Friday, 7 July 2017

The WAAC and The QMAAC

Group of WAACs off duty seated on a roof wall in their billet at Rouen, 24 July 1917 © IWM (Q 5755). IWM Non-Commercial Licence
The 7th of July 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Army Council Instruction no. 1069 of 1917 which formally established the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC).

The starting of the Corps had in fact been recommended in January of 1917. In March, a chief controller, Alexandra May ‘Mona’ Chalmers Watson (a Scottish physician), was appointed, and recruitment began.

The National Archives in London hold surviving service records. It says that though the WAAC was a uniformed service, it had no military ranks. It was ‘made up of 'officials' and 'members'. Officials were divided into 'controllers' and 'administrators', members were 'subordinate officials', 'forewomen' and 'workers'. The WAAC was organised in four sections: Cookery, Mechanical, Clerical and Miscellaneous.’ On 9 April 1918, the Corps was renamed the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC), with the Queen consort serving as Commander-in-Chief.
Members of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) tending the graves of fallen British soldiers in a cemetery at Abbeville, 9 February, 1918. © IWM (Q 8470). IWM Non-Commercial Licence
Over the course of the First World War, around 57,000 women served with the WAAC or QMAAC, with over 15,000 thought to have served outside Britain. You can search for the service records here:

We have several women on Durham at War who served with the Corps. Kathleen Hooper was not new to a life involving the military services. She was born in India in 1897 while her father was serving there with the British Army. Not a lot of information is known as her service record has not survived. However, we do know that Kathleen joined up in Nottingham, and spent time at the QMAAC hostel in Gateshead. She sadly died of pneumonia shortly before the armistice in November 1918 at Hartlepool. She is commemorated on the Five Sisters Memorial in York Minster.
Members of the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps sleeping in the open in Crecy Forest. 7 June 1918. © IWM (Q 11065). IWM Non-Commercial Licence
Elsie Anderson was a local woman, born in Wingate in 1900 to a farming and mining family. The 1911 census shows her living and at school in Trimdon Colliery. In June 1917, she volunteered for the WAAC and was accepted in the September. Elsie spent a short time in London, possibly training, before working as a waitress at Bordon Military Training Camp, from October 1917 to May 1918.

While there, Elsie met Stanley Williams who was attached to the Royal Field Artillery. They married on 8 April 1918 at Headley, near Bordon. Stanley was already 21, but Elsie lied and gave the same age, so that she would not need parental consent. She left the WAAC at the end of May 1918, and not a lot has been found about her life after this time. It is known that she moved to the Isle of Wight, where Stanley was from, and they had a son born in 1919.

You can see more fantastic pictures of the Corps during the First World War on the Imperial War Museum website here:

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