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WAAF and WRAF

The Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was formed in 1939, growing to approximately 180,000 by 1943, serving duties vital to the war effort in meteorology, transport, telephony and telegraphy, codes and ciphers, Intelligence, Security and Operation Rooms. In 1949 it was reformed as Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF).
WRAF Crest
Mrs. Diane Gollop

My career was also a short one but a well timed move for a juvenile delinquent. I had always known aviation was the direction I would take. I desperately wanted to fly but was too young for cabin crew.  As a baby our house was on the flight path to Leeds/ Bradford (Yeadon) to the locals. I always pointed and shouted "daddy" even though my dad was now a teacher?  It must have dawned on me at any early stage he had been a flier. (1)

As I was going through school dad made me promise to go in as nothing less than an officer. I really did not have the where withal to hold that type of position, being a bit giddy. However, fate took a jab and dad died when I was 17. My world fell apart and I just upped and swore in leaving poor mum with a young son, but it seemed right at the time.

Right: Diane at the age of just over 17.

I reckon the staff at basic training were pre warned of my emotional state as I seemed to get away without too many admonishments, shall we say. So April 1972 for six weeks we learned to march. Square bashing in the biz. After a bunch of JP's did our fly past a little bit of leave then ATC trade training at RAF Shawbury. (2) Not a bad little camp some bloomin good disco's too and a few Matelots on an earlier course to liven things up. Had all my long hair chopped off here as the hair lacquer had glued it into a sticky mess and was frog marched, half cut into a jewellers in Shrewsbury by two Matelots for my ears piercing.

Arrived home on leave after 6 weeks there. Mum said "love the hair and hate the ears"

Next came the posting of all postings - Lyneham! When I got off the train and caught a taxi to the camp we were just going through Wootton Bassett when all 39 Hercules came home at once. Like bees around a honey pot for want of a better saying. My goodness I nearly died.

I have to say it was a fantastic base, always something happening and the Hercie birds used to run their engines on the Calne strip at night near our block. To this day I can detect a Herc minutes before it is visual.

Aug 1974 having been qualified to Cpl and SGT trade and admin I went to LATCC (mil). (3) I had completed a radar course at RAF North Luffenham and done rather well so when I went to middle airspace I thought I would be on radar. Silly me, I went into the low flying cell, booking jets in to the routes at 500 mph 250 AGL. (4) Even USAAF used the routes and we had many good laughs with the ops guys around the UK.

I still wanted to fly though so applied for Air Load master. Unfortunately my maths let me down at Biggin Hill so I went back to West Drayton and re-sat GCSE Maths. MeanwhileI was promoted to Cpl. Double edged news really, new rank - new pay, but not able to re muster due to the promotion. Bought myself out for £15 as women were expendable in those days. Like hell I thought, so I applied to Britannia airways and got the job as cabin crew and I flew off into the hottest summer of 1976.

(1) The father of Diane had been a pilot of Wellingtons during WW2. His aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire but they managed to crash land the aircraft on the 7th August 1941 and taken prisoner of war. All the crew escaped injury.
(2) Royal Air Force Shawbury is a Royal Air Force station by the village of Shawbury near Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
(3) LATCC - London Air Traffic Control Centre - Military.
(4) AGL - Above Ground Level

Above: Diane's father and right his wrecked Wellington (after the crew set it on fire to prevent it being used by the enemy)

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 23 August 2014, 23:45