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Royal New Zealand Air Force


page 124


An important contribution towards solving the manpower problem was made by the WAAF. Women were first recruited for the Air Force early in 1941 and the first draft, of 200, was posted to Rongotai in April. By the end of the year there were WAAFs on ten stations, and during 1942 eleven more had them. Later WAAFs were posted to every major station in New Zealand, and a number served overseas in Fiji and on Norfolk Island.

At the beginning there were dire forebodings as to the effect of introducing women into what had been a purely masculine service; but the women very quickly proved their worth. Not only did their employment release men for overseas and combat duties, but in many trades they proved more efficient and reliable than men.

In the first eighteen months women were not granted service ranks; but by the Women's Auxiliary Air Force Emergency Regulations 1942 the WAAF was incorporated as part of the RNZAF, and thereafter members held ranks equivalent to those of the men, with similar badges. At the same time, those who were employed as supervisors and cipher officers were commissioned.

Originally, women were employed only as cooks, mess-hands, drivers, clerks, equipment assistants, medical orderlies and shorthand typists; but by the end of the war they were found to be in nearly every trade that was not beyond their physical capabilities.1

At its peak strength, in July 1943, the WAAF numbered over 3600, and during the course of the war approximately 4750 passed through its ranks. Of these, over a hundred were commissioned, mainly for cipher and administrative duties.

1 WAAFs were employed in the following RNZAF trades:

  • Cooks

  • Mess-hands

  • Clerks, General Duties

  • Clerks, Stores Accounting

  • Clerks, Pay Accounting

  • Clerks, Special Duties

  • Clerks, Signals

  • Clerks, Medical

  • Shorthand typists

  • Librarians

  • Fabric workers

  • Parachute packers

  • Equipment assistants

  • Instrument repairers

  • Tailoresses

  • Drivers, petrol

  • Meteorological assistants

  • Medical orderlies

  • Medical orderlies, Special Duties (Psychological Research)

  • Aircrafthands, General Duties (runners, cleaners, etc.)

  • Physical and recreational training instructors

  • Telephone operators

  • Wireless operators

  • Teleprinters

  • Telegraphists

  • Radio telephonists

  • Dental clerk orderlies

  • Dental mechanics

  • AML bomber teacher instructors

  • Link-trainer maintenance

  • Workshop assistants

  • Dry Canteen assistants

  • YMCA assistants

  • GRU (Gunnery Research Unit) assessor, tracers

  • Disciplinarians

  • Motor-boat crew

  • Shoe fitters (on loan to Ministry of Supply)