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Members of the WRAF at Duxford. By permission of the Imperial War Museum. IWM Q114860

We’ve been doing some research concerning the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF). The WRAF was established in April 1918, at the same time as the the RAF. Women who had been serving within the other services – the Army and Royal Navy – could be transferred across, and it was also opened up to new members. Contained within the ‘Conditions of Service’, we found this list of jobs that were open to its recruits:

Vegetable Woman
By-Product Woman
General Domestic Worker
Acetylene Welder
Camera Repairer
Fitter (Aero engine)
Fitter (General)
Instrument repairer
Magneto repairer
Tinsmith and Sheet Metal Worker
Wireless Mechanic
Wireless Operator
Motor Car Driver
Assistant Armourer
Storewoman (Non-Technical)
Fabric Worker
Motor cyclist
Washer (Motor Car)
Telephone Operator

The First World War dramatically increased the range of jobs that were undertaken by women, beyond the traditional fields such as domestic service (which employed between 11-13% of the female population in England and Wales from 1911-1914). Many of these new jobs were carried out by WRAFs at Duxford, as the photograph below shows.

Members of the WRAF in the Motor Transport yard, Duxford, 1918. By permission of the Imperial War Museum IWM HU 040586

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Duxford from the south east. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM Q 114047

This photograph of Duxford was taken from the east, near where the M11 motorway is now. It shows the airfield soon after it was built. Many of these buildings survive today.

Duxford was built to a standard layout. Buildings were planned within two main groups: the technical group, and the domestic group. At Duxford these sets of buildings were separated by the Royston to Newmarket road.

The domestic buildings were on the north side of the road. They provided accommodation for some 850 men and women. Buildings included a hostel for the airwomen of the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF), and messes and quarters for officers, sergeants and airmen. The photograph below shows a mix of the different sorts of personnel stationed here!

Members of the Royal Air Force and Women's Royal Air Force at Duxford, at the end of the First World War. By permission of the Imperial War Museum. IWM HU 40579

The technical group of buildings was on the south of the road. These structures housed all of the services needed to keep the station running, the repair shops, aircraft sheds (hangars) and training buildings. Below, you can Duxford band in 1918, posing in front of one of the hangar doors.

The Duxford band, 1918. By permission of the Imperial War Museum. IWM Q 096087

Several temporary hangars, made of wood and canvas, were also constructed in 1918. They were known as Bessonneau, or Type H hangars. They housed many of the aircraft based here.

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