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"Did you know ..." featured a photo of the wrong female WWII pilot

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By Vysotsky

Did you know?

Not Ida Veldhuyzen van Zanten

There were only a few hundred women pilots in World War II. Yet Wikipedia recently mixed up the images of two women pilots from that period. The image of Veronica Volkersz (née Innes) was featured prominently on the English Wikipedia main page on 19 November 2021, to illustrate the DYK ("Did you know?") item about Dutch pilot Ida Veldhuyzen van Zanten.

This was the complete text of the DYK hook: "Did you know … that about 700 airmen – and Ida Veldhuyzen van Zanten (pictured) – received the Dutch Airman's Cross?" Pictured was a woman pilot. So far, so good. It was a pity though that the woman in the photo was not Ida Veldhuyzen van Zanten, but Veronica Volkersz.

First woman flying a fighter yet

Veronica Volkersz, née Innes

Love was to blame, of course. The photo was taken from the Dutch National Archives, which had a rather complicated text accompanying the photo, speaking more about Ida Veldhuyzen van Zanten than about the actual pilot in the photo, Veronica Volkersz. Veronica, born Veronica May Innes in Chesterton, April 17, 1917, was a former beauty queen who joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) as a Second Officer in March 1941. We know this because of the book that Veronica Volkersz wrote about that period (The Sky and I, 1956) and because of her RAF logbooks 1939–1965 (currently for sale online at £9,000).[1]

Veronica May Innes

Veronica married Dutch pilot Gerard Volkersz in Chelsea in 1942, and thus acquired Dutch nationality – hence the mix-up in the Dutch archives. ATA pilots like Veronica were tasked with ferrying aircraft between airfields, but she did far more. Her first solo flight in a Spitfire was in 1941, and she flew in a few dozen types of aircrafts. She was in fact the first woman ever to pilot a Gloster Meteor EE386, a jet fighter. Volkersz flew until 1965. She died in Cambridge, Dec. 13, 2000. According to AbeBooks: "The entry on her Death Certificate describes her occupation thus: 'Aviator (retired)'." Indeed, this woman needs a Wiki article a.s.a.p.

Mistakes and metadata

Ida Veldhuyzen van Zanten

Back to Ida Veldhuyzen van Zanten – who rightly received the Dutch Airman's Cross in 1947, and still is the only woman to have received this distinction. Pictures of her are quite rare, but I recently found some images to illustrate her Wikipedia article, helped by a family member and the Dutch National Archives. About 400,000 photographs from this archive, Nationaal Archief, were transferred to Wikimedia Commons in the last decade.[2]

All metadata contain mistakes. That's only natural, and Wikipedia editors were not the first to be tripped up here. They were in good company: the Dutch Ministry of Defence used the same wrong photo of Ida in its magazine De Vliegende Hollander (Flying Dutchman) in 2015.[3]

Wikipedia can learn from the mistake made with this photo in DYK. Never take information for granted, not even metadata from National Archives. In this case the (admittedly unclear) source, in which two names were mentioned, should have been a clear warning sign. Moreover: the original of the cropped photo of Veronica Volkersz was already in Commons – with correct attribution.

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Andrew Davidson started a stub about Volkerz. I was about to beat him by 3 hours :-) but I decided to step aside :-) In doing research I run into some group photos and here is a caption: ATA women pilots at No.15 Ferry Pool, Hamble, in 1943. Here Mary is with friends, standing second right of the picture. In the front row, left to right, are: Rita Baines, Rosemary Bannister, Faith Bennett, Rosemary Rees, Margot Gore, Veronica Volkersz, Jackie Sorour, Mary Wilkins, Margaret Frost. In the back row, again left to right, are: Pam Tulk-Hart, Joy Gough, Sylvia Edwards, Monique Agazarian and Helen Kerly

It is nice to see that the majority of these ladies got their article, but some are still missing. Anyone? "Women in Red"? Loew Galitz (talk) 18:03, 30 November 2021 (UTC)[reply]

@Loew Galitz What besides being female is your standard here? Are all ATA pilots during WWII notable too regardless of gender? Should all male ATA pilots have an article? Jason Quinn (talk) 15:23, 4 December 2021 (UTC)[reply]
What "standard" are you talking about? I merely copied a caption of a photo of an all-female division. I dont care about male pilots, just as I don't care that wikipedia has an article on every single Nazi soldier with an Iron Cross. You have problems with this? Loew Galitz (talk) 19:28, 5 December 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Your comment implies that all the people in the caption are notable and should have articles, even going so far as prompting people to go create them. You wrote, "It is nice to see that the majority of these ladies got their article, but some are still missing. Anyone?" So, saying you just "copied a caption" is false. The standard I'm talking about is your personal standard of notability under which you assumed all these pilots are notable, presumably just for being female. Since, Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information I'm worried that your standard is too loose compared to Wikipedia's guideline for notability. Given what you've written, it is tenable that you A) assume these ATA pilots are notable primarily because they are female and B) admit that you "don't care about male pilots". So, although I'm sure it was not done deliberately, you are advocating for adding gender bias to Wikipedia articles. Advocating for this kind of editing therefore violates our neutrality policy. So, yes, taken as a whole, I do have a problem with what your comment is implying. It conflicts with Wikipedia's goal of creating a high-quality neutral encyclopedia. The proper way to approach this is would be to ask, "Should any of these other female ATA pilots have articles?", not to assume they should as the wording of your comment clearly suggests. Jason Quinn (talk) 02:19, 7 December 2021 (UTC)[reply]
I am worried you are reading my mind and making far-reaching conclusions up to accusations instead of asking clarifying questions. This is hardly a cooperative approach. Also, your answers to my two questions are non-answers. (Q:What "standard" are you talking about? A: The standard I'm talking about is your personal standard of notability under which you assumed all these pilots are notable, presumably just for being female" -Oh, really?). Yes I don't care about male pilots. I don't care about Hasidic rabbis, I don't care about governors of Wisconsin, I don't care about pokemon and sex workers, I don't care about mountains in Kenya. And I thoroughly disagree that this conflicts with "the goal of creating a high-quality neutral encyclopedia". Your demand for me to care about male pilots is on par with these snotty Wikipedia readers who raise media tantrums about Wikipedia errors instead of fixing them. Loew Galitz (talk) 03:34, 7 December 2021 (UTC)[reply]
I was not trying to read your mind; that's why I quoted your own words, which do suggest that all these pilots ought to have articles based only on the fact that they are female. That is not how to think about notability for Wikipedia. If that's not not what you are doing, then all you have to do is say I'm mistaken and move on. I have nothing more to say on the matter so I'll finish with this comment. Jason Quinn (talk) 09:03, 7 December 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Sorry, I am not mistaken. It is you who are mistaken trying to act accusatively based on your assumptions. Yes, you are quoting my words; and then jumping to conclusions. Since you refuse to communicate, for the record: you are severely confusing "notability for Wikipedia" and Wikipedians' preference which topics to pick: there is nothing wrong for a Wikipedian to prefer writing about women only and this has nothing to do with WP:N. (FYI I didn't write a single article about women; you picked a fight with a wrong person). Loew Galitz (talk) 18:21, 7 December 2021 (UTC)[reply]


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