WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force)

The WAAF was created on 28 June 1939.  At first the service was voluntary for women, with conscription beginning in 1941. 

While WAAFs did not serve as aircrew, they performed a wide range of important support duties, and although they did not participate in active combat, were exposed to the same dangers as anyone working at a military installation. Duties included parachute packing, crewing of barrage balloons, catering, meteorology, radar, aircraft maintenance, transport, communications, working with codes and ciphers, analyzing reconnaissance photographs, and performing intelligence operations. WAAFs provided a vital presence as plotters in operation rooms, most notably during the Battle of Britain, where they helped direct fighter aircraft against the Luftwaffe by mapping both home and enemy aircraft positions.

Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and wife of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was appointed head of the WAAF in 1939. It was her husband, the duke, who visited Squadron 272 in Egypt, as depicted in the novel.


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