Women in War

King George VI initiated the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1939. Its purpose was to “interlink” with the RAF by using women as substitutes for men in trades and operations. Although pay rates were approximately two-thirds of their male colleagues, it was an opportunity for women to either be employed, or to earn a higher wage than usual, by experiencing a variety of trades that were primarily the domain of men.[1] Alice Raye Bailey was one such woman who decided to join the WAAF in 1940. Raye was working as a hairdresser in Wales at the start of WW2 and after talking to clients, who worked in munitions factories, decided the WAAF was a better option for her. She trained as a switchboard operator and ended up at the PBX main telephone exchange at the RAF Exeter fighter station. They were first positioned within the Flying Control Tower but due to copious bombings were moved underground. Raye worked shift work and states for the most part her feet were in water. However it was an opportunity to earn 28s per week rather than 20s from hairdressing, and women felt valued because they were contributing to the war effort.