Thursday, 25 September 2014

Cornwall in the First World War

During this month, each weekday I'm posting a photograph showing Cornwall's First World War.

It seems comparatively little photographic evidence survives of Cornish women’s work during the war. Over the next few days I’ll be exploring this area.

This lady, from Truro, is a member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Sadly her name is lost to us, but the studio shot suggests she was keen to have a memento of her service. She wears khaki uniform consisting of a cap, greatcoat and skirt; her boots are protected by spats. Regulations insisted the skirt be no more than twelve inches from the ground.

The WAAC was created in 1917, to free up men from the rear areas for front-line duty. More than 9,000 women served in France near the Western Front. Their tasks included domestic and office work and increasingly, mechanical repairs to motor transport. In April 1918 the service was renamed Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps; by the Armistice 57,000 women had joined.

The WAAC had no officer ranks but instead, so-called 'Officials' with the titles of controllers and administrators. Non Commissioned Officers were replaced by 'Members' known as forewomen. Usually, given society at the time, the controllers had higher or middle class backgrounds while forewomen came from more working class roots.

As part of Britain's mobilisation during the war, this milestone in the push for equal rights formed the basis for women’s service in the British Army to this day. 

My book, 'Cornwall In The First World War', is published by Truran. With 112 pages and 100 images, you'll find it in bookshops across the Duchy. It's also available through Amazon: 

No comments: