Women Served Too

At home and abroad, women played their part

In December 1941 Conscription was introduced in Britain for unmarried women between the ages of 18 and 38. They had a choice of going into the Women’s service, civil defence or industry. Nursing, fundraising and administration were the other areas of work opened to civilians.

Lillian Bader (above) was born in Liverpool. Her father was from Barbados and had served with the royal Navy, her mother was white. By the age of 9 she had lost both her parents and was sent to live in a convent. Lillian joined the Women’s auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1941, and was promoted to the rank of Acting Corporal. During the war she met and married Ramsay Bader, a black British soldier. The couple had two sons and she later trained to be a teacher. 

Read more about Lillian’s war time experience in: West Indian Women at War – British Racism in WWII, ISBN – 0-85315-743 X, Publishers: Lawrence & Wishart. Suppliers, New Beacon Books

Military Service – Overseas Recruitment

The Auxiliary Territorial service (ATS) gave women the chance to serve in the army both in the UK and overseas. Outside the UK it was particularly active in the Caribbean and Palestine.

In India, the Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WACI) was the equivalent to the (ATS)

The RAF formed the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and also enlisted women both in the UK and overseas. Local recruitment offices were set up in the Middle East and from 1942 onwards, recruits were taken from Egyptian, Palestinian, Jewish, Assyrian, Greek and Cypriot communities.

In 1942 India introduced the Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service (WRINS)

At first women from the colonies were mostly employed to do clerical work within the forces. However, with time other areas of work became opened to them. (Drivers, orderlies, store women and cooks)

From the islands of the West Indies, 600 women were recruited into the ATS. Of this number, 300 remained stationed in the Caribbean.  Two hundred were posted to America and 100 served in the UK.

Women of Palapye, Botswana knitting for the Navy

American entertainer – Mona Baptise

“England was our mother country and when Germany declared war against her…. that was fatal and we wanted to go in and help her because she’s our mother…. It’s as simple as that.”

Connie Marks, Jamaican ATS. (Source: A Ship and a Prayer, by Stephan Bourne)

The women of India go to war

Indian women had active roles in WWII

Often when we think of women from India and the sub-continent it brings to mind images of suppression and limited social contacts.  Therefore, it is all the more remarkable to see the active roles that these women played and their contributions to the war efforts.

In addition to military services, large numbers of Indian women also worked behind the scenes, on the land, and in military supplies units.

In remembrance of those who died in both World Wars from the Indian sub continent, Africa and the Caribbean, in November 2002 a set of Commemorative Gates were put up in Hyde Park.

Image at the top: Noorunisa Inayat Khan is sometimes described as the Indian princess who became a British secret agent. See Black History Bootleg India in WWII