Most readers will be familiar with the name Amy Johnson, the pioneering English aviator, but perhaps less so with the details of her untimely death.

Amy was the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia. She also flew solo, or with her husband, Jim Mollison to set many long-distance records during the 1930s.

In 1937 Amy divorced her husband and reverted back to her maiden name. She then moved to Princess Risborough, renting the Tudor cottage known as Monks Straithe. This is the oldest building in the town and is said to date back to the time of Henry VIII.

It is now a Grade II listed building.

Her work often took her to London and on two occasions in the space of a month in May/June 1938 she was fined for speeding through High Wycombe. Following the second offence her licence was also endorsed, and her representative in court stated “Miss Johnson has given up driving through High Wycombe.

“When she goes to and from London now she goes via Amersham”.

When the Second World War started Amy joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, which transported RAF aircraft around the country. She then decided to move from Princes Risborough to live with friends in Wooburn Green.

On January 5 1941, while flying an Airspeed Oxford for the ATA from Prestwick to RAF Kidlington near Oxford, Johnson went off course in adverse weather conditions.

Reportedly out of fuel, she bailed out as her aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary near Herne Bay. A convoy of wartime vessels in the Thames Estuary spotted her parachute coming down and saw her alive in the water, calling for help. Conditions were poor – there was a heavy sea and a strong tide, snow was falling and it was intensely cold.

One of the ships in the convoy was HMS Haslemere, whose captain was Lt Cmdr Walter Fletcher. He navigated his ship to attempt a rescue. The crew threw ropes out to Johnson but she was unable to reach them.

Lt Cmdr Fletcher then dived in fully-clothed to try to rescue her. A lifeboat was launched but Amy had disappeared and when it reached the Captain he was unconscious as a result of the intense cold. He died in hospital a few days later without regaining consciousness.

Amy’s body was never found and the cause of her death has been a subject of discussion over many years. There is also speculation as to the reason why Lt Cmdr Johnson risked, and then paid with, his life to try rescue her, knowing that a lifeboat was about to be launched. Did he know it was Amy Johnson, and did they know one another?

That is certainly possible because Amy had lived in Princes Risborough, only a mile or so from Lt Cmdr Fletcher’s home in Monks Risborough.

Amy was 37 years old when she died and is remembered with honour on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.