Cadet Izzy Newell and Cadet Jazz Young of 54 (Eastbourne) Squadron (Sussex Wing) have met members of the WAAF/WRAF/RAF(F) Association as part of their Reunion and Annual General Meeting.
They gained a fascinating insight into life around the time of WW2 by talking to many of the Women’s Auxillary Air Force ladies present.
Former Leading Aircraft Woman Mavis Wright (91) served as a Meteorological Assistant at RAF Holmsley South in 1945. Mavis showed the cadets a weather map, typical of those she was responsible for producing for pilots as part of her duties during WW2.
Izzy said: “Mavis explained a lot about the different cloud formations and their impact on aircraft. She told us she knew a couple of female pilots when she was in the WAAF but was aware there are a lot more now. I told her of my ambition to be a helicopter pilot and to join the RAF. She said it was a good idea to get some training and qualifications first. Jazz and I told her how much we enjoyed attending our Squadron and that we are all treated equally, all get on and have a great team spirit. Mavis said the same team spirit existed when she was in the WAAF and that women and men are treated the same.”
The girls heard of an equally interesting but different experience from 92 year old Val Martin. Val had joined the WAAF in August 1941, pretending to be a year older than her actual age of 16 years. She did her training at RAF Bridgenorth. During her posting at RAF Polebrook, Val got the role as principal boy during the pantomime season, and subsequently became known as Sheelah.
It was during her next posting at the RAF General Hospital Wroughton, as an NCO, that Val worked as a Medical Officer’s batwoman at its busiest period following the allied landings in Normandy on D-Day. She was then seconded to a field hospital, to a team of WAAFs working in shifts round the clock. Her role involved meeting trucks and ambulances loaded with wounded arriving from aircraft landing at RAF Lyneham, straight from the battlefield, and taking them as directed to a ward or operating theatre.
Across the generations
In return both ladies gained insight into life today as an Air Cadet with Izzy and Jazz highlighting all the amazing experiences available and their aspirations for the future.
The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force re-formed into the Women’s Royal Air Force in 1949, fully integrating into the RAF in 1994. The WAAF Association has been in existence for a considerable number of years and in recent times has embraced those who served in the WRAF and current female members of the RAF. The organisation is now known as the WAAF/WRAF/RAF(F) Association.