Canadian Aviatrix #43 – Rolie Moore (1912-1999)

Rosalie Ethel Moore was born on 8 November 1912 in Vancouver BC to Montague Marmaduke Moore (Major in the army) and Ethel Harriet Hutchings (daughter of a wealthy family).

1911 census

1916 census

1921 census

Vancouver BC

Winnipeg MB

Burnaby BC

Montague

38

43

49

Ethel

26

31

37

Hazel

2 days

5

10

Rosalie

-

3

8

Montague (Monty)

-

1

6

John

-

-

4

Harold

-

-

2

William (Dinty)

-

-

Born that day

Anna

-

-

[Born 1924]

 

(Thanks to Hazel and Dinty for being thoughtful enough to be born in time for the census!)

Montague and Ethel were married in 1910 in Winnipeg, then moved to Vancouver. In 1918, they bought Hart House in Burnaby – a mansion on the shore of Deer Lake. Rolie’s childhood was a mixture of outdoor adventures and social events.

In 1931, Rolie graduated from the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts. She saved up her allowance, plus extra money she earned from painting signs and decorations on aircraft, and put it towards secret flying lessons. She didn’t tell her mother until the day she went solo.

On 7 October 1935, Rolie passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 43rd female pilot in Canada. She was 22 years old.


Canadian Aviatrix #43 – Rolie Moore (1912-1999)

Photo: The Province (July 28, 1938)

In 1936, Rolie went to Europe with her mother and sister. She didn’t want to spend all her time being a tourist, so she signed up for flying lessons in England.

On her return to Canada, the Flying Seven were formed. Rolie’s involvement in the group will be part of a separate article. (In the photo below, she's on the right.)

The Flying Seven 

Photo: Canada Aviation and Space Museum – CAVM-22374

Rolie was a talented acrobatic pilot – being a featured attraction at many air shows. In 1938, she competed for the Webster Trophy – the only woman to do so and coming in second place in tests for the general flying section.

In February 1939, Rolie attended the British Columbia Hussars’ dance at the Bessborough Armouries – posing for a photo in the unit’s car with some friends, including Lieutenant John Henry Desmond Barrett (an English civil engineer, graduate of UBC and the Kingston Military College).

On 19 July 1939, Rolie became the seventh women to hold a commercial pilot’s licence in Canada. Wing Commander TA Cowley (Canadian superintendent of air regulations) mentioned her skills when discussing the possibility of using female pilots as flying instructors.

In September 1939, Rolie won the Western Regional trials for the Webster Trophy. While she was in Edmonton, Des phoned her and said he had enlisted in the Army, so they needed to get married right away. Rolie came straight home – not even waiting for the results of the competition. The couple visited his parents in Victoria, then announced their engagement.

On 1 December 1939, the couple got married, then set up home in Victoria. Des was sent to England in September 1940 and six months later, Rolie gave birth to a son. While Des was part of the Allied occupation of Spitsbergen, Rolie made a solo trans-Canada flight in aid of the Chinese Red Cross.

Des was killed in action in Belgium in 1944. He had reached the rank of Major and had been in action almost continuously since D Day.

When wartime restrictions ended, Rolie returned to flying. With a small child to support, she obtained her instructor’s rating in 1946 – becoming the ninth woman in Canada to do so. The newspapers were full of articles about her “two careers” – mother and pilot. In 1949, she became the second Canadian woman with a transport licence.

On 7 October 1949, Rolie got remarried to James Dennis Pierce, a pilot with Associated Air Taxi and formerly Major with the Seaforth Highlanders.

Denny died in 1972. Rolie died in 1999, aged 86.


The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots