Women’s Auxiliary Air Force
Following the formation of the RAF in 1918 over 24,000 women served in the then Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF). They served as mechanics, parachute packers, instrument mechanics and drivers. This first WRAF was disbanded in 1920.
In 1939, with war threatening again, women were recruited into the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) to release men from support roles for the frontline. By 1940, the need was so great that conscription was introduced for women aged 20 to 30 in all the services. At its peak in 1943, there were more than 180,000 WAAFs in service.
While training had to be provided for the more specialized jobs, for many roles women were able to use skills they had already acquired in civilian life such as office administration, catering and accounts as well as the artists, geographers, archaeologists and historians of Photographic Intelligence at Medmenham. WAAFs were trained in a wide range of new areas such as meteorology, radar, communications as well as working with codes and ciphers and reconnaissance with some even working behind enemy lines as part of the Special Operations Executive. Indeed, more than a quarter of the women agents that were sent into France were WAAFs. The Driver Motor Transport had to move anything from laundry, food, bombs or coffins in their lorries.
The RAF came to recognize that women were capable of carrying out a wide range of jobs including the strenuous Balloon Command where women were able to replace brawn with technique.
The first WAAFs were volunteers and could leave if they wanted to, but from 1941 they became subject to the RAF rules, when women born in 1920 and 1921 were called up. In 1942 conscription came in. Although not on the front line, those at military installations were still exposed to the dangers of enemy attack. ACW2 Marguerite H Hudson at 19 years old, was the first WAAF to be killed when she was caught in an air raid on Driffield Airfield on 15 August 1940. In total, 187 WAAFs were killed and 4 were listed as missing.
Two members of the WAAF were awarded the George Cross and six were awarded the Military Medal for
bravery under fire in the Battle of Britain.
With spartan accommodation in huts or hostels, living conditions could be hard with shortages of fuel and food. Although the women got free food accommodation and medical care, for this, they were paid two-
In dedication to all WAAF who served at home and abroad, we pledge our friendship;
and to those who lost their lives, remembrance.
We will remember them
The WAAF Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum
Many of the former WAAFs missed the intense comradeship that the hardship and wartime experience had created so the WAAF Association was formed in 1988 to provide a social network to foster the friendships and contacts. Thae Association holds an annual conference which includes an Annual General Meeting, a gala dinner and a visit to a place of interest, providing a week-
Inevitably the war time WAAFs are advancing in years, and the membership is in decline. The Association would like to open its doors more widely to the women who followed them into the service, joining the WRAF and RAF, including serving members so that the spirit of comradeship can continue amongst women who have made a great and often overlooked contribution to the security of this country.
To find out more and to join, please contact:
Mrs Linda Hamill (Hon Treasurer)
22 Redbridge Hill
Assistant Section Officer (SOE) Noor Inayat-
Corporal Daphne Pearson GC