Women's Royal Air Force

The Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) was the women's branch of the Royal Air Force. It existed in two separate incarnations: the Women's Royal Air Force from 1918 to 1920 and the Women's Royal Air Force from 1949 to 1994.

Women's Royal Air Force
Allegiance United Kingdom
BranchRoyal Air Force
RoleSupport services
Garrison/HQRAF Hawkinge
Last Director WRAFAir Commodore Ruth Montague
Air Chief CommandantPrincess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester

On 1 February 1949, the name of the First World War organisation was revived when the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, which had been founded in 1939, was re-established on a regular footing as 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, and the two services formally merged in 1994, marking the full assimilation of women into the British forces and the end of the Women's Royal Air Force.

The Central Band of the WRAF, one of only two all-female bands in the British Armed Forces, was disbanded in 1972. Some of its musicians transferred to the Band of the Women's Royal Army Corps.


The target strength had been a force of around 90,000, figures are unreliable until 1 August 1918, when the strength was 15,433, approximately 5,000 recruits and 10,000 transferred from the predecessor organisations. The first incarnation never exceeded 25,000.[1]


Depots were opened in 1918 at Handsworth College, in Glasgow, at RAF Flowerdown, RAF Spitalgate, near Grantham, and at York. In the 1950s the WRAF Depot and WRAF Officer Cadet Training Unit were opened at RAF Hawkinge in Kent.

The Best Cadet receives her certificate from Air Marshal Sir Arthur Sanders and Air Commandant Dame Felicity Hanbury, the first Director of the Women's Royal Air Force, at RAF Hawkinge


The WRAF inherited its rank structure from its predecessor, the WAAF. As with WAAF practice (from 1940), other ranks held standard RAF ranks, but officers used a separate ranking system until 1968, when they too adopted RAF officer ranks.

NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
  Women's Royal Air Force
No equivalent
                No equivalent
Air Chief Commandant[note 1] Air Commandant Group Officer Wing Officer Squadron Officer Flight Officer Section Officer Assistant Section Officer
  Royal Air Force
                        No equivalent
Marshal of the RAF Air chief marshal Air marshal Air vice-marshal Air commodore Group captain Wing commander Squadron leader Flight lieutenant Flying officer Pilot officer
/acting pilot officer
Officer cadet

These ranks were introduced in 1949. The First World War service used different ranks.

List of Commandants WRAFEdit

List of Directors WRAFEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ An honorary rank held only by Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, who held it as a rank (until 1968) and later an appointment throughout the WRAF's existence. On 1 April 1994 her title changed to Air Chief Commandant for Women, RAF, by which time she held the rank of Air Chief Marshal.


  1. ^ Women in Air Force Blue. p. 21.

Further readingEdit

  • BE Escott, Women in Air Force Blue: the story of women in the Royal Air Force from 1918 to the present day - 1989 - Stephens
  • KB Beauman, Partners in Blue: The Story of Women's Service with the Royal Air Force - 1971 - Hutchinson Radius