Father: Thomas William Tily, a Garden Contractor, d. 1969; Mother Amelia [Fielding] (m. 1902) of 103 Stanlake Rd, Shepherds Bush
One brother (Thomas William II, b. 1902) and a sister Amelia May (b. 1904, d. 1967 in Cape Town, SA)
m. Oct 1935 Henry Albert Lang, a motor engineer
She joined the government-subsidized Civil Air Guard flying scheme, and got her RAeC Certificate in March 1939. She gave her occupation then as 'fancy goods manufacturer'.
Intriguingly, she referred to herself then as 'Miss Dora Tily'.
Prior to WWII, she had 12 hours solo on Gypsy Moth, B.A. Swallow and Miles Magister (later supplemented by, as she wrote, '26 hours duel with the RAF') - she was a Corporal in the WAAF, stationed at Hornchurch in Essex as a 'plotter'.
She wrote originally to the ATA in March 1941, following an appeal put out on the wireless by Lord Londonderry:
I possess a pilot's 'A' licence and would very much like to qualify as a ferry pilot. I have 25 hours in my log book and have since done some passenger flying in RAF machines (Magisters). I am studying for a navigator's licence. I would be pleased of the opportunity to fly at my own expense to complete the required number of solo hours necessary to qualify for the advanced training provided under your scheme. I will be very eager to hear if any arrangements can be made.
ACW Dora Lang."
She got the standard reply at the time which was a) you need more hours, and b) we have no training facilities so, No.
She didn't give up, though; she wrote back straight away to say "I am informed by the Air Ministry that I may be able to do the training in Southern Ireland. Can you tell me how many hours I need?"
Well, they said, 50, although people may come here for a flight test with 30.
While she was mulling this over, (things changed quite rapidly for the ATA as 1941 wore on), on the 29 July they said, actually, "there are a few vacancies, come to Hatfield for a flight test."
She took her test on the 9th August, it was satisfactory, and she reported for duty on the 6th September as a Second Officer.
Postings: 6FPP, 4bFPP, 15FPP
She flew 17 hrs on Moths, 2 on Harts, 8 on Magisters, and a Swordfish, and was posted to training pool in March 1942. Her instructors' reports were consistently positive: "This pupil came to ATA at practically 'ab initio' stage, but very satisfactory progress made in school has been furthered during stay with T.P. and she should make an excellent ferry pilot. Keen and quietly confident.... very active and attentive".
In May 1942 she went on the conversion course for Hurricanes, and was then posted to Prestwick in July. She was recommended for Class 4 conversion at an early date: "an intelligent and conscientious pilot whose flying is neat and tidy. "
She was promoted to First Officer in March 1943.
She had an 'incident' in June 1943, for which she was held responsible; when taking off in Spitfire BL991, she attempted to retract the undercarriage too soon after take-off and the throttle slipped back, allowing the aircraft to sink until the propeller tips hit the ground.
Otherwise things progressed well, until the 2nd of March, 1944, when she had two accidents in rapid succession.
She had just been off sick for 2 days, but said she felt better. With her Flight Engineer Janice Harrington (q.v.), she ferried a Hudson VI FK458 to RAF Cosford, but then ground looped on the icy runway, causing slight damage to the port wing, which she did not report. She and Janice had examined the undercarriage but couldn't see any damage; she then had lunch at RAF Cosford, and "both she and her flight engineer appeared very calm and cheerful, and neither showed any sign whatever of tiredness or strain."
Marion Wilberforce wrote that "F/O Lang was a most straightforward officer, and I feel convinced that she would have reported the possibility of damage to the wing had she suspected that such might have occurred. If such damage had been revealed her Pool C.O. would have been contacted before she was allowed to leave the Pool."
They were allowed to leave, however, and she and Janice were then killed in Mosquito VI HP932, which crashed on approach to Lasham.
The official report says "Whilst approaching to land the aircraft appeared to undershoot slightly, the throttles were opened gently and then fully, whereupon the aircraft climbed sharply 100 feet, stalled, crashed and was destroyed.
Insufficient evidence to determine the cause, but it is clear that upon the application of full power the pilot failed to get the stick forward quickly enough to prevent the nose of the aircraft rising.
Insufficient evidence to determine responsibility."
Buried Maidenhead Cemetery - Sec. D. Row W. Grave 18
Janice was buried alongside her - Sec. D. Row W. Grave 19.
On the 10th, her husband wrote: "during her service with the ATA my wife always received the greatest kindness, and she was very proud to be serving in your organisation."
On the 3rd May, her mother added this: "I know my daughter was very happy in her work & with her many kind friends in the ATA & wish to thank them for all their sympathy in our great loss."
It looks like Henry remarried almost immediately - in October 1944 - to Margaret C Cowper, and died in 1950.
The location of her log books (which may have been given to Henry, or Dora's parents, at the cessation of hostilities) is unknown.