Women's Royal Air Force, Records

Scope and Content

Photographs (copies) of Women's Royal Air Force

Administrative / Biographical History

In April 1918 it was decided to form the Royal Air Force (RAF) by amalgamating the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Also formed at this time was Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF). The main aim of the WRAF was ''to train women to take over the work of the home based mechanics and so to free them for service in the combat areas''. It was soon decided that this program of replacement needed to be carried out as swiftly as possible to free up the RAF mechanics. The numbers of recruits increased rapidly, as enthusiastic young women, eager to learn a new and previously inaccessible trade, joined up from both civilian life and a variety of other uniformed organisations, one of these being the Royal Air Force Nursing Service.

Initially civilian recruitment was to take place at local Labour Exchanges, and women were under civil contract, not enlisted. The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) backed the contract but the RAF did not find this arrangement satisfactory. The term of duty each recruit signed up for was a total of one year or the term of the war which ever was the greater. A woman had to be eighteen before she could even be considered for enlistment. 'Mobile' recruits were liable for service anywhere in the UK and 'Immobile' could only serve in local units. This system divided the recruits into areas prior to them being allotted to stations or squadrons.

During the first few months of formation, the WRAF were issued with uniforms from the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps, with the words Royal Flying Corps on the sleeves. By November 1918 new uniforms were being issued, based on a tunic style uniform similar to that of the RAF. In 1919, it was decided that these uniforms should be replaced only when worn out, not on a yearly basis as with other ranks in the RAF. The WRAF aircraft fitters used to wear skirts; it still had not been accepted for women to wear trousers.

In terms of sheer numbers alone, the WRAF and its fellow female service organisations were impressive. By the middle of 1918 the total number of recruits who belonged to the three voluntary organisations reached 25000. Haton Park was the principle training ground for the Royal Flying School and during 1919, 2000 women underwent training here. The WRAF employed women in some 43 different trades, these included armourers, radio operators, parachute packers, balloon operators, fabric workers, drivers, flight mechanic and instrument mechanic.

When the Armistice was signed at the end of the First World War, both the WRAF and the RAF itself were actively recruiting women into the service. After the War's end, little recruiting took place for women as it was thought that once the men were all back safely, the WRAF would be disbanded. However in March 1919, 'mobiles' were sent abroad because of the rapidly thinning number of airmen as thousands left the services at the end of hostilities. The women were sent both to France and Cologne in Germany, during April and May.

Once back in England, however it was not long before the demob procedures were started and the WRAF finally disbanded on 1st April 1920, only two years after it had been formed.

Arrangement

Order at time of deposit retained.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions.

Acquisition Information

Retrieved from a skip by the depositor, July 2008.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue is not currently available.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Good condition

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Geoff Edwards for the Glamorgan Archives, with reference to "Royal Air Force History : The WRAF - Women in the Blue" (www.raf.mod.uk/history_old/wraf.html), viewed 25 Aug 2008.

Appraisal Information

All records which meet the collection policy of the Glamorgan Archives have been retained.

Custodial History

Discarded by the RAFA Club, Porthkerry Road, Barry.

Accruals

Accruals are not expected.

Location of Originals

The location of the original of these images is unknown.