isle of Wight mourns legendary pilot Mary Ellis.

Read more: How the County Press first reported Shirley's book on Mary Ellis.

The novel tells the adventures of Bobby Hollis, who has joined the Air Transport Auxiliary in a team known as the 'glamour girls' - amazing women who pilot aircraft all around the country.

The family and love life of Bobby are every bit as demanding as the wartime escapades in the ATA.

Bobby's Life is Shirley's second novel featuring fictional heroines of the Second World War, the first being Lily's War.

Shirley, a former newspaper and BBC journalist, said researching these women was inspiring and humbling.

She was inspired by the wartime romance of her parents.

Her mum was a WAAF in Bomber Command and her dad was in the Eighth Army but to inform her of the wartime lifestyle, Shirley travelled the country talking to women in their 80s and 90s who had been in the services during the war to find out their stories.

It was during this time that she heard about the amazing work of female ATA pilots, like Mary Ellis, who flew everything from Spitfires to huge bombers.

Bobby's War is available to purchase on Amazon, with Kindle and audio book version available now and a paperback edition which can be ordered at a cost of £7.99.

  • The author's name rang a bell with me and it turned out she was the same Shirley Mann I had first met in the late 1970s while doing work experience from school at the Chester Observer. Shirley and the rest of the team were so welcoming and inspiring , and are to blame for me spending close to 40 years in provincial newspapers - Alan Marriott