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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).
Laura Emily Kate Leather nee Crawley 1922 - 2013

Laura Emily Kate Leather nee Crawley served as a WAAF from 24th August 1942 - 14th August 1945. Laura died in May 2013 just before her 91st birthday. Her son Henry recalls a few memories that his mother shared with him before she passed away  

Laura Emily Kate Crawley just after recruiting (courtesy of Henry Leather)

Laura Emily Kate Crawley 2010409 enlisted in the WAAF's on the 29th August 1942 in her local recruiting office in Lewisham, South East London at the age of 20. Laura had heard a rumour that women were being conscripted into munitions and she didn't want to that so she volunteered to join the WAAF very much against her parents' wishes

Basic training followed for 6 weeks at RAF Bridgnorth, Shropshire a base where Laura would have been tested for and designated to trades and introduce to drill and the discipline of service life.  Laura was assigned to administration trades and her first posting was to RAF West Kingsdown, Kent in November 1942 where she was a clerk/secretary for a year. RAF West Kingsdown was the headquarters for all the Home Defence Units or RAF Y Stations. Y Stations were top secret and it was rumoured that they were listening to 'foreign' radio broadcasts and intercepting messages. 

Below Left: The Information Room and enjoying a meal. Both at RAF Bridgnorth, Shropshire (courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)


Left: Laura amongst aircrew about to eat the boiled egg she had won during an egg and spoon race. (courtesy of Henry Leather)

November 1943 Laura was transferred to RAF Peplow, Shropshire and worked in the Orderly's Office for 3 months. A temporary move followed for accounts training and then back to RAF Peplow, but this time in the Officers Accounts Office meeting and dealing with all the air crew accounts. 

This was something that Laura really enjoyed and was one of the highlights of her WAAF career. It was while serving at RAF Peplow Laura met her future husband Henry George Leather 

In May 1945 Laura was transferred for six months to the Accounts Office at RAF Hornsley, Yorkshire. Henry had been posted to a station in North Wales and he and Laura used to meet in Manchester

Laura was a rather shy and timid young lady and her experiences in the WAAF brought her out and gave her much more confidence. Laura and Henry were married on the 11th June 1945 in Liverpool Henry's home town. Laura was demobbed on the 14th August 1945 at C. G. S. (Central Gunnery School) RAF Catfloss, Shropshire and 'released' after leave on the 9th October 1945

Laura on her 90th birthday (courtesy of Henry Leather)

Laura joined the WAAF Association when it began in the 1980's and after moving to Haywards Heath in the 1990's started a local branch No 47 of the WAAF Association where she took on the secretary and treasurer duties The Haywards Heath branch disbanded in 2012

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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 01 April 2015, 18:59

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