Museum Launches “Women of the Air Force” Temporary Exhibition

Museum Launches “Women of the Air Force” Temporary Exhibition

10th February - 27th June 2010

A new temporary exhibition: "Women of the Air Force" dedicated to Women's service in the Royal Air Force will be unveiled at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford on Wednesday 10th February.  The exhibition will be on display to the public in the Museum’s temporary exhibition gallery, Hangar 1 until Sunday 27th June.

The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was established on 28th June 1939.  Within a year, tens of thousands of women were serving alongside the RAF; often exposed to danger on airfields, radar stations and barrage balloon centres across the country, all of which were primary targets for the German Air Force.

By 1945 over 200,000 women had served in the WAAF employed in over 110 different trades, supporting operations around the world.  They became an integral and vital part of the Royal Air Force's war effort.

This was not the first time women had served with the RAF. During the First World War the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF), created on 1st April 1918, supported the RAF in domestic and technical roles in the United Kingdom, and later in France and Germany. By the time of its disbandment in 1920, 32,000 women had served within its ranks.

After the Second World War it was decided that the contribution made by women should not be lost. In 1949 the Women’s Royal Air Force was re-formed as a permanent force and from the 1960s women could qualify as aircrew for the first time.  Full integration was achieved in 1994, when the WRAF was absorbed completely into the RAF. Currently, female personnel are serving in the United Kingdom and overseas including operationally in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nina Burls, the exhibition’s Curator, stated:
"The aim of Women of the Air Force is to address what has been perceived by many of our visitors to be a lack of representation given in the Museum’s displays specifically to women whilst educating the public about how the roles of women in the Service have changed since the creation of the Women’s Royal Air Force in 1918."

The Museum has also launched an electronic version of Women of the Air Force exhibition, inviting current and former female personnel who served in the RAF, WRAF or the WAAF to share their stories through the online exhibition’s interactive forum.

Nina adds:

"Every woman has her own unique story to tell, as do her friends and family. Over the coming months we will be highlighting such first hand accounts held within the Museum’s collection. Today, the Royal Air Force Museum invites all former and current Service personnel, their friends and families to further aid this understanding by telling their stories in the Women of the Air Force’s interactive forum, which can be found on the Museum’s website

Through their participation, not only will the forum’s members be helping to highlight women’s contribution to the development of the RAF, but they will be creating an important historic archive which we hope will inspire the next generation of young women

Entrance to the exhibition and the Museum is free.  The Museum is open daily from 10am – 6pm (last admission 5pm).  For further information, please call the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford on 01902 376 200 or visit the museum website,

Date Posted: 10th February 2010

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