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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Harriet Simeon WRAF


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Hi all,


I was hoping  someone could help me with the attached statement (from her personnel file in New Zealand) made by the above named. I am particularly interested in her work in the WRAF.

1.Can anyone tell me if Quartermistress is a formal rank in WRAF?

2. What was the '1st Area Depot for the whole of G.T. Britain at Hendly College Birmingham'?

3. What does G.T. mean?

4. How big where the Area Depots in terms of staffing and area covered?


Many thanks in advance.



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I would imagine that G.T. is a typo for Gt which would be a contraction of Great.


I think this is her - she seems to have been a VAD nurse before transferring to the RAF: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D6091067

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A bit more - I can't find Handly College Birmingham; if she was remembering after some time, could she be mis-remembering the name? There is a Handsworth College Birmingham which was a theological college, but I can't find any direct evidence that it was used as a hospital. The 1st Southern General Hospital was, however, based in the same area: http://www.1914-1918.net/southerngen.htm.

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Harriet Simeon's RAF resume reflects the early days of the Royal Air Force as determined by the  Air Force Act of December 1917.The act saw the RAF established and a RAF Home structure established in an era of high flux where the service was subject to ever changing operational requirements.The structure for the new service involved the setting up of five RAF Areas to cover the geographical areas of England,Wales and Scotland.These areas were as follows with the RAF Areas reporting to the Air Ministry and in turn,the Air Council.


South Eastern Area with its HQ at Covent Garden Hotel WC 2


South Western Area with its HQ at Chafyn Grove,Salisbury.


Midland Area which extended into Wales with its HQ at Somerset House,Clarendon Place, Leamington Spa


North Eastern Area with its HQ at Racecourse Buildings,York.


North Western Area with its HQ at Adelphi Hotel,Argyle Street,Glasgow.


The above RAF Areas contained a large number of units, stations and depots within geographical listed counties. 


Initially there were problems in the accommodation of WRAFs as some units would not accept them until suitable accommodation was made available. WACCs had been subject to the same accommodation failings,a deficiency recognised in early 1917 and rectified by the withdrawal of 40 bricklayers from France.However by May 1918,there were 500 camps where WRAFs were based at.


When it came to the recruitment of WRAFs,WRAF Depots were finally set up,one in each RAF Area for reception,kitting out and initial training,the establishing of these depots was piecemeal but they were set up as soon practicable when suitable places were found.The first WRAF Depot set up was at Handsworth College,Birmingham in the Midland Area in the summer of 1918.


Harriet Simeon refers to this accomplishment as the 1st Area Depot which in actual fact I would say she intended to record that this Depot was the first RAF Depot to open.She records a role here as Quartermisress,an appointment which would have the responsibility as a Quartermaster of managing the Depot's billets,the procurement of clothing/uniforms and the management of rations for the airwomen....usually undertaken by an uncommissioned officer.


Glasgow was the next WRAF Depot to open in August 1918,then Lindfield Gardens,Hampstead in the S.E Area followed by Flowerdown,Winchester in the SW Area and York in the NE Area.


She records being promoted to Administrator at Glasgow.....each WRAF Depot had a Administrator (equivalent to RAF Flight Lieutenant) and a Deputy Administrator (equivalent to RAF Flying Officer) or a Assistant Administrator (equivalent to RAF Pilot

Officer) with responsibilities within the commanding structure for the given WRAF Depot.


As WRAF Depots were set up,the irregular system of selection boards and random admission to the service was replaced and by March 1919, a centralised system to regulate recruiting and intakes was established.The responsibility for this was vested in a single WRAF officer at the Depot.Harriet Simeon refers to her role as "President of the Selecter's Board" which she was,holding the authority for selection of recruits at the Glasgow WRAF Depot.From the WRAF Depots,the recruits would be posted for training, as required in the four trades (Categories) available to them....Clerks and Storewomen.....Household.....Technical.....Non Technical.From there, airwomen would be posted to operational units,stations and depots...some were ex RNAS airship stations and other non operational units such as repair depots.


As regards WRAF manpower levels,they followed the rapid rundown of the RAF after the Great War.185 operational squadrons based home and abroad were reduced to 28 squadrons by March 1921.


On the forming of the RAF on 1 April 1918,the newly formed female branch of the RAF,the WRAF inherited 6805 airwomen from the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC),2867 airwomen from the Womens Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and 496 airwomen joined from the Women's Legion during the period of April to July giving a strength of 10168.


On 1 December 1918,the WRAF reached its peak strength of 24659 but a year later on 1 December 1919,its strength in the first year of peace had been reduced to 734.Four months later on 1 April 1920,the WRAF seemingly ceased to exist for its strength was returned as zero.


Overall,it has been recorded that 32321 airwomen passed through and were discharged by the WRAF during the years 1918-1920.

It would be difficult to arrive at the WRAF strengths for individual units etc but it is safe to say that they would be found throughout the RAF Area units, stations and depots. 


Edited by Frank_East
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Thanks all. Very useful. I also just found a good article on her in a NZ paper after the war (1920) which adds to and substantiates information offered here. Once again thanks.





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