WAAF Association
WAAF Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire

from the Winter 2011 WAAFA News

Many of us have seen our WAAF memorial by now. We saw it half finished early in 2010 and more have travelled to see it since its completion.

The final act took place on 11th June this year [2011] when the Revd David Osborn, RAF chaplain of St Clement Danes RAF Church led the ceremony of dedication at the Arboretum.

Some of us had gone to Stafford for the short week end reunion, travelling on to Alrewas on the Saturday by arranged coach but dozens more came for the day. The weather forecast was not promising; we all hoped that the rain would hold off for the actual ceremony and we gathered around the memorial, anxiously watching the skies.

Seeing the wide open spaces around, I asked our padre, "Will everyone be able to hear?" His wife, standing nearby, beamed at me, "Oh, yes!" she said, "have no fears". I soon realised why she was so confident: the Rev Osborn is very tall and broad with a voice to match.

A sizeable crowd of familiar blue kilts had gathered around by noon, being joined by strangers who said they were ex WAAF or WRAF and many onlookers. How some of them knew I don't know but perhaps I should not be surprised since Air Force women seem to have a built-in communication system.

The rain was still holding off as our padre started the service with the introduction that offered "worship and praise to Almighty God and to remember with thanksgiving all those who lived and died in the service of mankind, especially in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force."

Our Secretary, Ann Peacock, read the lesson that was from Micah, Chapter 4. We all recognised the familiar "and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning forks". After prayers we sang, O God our help in ages past. There was no music but David Osborn's powerful voice led us through to the end.

Then followed the Act of Remembrance when we remembered "those who have died for their country in war, those we knew and those whose memory we treasure." We remembered especially members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.

The padre then dedicated the memorial, lifting his arms as he said, "the faith of Jesus Christ, we offer and dedicate this memorial to members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, to the glory of God and the memory of all those who served in that service."

Ann Peacock assisted by Chairman Joan Brooks then laid a heart shaped wreath of white flowers bearing the word "Peace" on a blue ribbon. Somehow the wreath had become very heavy, soaked by the earlier rain, and it took three of us to lift it on to the Memorial.

Suddenly it was over, our memorial had been dedicated AND it had not rained. People gradually drifted away into groups with tongues clacking merrily. Then the photographers took over as everyone wanted to "show that they had been there."

Eventually we arrived at the restaurant where we queued for roast beef, lemon meringue pie and many other mouth watering dishes. The noise was deafening as the air force had its say about everything. I have never known the WAAF lost for words! Later some of us took the land train and were taken on a trip around the Arboretum. Such stunning memorials all around us and in such a beautiful setting! At this point the rain arrived in some style. Fortunately our land train was covered and it splashed its way along the paths while we congratulated ourselves that it had been dry for the ceremony.

Many of our members were not able to attend because of infirmity or distance but even so hundreds had sent donations so that it could be built. Every bit of this memorial was paid for by voluntary donations from members and their friends and families.

Looking at the Memorial, those of us who were there reflected on our past, when so many of us were plucked from our quiet lives by war. We travelled from towns, cities and villages in these islands and from countries further afield, making our way to recruiting centres to offer our services to our country. We didn't know what to expect and for many it was a rude awakening: the early mornings, the chores, the discipline, and for many the frightening crash of bombs and roar of aircraft, most of which weren't ours.

Our lives changed dramatically but in that maelstrom of war many of us grew up, learned to share, discovered comradeship and learned new skills. We learned to cope with death and disaster on those airfields so long ago. On bomber and fighter stations we lost many friends, mostly men, but bombs are indiscriminate and WAAF suffered too. As we left the memorial, with its long lists of trades, we remembered our friends from long ago, remembered them with affection and for some, with sadness.
We will always remember them.
Iris Catlin

My name is Peggy Kenny I am a member of the Newcastle & North East Branch and would like to say on behalf of myself and the other branch members who attended the Dedication Service of our memorial at the Arboretum (and I am sure all the other members who were there), a BIG Congratulations to the Committee and every-one else who have been involved in the erection of the memorial. THANK YOU - to me it was an honour, and I was so proud to be there. I would also like to congratulate The Reverend David Osborn, Padre in residence at St. Clement Danes, London for a very emotional moving service, Beautiful. Thank You. A good weekend, it is always a Joy to meet up with our friends and colleagues from other parts of the country.
P Kenny (Ex LACW Balloon Operator)

some earlier photos of the memorial

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unless otherwise stated, images via WAAFA News: page created 9 Dec 2011