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Women's Royal Army Corps

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The Womens' Royal Army Corps (WRAC)


In 1917 during the First World War women were recruited for service with the Army in a non-nursing capacity for the first time. The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was formed, later becoming the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps when Queen Mary became its Patron. Members of the Corps served with the British Expeditionary Force in France winning three Military Medals for gallantry. It was disbanded in 1921.

The Auxiliary Territorial Service was formed on 9 September 1938 by order of George VI. More than a quarter of a million members, one of the most famous being the then Elizabeth who was commissioned in March 1945, served during the Second World War. They served in most of the overseas theatres of operation as well as the defence of the United Kingdom, particularly in Anti Aircraft Command. They also served as drivers, orderlies, store women and cooks. 72 were killed in action and 313 were wounded. By the end of World War 2, it was acknowledged that women would be a valuable asset to a peacetime army. Women continued to serve on emergency engagements in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) whilst plans were formulated for a regular Women's Corps.

The Post War Years

In 1948 the Secretary of State, Mr Emmanuel Shinwell, made a formal submission to the Crown for permission to raise a Corps of Women for the Regular Army and Territorial Army. This received the Royal Assent on 1 February 1949 the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC) came into being. For the first time women in the army became subject to all sections of the Army Act. Dame Mary Tyrwhitt DBE TD was the first Director of the WRAC.

The Corps was organised into battalions and companies; later into independent companies and platoons and gradually they became integrated with their employing military units. The Corps Charter stated that it was 'to provide replacements for officers and men in such employment as may be specified by the Army Council from time to time'. Women served in over 40 different trades in 20 different Arms and Corps.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who had been Commandant in Chief ATS since 1940, became Commandant in Chief WRAC in 1949.

Her Royal Highness Princess Mary, The Princess Royal, who had been Controller Commandant ATS, became Controller Commandant WRAC in the honorary rank of Major General. Following the death of The Princess Royal in 1965, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Kent became Controller Commandant in the rank of Honorary Major General in 1967.

In March 1950 Field Marshal Sir William Slim GBE KCB DSO MC announced that female officers would use the same tiles as male officers. Previously, they had been known as Subaltern, Junior Commander, Senior Commander, Controller etc.

Trouble Spots World Wide

Since World War 2, emergencies, security threats and incidents involving the British Army have occurred worldwide. Members of the WRAC have played a full part in many of these operations such as: Malaya 1948 - 1960, Kenya in 1954, the EOKA campaign in Cyprus from 1955 to 1959, the Singapore riots in 1957, Aden from 1961 to 1968, the Coup d'Etat in Ghana in 1966 and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Northern Ireland: Troops were deployed to Northern Ireland during the troubles in 1969 to assist the civilian police to maintain order.

The Falkland Islands: After the victory in the Falkland Islands in 1982, a permanent garrison was re-established. On 1 August 1983, the first draft of 20 WRAC servicewomen arrived in Port Stanley. They travelled by air to Ascension Island and then by sea to the Falkland Islands.

The Gulf War 1990-1991: Operation GRANBY was the British Army's part of Operation DESERT SHIELD and Operation DESERT STORM, the multi-national response to the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Members of the WRAC were employed on Operation GRANBY, as members of the Staff of Commanders, or as individuals with their units. They worked as Staff Officers, Assistant Adjutants, clerks, chefs, communications operators, drivers, intelligence analysts, medical assistants, military police women, and postal and courier operators. Over 200 members of the Corps served in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during Operation GRANBY.

Iraq 1991: Operation HAVEN was the mission to provide security and humanitarian support in the move of Kurdish people from refugee camps directly back to their homes. One officer and three servicewomen of the WRAC attached to 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery took part in Operation HAVEN in Northern Iraq.

Disbandment of the Corps

The Army Board decided that on 1 October 1990 the WRAC Regular Officers Permanently Employed with other Corps should be transferred to these Corps. The servicewomen also employed by these Corps followed one year later.

In December 1990 the Army Board announced the formation of the Adjutant General's Corps. This Corps formed up on 6 April 1992 through the amalgamation of the RAPC, RAEC, RMP, All Arms Staff Clerks and the remainder of the WRAC.

External Links

WRAC Association Homepage