WAAC Recruitment Poster

Explore this amazing collection of records from your ancestor’s service with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps during World War One. The records include application forms, medical examinations, uniform assignment forms, personal references and much more. Through these documents you will find your ancestor’s birthplace, a physical description and medical history, work and education background and details about your ancestor’s parents’ nationalities. For the family historian this is an amazing resource and exciting to discover with so many documents in one place. The original documents are held at The National Archives in London in series WO 398.

Each record includes a transcript and many have images. Some documents are more than one page. Use the arrow to the right to flip through the document and the arrow to the left to go back to the beginning.

Transcript

  • Name
  • Age
  • Birth date
  • Year
  • Service number
  • Regiment
  • Parish
  • County
  • Country

Image

    Each file contains different types of documents related to the individual’s service with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Crops. Some of the documents available include: official forms, medical examinations, telegrams, letters and various documents. Below is a list and details found in the most frequent types of documents available.

Discover more about these records

The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps papers were retained by the Ministry of Defence after the war, then later transferred to The National Archives at Kew. Unfortunately, while the records were held at the War Office Record Store they suffered substantial fire, water and mould damage due to a German air raid in September 1940. The current records are only a small percentage of the original.

The records that are still available today are highly detailed and contain extraordinary information for genealogists. The medical papers will give you a full physical description of your ancestor but also information related to her own health and family medical history. The completed references are valuable for getting to know more about your ancestor’s character as well as people important enough in her life to be asked for a reference. Various other forms will include addresses, parents’ nationalities and next of kin details, all excellent material to help grow your family tree.

The Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps first started in January 1917. The corps was initiated by Brigadier A C Geddes. The war office needed to release men from working ‘soft jobs’ so they could fight on the battlefields. The WAAC received a royal patronage and changed its name to the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Army Corps (QMAAC) on 9 April 1918 and Her Majesty became the Commander-in-Chief of the organisation. The change in name is evident in the records because you will often see administrators have crossed out the word Women’s and have written in Queen Mary’s. Also, that same month, the Women’s Royal Air Force was created and a number of QMAAC members transferred to the WRAF. You can explore those records on Findmypast too. The QMAAC was disbanded on 27 September 1921.

Approximately 57,000 women served with the WAAC during World War One. Each woman worked in one of the four sections: Cookery, Clerical, Mechanical and Miscellaneous. They were stationed in England and abroad in France and Flanders. Those in the cookery department prepared the men’s food either in the camps or the hospitals and the waitresses served the food. They made mutton broth, potato pie, stuffed tomatoes, curried cod and more. In the Clerical section, women provided administrative support for the war offices. Some of the women were required to have special typing and shorthand skills. The women in the Mechanics department worked with the motor vehicles. They would help to repair the vehicles if they broke down sometimes on the roadside and they even worked in factories to build new ones.

Abbeville bombing

On 29-30 May a German bomb fell on a trench at Abbeville, France and killed eight workers outright and another worker died later from wounds sustained during the blast. They were the first WAAC deaths on active service. The press tried to direct the public’s attention to this atrocity of the death of women, but the WAAC Commander Helen Gwynne Vaughan made it clear that these women were on active service and replacing male soldiers in crucial roles. Their deaths were equal to those of their male counterparts. The women were given a full military funeral with troops lining the road to the Abbeville Communal Cemetery, coffins covered with the Union Flag and Royal Flying Corps pilots flying overhead.

Margaret Annabella Campbell Gibson

In the records we have found Margaret Gibson, who received the first WAAC Military Medal. She was one of six women to be recognised for their actions during the Abbeville attack. The first woman to receive the Military Medal was Sarah Bonnell, a member of FANY. Bonnell was the first woman because the six women received their medals in alphabetical order.

The London Gazette from 5 July 1918 stated that Gibson received the Military Medal: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an enemy air-raid when in charge of a QMAAC camp which was completely demolished by enemy bombs, one of which fell within a few feet of the trench in which the women were sheltering. During the raid, Unit Administrator Gibson showed a splendid example. Her courage and energy sustained the women under the most trying circumstances and undoubtedly prevented serious loss of life.’

In Gibson’s file we discovered that prior to the war Gibson worked as warden in a hostel for working ladies. She was very popular with the residents and was always friendly and sympathetic. She was a widow when she joined the service at the age of 40. Gibson worked as a unit administrator when she joined the WAAC in July 1917 and was said to be a favourite among the girls. The records show that Margaret Gibson died of dysentery at No. 16 General Hospital, Le Treport, France on 17 September 1918. Additional records for Gibson are available in Findmypast’s Medal Index Cards and Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919.

International

The women who joined the WAAC were not only residing in the United Kingdom or Ireland, but many came from America, Australia, West Indies, Africa and more countries. Many of them were children of British parents and may have moved to these countries before the war but felt a sense of national pride and duty to come back and join the war effort. Others were wives of active soldiers and wanted to assist British forces.

One example is Annie Harris (nee Regan) - through her WAAC records we find that Annie was born in Australia and had an Irish father and an Australian mother. Her nationality at birth was stated as Australian, but at the time of the application she was British. We can also find that she was married to a British man, had one child and was living in Tasmania. 18 months prior to applying for the WAAC, Harris was living in South Africa. When she joined the corps she was assigned to be a waitress to work abroad. This is a great resource for Annie Harris’ family because it provides further clues to search for Annie’s parents, her child and even has a physical description; Annie was 5ft 3 inches tall with blue eyes and brown hair.