Sunday, 29 January 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

The role that women played during the First World War must not be forgotten.

Women not only kept the home fires burning but also from 1917 they could be found, for the first time, in a military role.

The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps

© IWM (Art.IWM PST 13171)

In January 1917 the first women were recruited into the British Army to serve in a non-nursing role. The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) provided a range of duties for the army including cooking, vehicle maintenance and clerical duties, thus enabling more men to take up a fighting role. In 1918 Queen Mary became the patron of the WAAC and the corps were renamed as the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC).

BBC Schools World War One

Although recruiting women into the army wasn’t popular, by March 1917, commander-in-chief of the British Army, Sir Douglas Haig, realised that women could play a vital role in the British Army stating “the principle of employing women in this country (France) is accepted and they will be made use of wherever conditions admit.”

The WAAC was organised into four units, cookery, mechanical, clerical and miscellaneous. The War Office confirmed that any job given to a member of WAAC, had to result in a man being released for front-line duties.

Pay in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was reliant on the work done. In the lower ranks, unqualified work was paid at the rate of 24 shillings a week. Shorthand typists could get 45 shillings a week. Money was also deducted per week for food although uniforms and accommodation were free.

There were no officer ranks in the WAAC as it was deemed that only men could achieve commission status, however, over 57,000 women enrolled and often worked very close to danger at the front-line. Three military medals for gallantry were subsequently awarded to women.

The QMAAC was eventually disbanded in September 1921.

The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was formed in November 1917, with 3,000 women.  

The Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was born on 1 April 1918 with the Royal Air Force. Members of both the WAAC and WRNS transferred to the new service, which grew to 32,000, serving at home and in Germany and France. They undertook mechanical and technical roles as well as cooking, driving and administration.  The WRAF and WRNS were both dissolved in 1920.


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