Over 1,000 women gather to celebrate 100 years of women in the Armed Forces

More than 1,000 women attended The Royal British Legion’s ‘Women at War 100’ event at the National Memorial Arboretum on 7 July, celebrating 100 years of women in the military.

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    The National Memorial Arboretum

The 7 July marked the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) – the first all-women unit in the UK Armed Forces.

So it was fitting that the event at the NMA saw women aged between 14 and 100 travel from Spain, Belgium and France to attend the event which featured a Drumhead ceremony and an all-female tri-service military band.

The band was made up of 46 personnel (including an RM bugler) from all three services and was led by Captain Lauren Petritz-Watts.

The Women’s Army Auxillary Corps (WAAC) was formally instituted by Army Council Instruction Number 1069 on 7 July 1917, enabling the enrolment of women into the British Army for the first time.

The youngest representative present was a 14-year-old cadet, while the oldest representative was Rose – 100-year-old balloon operator.

The Women’s Army Auxillary Corps (WAAC) was formally instituted by Army Council Instruction Number 1069 on 7 July 1917, enabling the enrolment of women into the British Army for the first time, taking on roles as cooks, clerks, drivers, mechanics, telephonists, and telegraphers.

This followed on from contributions of women on the home front, as Britain faced a severe shortage of manpower due to conscription. 58,000 women served in the Corps before it was disbanded in 1921, with 82 women dying in service, and five being awarded the Military Medal.

The 100th anniversary of the Women’s Royal Naval Service is this year, as they were formed in November 1917.

The Women’s Royal Air Force was created in April 1918. Members of these organisations were the first of many thousands to serve on military operations over the past 100 years up to the present day.

Representatives from the WRAC association were joined by representatives from a number of other organisations, including: The Association of Wrens; the WRAF; and the FANY.

“This was a fantastic opportunity to recognise the vital role of women in the UK Armed Forces.
"The roles of women in the Services have changed beyond recognition over the last century but throughout that time their contribution has been critical to the UK’s military campaigns.” Charles Byrne, Director General

WOMEN AT WAR 100

Discover how the role of women in the Armed Forces has developed since the British Army's first all female unit was established 100 years ago.

Explore the timeline