‘Marvellous’ week reminiscing about RAF

Personnel from RAF Odiham gave a presentation at Princess Marina House
Personnel from RAF Odiham gave a presentation at Princess Marina House

Female personnel from the RAF, past and present, joined forces for a centenary celebration at Princess Marina House in Rustington.

Seven personnel from RAF Odiham gave a presentation to former WAAF and WRAF members during a week-long celebration of 100 years of women in the RAF.

They were able to share stories from their careers over a special gala dinner, which was the highlight of the week at the RAF Benevolent Fund home.

Ann Simons, a former WRAF nurse who served during the 1970s, said: “I totally enjoyed my time in the air force. I think this week is marvellous and I have already made a couple of friends.

“It is absolutely beautiful here, I love being by the sea. They treat you so well here.”

Women began serving in the RAF towards the end of the First World War, when the Women’s Royal Air Force was formed in 1918. The service was disbanded in 1920, following the end of hostilities.

When war broke out again in 1939, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was created with a limit to the roles for which women could apply.

In 1941, during the height of the Second World War, women were conscripted into the service, which grew to more than 180,000 personnel at its peak.

WAAF later became WRAF, before the two services, the RAF and WRAF, were formally merged in 1994.

Sergeant Audrey Burleigh, who was part of the group from RAF Odiham, said: “Many of the women served during the Second World War and were the trailblazers of their generation, paving the way for women, like me, who serve today.

“Indeed within the RAF, all roles are now open to women and it is thanks to the determination of veterans like these WAAFs and WRAFs that we stand here today.”

General manager Shirley Steeples said: “Personnel at RAF Odiham are wonderful supporters of Princess Marina House and the work we do here, so it seemed fitting they should join us in these celebrations.”

She said the guests spent a week of reminiscing about past service and celebrating the contribution women have made throughout the past century. They rekindled the companionship and comradeship they enjoyed as serving members of the WAAF and WRAF.