Jonathan Ferguson’s story – an update

In 2016 I published what I knew then about Jonathan Ferguson’s unusual story. Delightfully, someone who worked with him has contacted me with some further information and given permission to share it here. Jonathan’s life as a scientific civil servant, after having transitioned from female in the very early days when gender-reassignment surgery had become possible, seems to have continued remarkably ‘unremarked’. Although there was a flurry of mentions in the press at the time, his employers and colleagues seem to have no particular concerns with Jonathan’s life when he no longer ‘wore a skirt.

This phrase “When I wore a skirt” is a quote from Jonathan himself, used only in reference to his work life before transitioning. It is impossible to know now (unless someone else emerges who knew him) but perhaps this phrase reflects that Jonathan did not feel able to wear trousers at work until he revealed to his colleagues that he would be transitioning. Photos from Jonathan’s previous life do show Joy wearing skirts in a work context.

The person who came to me with more information about the latter period of Jonathan’s working life described the work they were involved in:

“I was on a ground tour in the Ministry of Defence from 1964 until 1966 and part of my role was to be responsible for all Pilot’s Notes that had been renamed Aircrew Manuals. Jonathan Ferguson was the person in charge of the group of about twenty ex-pilots who spent their days writing and producing these publications in conjunction with the test establishment pilots and those on RAF Handling Squadron. During those two years I was in contact with Jonathan on almost a daily basis; he did, during a lunchtime visit to a pub, open up on her/his life changes. His staff never mentioned the transition period from Joy to Jonathan although, as mentioned in the article, it was covered in various newspapers, extensively so in The News of the World. I did meet up with him on several occasions after 1966 whilst I was test flying at RAE Bedford. Unfortunately I was an overseas trial and so missed his funeral.” 

The above was the first comment received, and below is some expansion following some queries from me

He was a civilian working for an organisation that kept changing it’s name: Ministry of Supply, Ministry of Technology, Ministry of Aviation (Procurement Executive) etc. I was an RAF officer who at that time was working for the Ministry of Defence (RAF) in the Directorate of Flight Safety. However, my small Branch FS/AM (Flight safety / Air Ministry), consisting of just two RAF Officers both qualified test pilots), was totally responsible for the supply of Pilots Notes/Aircrew Manuals to the RAF, Fleet Air Arm, and the Army Air Corps. This included setting the policies and objectives for Jonathan’s organisation. Hence FS/AM was overseeing and, and to a large extent if not totally, controlling what Jonathan and his staff did in their day to day role. Incidentally, he appeared to report to nobody within his own organisation – it was strange. Fortunately Jonathan and I were able to function effectively together in the crazy set up associated with aircraft procurement all those decades ago. “

Although, as described in my first blog about Jonathan, he did (as Joy) fly with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War and briefly with the WRAFVR after, it seems he did not fly later on:

Jonathan did not fly aircraft himself. To the best of my recollection he did not even avail himself of the opportunity of flying with RAF Handling Squadron.

It has been interesting to learn a little more about the later part of Jonathan’s life and I am always grateful to hear more but I would especially be keen to hear more about Joy’s early life before the ATA.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Candida Adkins says:

    Hi. I was fascinated by Joy/Jonathan’s story. My mother was in the ATA and the WRAF(VR). Was Ferguson always his surname? Did he get his RAF Wiings ? My mother was Jackie Moggridge she joined ATA in 1940 I would love to know more about Joys time in the ATA my mother has a website jackiemoggridgespitfiregirl.con with an ATA page and WRAF page.
    So interesting to hear Jonathan’s story.

    Candy Adkins
    Daugjter of Pilot Officer and jackie Moggridge nee Sorour. ATA. RAF and First British woman airline captain


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