Three Girls Named Smith
The year is 1952, were you there and do you remember these three girls named Smith, they are not related? Here they are sleeved rolled up ready for another hard days’ work, pulling one of those heavy battery trucks under the tail of a 64 Sqn. Gloster Meteor at RAF Duxford. From left to right we have LAC Jean Smith aged 19 from Nottingham then LAC Edna Smith 19 from Stroud near Gloucester and SAC Josephine Smith 22 from Battersea. Thinking back to those days, do you recognise the tall brunette on the right? Yes, it’s our own Jose Warwick (nee Smith) electrical mechanic 64 Sqn.
Members of the Women’s Royal Airforce (WRAF) have graced the many RAF bases around the globe, undertaking vital and challenging roles alongside the men.
The Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF)
The Women's Royal Air Force was the women's branch of the Royal Airforce. It existed in two separate incarnations from 1918 to 1920 and from 1949 to 1994.
The first Women's Royal Air Force was an auxiliary organization of the Royal Air Force which was founded in 1918. The original intent of the WRAF was to provide female mechanics in order to free up men for service in World War 1. However, the organization saw huge enrollment, with women volunteering for positions as drivers and mechanics and filling other wartime needs. This first WRAF was disbanded in 1920. The last veteran from this era was for a while thought to be Gladys Powers, who died in 2008, but Florence Green, who died in February 2012, was subsequently found to be the last-known surviving WRAF veteran.
On 1 February 1949, the name was revived when the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, which had been founded in 1939, was renamed the Women's Royal Air Force. The WRAF and the RAF grew closer over the following decades, with increasing numbers of trades opened to women.
On 1 April 1994, the WRAF formally merged with the RAF, marking the full integration of women into the air force. In 45 years women had progressed from a temporary wartime support role to become full members of the world's oldest independent air force.
Women of the ATA
Women of the Air Transport Auxiliary made a significant contribution to the outcome of the second world war.
Instrument flying was not taught, but the service would have ground to a halt, according to Giles Whittell in his book Spitfire Women of World War II (2007), if pilots had not broken rules forbidding them to fly in bad weather.
The ATA, with headquarters at White Waltham in Berkshire, had by the end of the war delivered 308,567 aircraft, including 57,286 Spitfires, 29,401 Hurricanes, and 9,805 Lancasters.
One example was Maureen Dunlop who mastered the controls of 28 different single engine and 10 multiengine aircraft types, which also included the Hawker Typhoon, Hawker Tempest, Avro Anson, Mustang, Bristol Blenheim and Vickers Wellington.
Women had to have a minimum of 500 hours' solo flying before joining the ATA, twice as much as the 250 hours originally laid down in September 1939 for the first members, all men.
164 female members of the wartime Air Transport Auxiliary doing their duty of transporting aircraft between factories and military airfields and of which one in ten pilots of both men and women lost their lives, shows how skilled and brave they had to be. The women pilots shared equally in the losses – many having to call the "Mayfair 120" search, rescue and salvage number after crashing, or never being heard from again.
Editors thanks to all those members and I do include 64 Sqn. who have so generously contributed. 6