WOMEN'S AUXILIARY AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE (WAAAF)
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

 


Photo:- Ian Jenkins

WAAAF Cap and embroidered badge

 

Not long after World War 2 was declared in 1939, the Royal Australian Air Force had an urgent need for more skilled and semi-skilled signals and maintenance personnel to fulfil its wartime commitments to the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) for local defence in Australia. On 4 February 1941, the formation of an air force women's auxiliary was approved by the War Cabinet. It had taken 14 months of difficult discussion and opposition to achieve this final outcome. 

The formation of the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) set a precedence for the formation of other women's service organisations such as The Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) and the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS).

Approximately 27,000 women enlisted in the WAAAF between 15 March 1941 and 24 August 1945. In June 1941, Squadron Officer Clare Grant Stevenson was appointed Director of the WAAAF.

The first 20 WAAAFs were posted to Townsville between 28 October 1941 and 7 February 1942 to work at the North-Eastern Area Headquarters in Sturt Street. They were urgently required to fill the roles of teleprinter operators and general clerks. This initial intake of WAAAFs in the area were living in various homes or flats in Townsville. The Officer-in-Charge of WAAAFs in the Townsville area, Assistant Section Officer Yvonne Rentoul established the new WAAAF Barracks in St Anne's Church of England School in Townsville. It was a difficult task as Townsville was rapidly filling with American and Australian military units. This influx lead to a shortage of equipment and a demanding role in protecting the well-being of the fresh new female recruits. 

 


Photo:- Ian Jenkins

'Red-Eye'd Shoulder Eagle'

 "...Seniority of service was prized by every early WAAAF, and 1941/early
1942 girls had a red eye shown on the eagle on the arm, the later 1942 girls
hadn't. Cutting words were exchanged on our unit when it was discovered
that some cheating WAAAF were actually sewing the red eye in".
(The WAAAF Book, Stevenson and Darling, P.110, 'The well dressed WAAAF')

 

WAAAF Ranks RAAF Equivalent Ranks
Commandant-in-Chief Air Marshal or above
Air Chief Commandant Air Vice Marshal
Air Commandant Air Commodore
Group Officer Group Captain
Wing Officer Wing Commander
Squadron Officer Squadron Leader
Flight Officer Flight Lieutenant
Section Officer Flying Officer
Assistant Section Officer Pilot Officer
Under Officer Warrant Officer
Flight Sergeant Flight Sergeant
Sergeant Sergeant
Corporal Corporal
Leading Aircraftwoman Leading Aircraftman
Aircraftwoman Aircraftman

 


Photo:- Ian Jenkins

'One of the Originals' - WAAAF Sgt. Dorothea Watson (Andrews)
in her original uniform at the 60-year Commemoration of VP Day
celebrations at the Australian War Memorial in August 2005.  

 

First WAAAF's allocated to an Operational Squadron Gwen Stark (WAAAF) was Staff Officer, at North-Eastern Area Headquarters RAAF, Townsville Helen Suttie, a WAAAF in Townsville
Jan Arthur (WAAAF) was regular driver  for General Walker of 5th Bomber Command No. 1 WAAAF Training Depot
Preston, VIC
No. 2 WAAAF Training Depot
Bradfield Park, NSW
then "Robertson Hotel"
now Ranelagh House
No. 3 WAAAF Training Depot
Karrinyup, WA

(Note there was no No. 4 Depot)
No. 5 WAAAF Training Depot
Bradfield Park, NSW
Penrith, NSW
Three WAAAF amongst 23 killed in the crash of a C-47 at Archerfield on 27 March 43
Townsville WAAAF Recruit Course WAAAF in North Queensland during WW2 WAAAF Display at RAAF Townsville Museum
WAAAF Messing Orderlies at HQ, North Eastern Area, Townsville WAAAF teleprinter operators worked at RAAF Central Area HQ at Point Piper WAAAF Margaret Jones Carey amongst those killed in crash of an Avro Anson between Coffs Harbour and Crescent Head, NSW on 7 April 1945 
WAAAF's worked in Zillmere underground Operations Room, W/T Remote Receiving Building, Beams Road, Fitzgibbon, Brisbane WAAAF's worked in Transmitting Station and Cypher and Receiving Station at Dubbo, NSW WAAAF's working in a typical RAAF Fighter Section Headquarters
WAAAF's working at 12 Signals Unit, Townsville WAAAF's worked for Central Bureau Intelligence WAAAF's worked in No. 1 Fighter Sector Headquarters (1FSHQ)
WAAAF barracks at "Netherway" Boarding House on corner of North Quay & Herschel St., Brisbane WAAAF barracks at "Kensington", a Boarding House next to 1FSHQ in Ann Street, Brisbane WAAAF barracks at "Redleaf", 536 New South Head Road, Double Bay
WAAAF barracks at "Whytecliffe" Albion Heights, Brisbane WAAAF Base Camp, Belgian Gardens, Townsville  WAAAF's with No. 1 Wireless Unit
WAAAF's in a secret Signals and Cypher Office at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne WAAAF's operating Hollereith Machines at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne WAAAF's working at Section RO4, Directorate of Signals

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Ian Jenkins for his assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"The WAAAF in Wartime Australia"
by Joyce Thomson

"The WAAAF Book"
Edited by Clare Stevenson and Honor Darling

 

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 15 June 2002

This page last updated 17 December 2013