Formation of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force

25 Feb 1941

The Minister for Air, John McEwen, issued a press statement announcing the immediate enrolment of female wireless and teleprinter operators to fill RAAF ground staff vacancies. Proposals to raise a Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) had been before the War Cabinet since July 1940, but not until 4 February was approval given; the Advisory War Council agreed with the decision the next day. McEwen’s announcement made clear that the women were wanted only ‘until they could be replaced by qualified men’, and because legal doubts existed over whether women could be enlisted under the Air Force Act they were at first enrolled only as auxiliaries for renewable periods of 12 months. Nonetheless, the other Services quickly followed the RAAF in establishing women’s services for general war duty. The WAAAF grew to reach a strength of 18,664 in October 1944.