Consigned from the deceased estate of a collector, they belonged originally to a Kathleen Hargreaves, who was one of the first women to serve in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and then the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF).
The items were in generally good condition and were offered in one lot estimated at £1200-1800. They sold for £4200 to a UK private collector in the January 30 auction held in Tunbridge Wells.
As in many areas of the home front, women serving in the air force in a variety of trades (although the majority were employed as clerks) freed up men for combat. It has been suggested that this huge support across the war effort was a significant factor in the decision to give women the vote.
The RAF Museum says that during the war, members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) worked on air stations belonging to the RFC and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). When the decision was taken to merge the RFC and RNAS to form the Royal Air Force (RAF), concerns were raised about the loss of their specialised female workforce. This need for a separate women’s air service led to the formation of the WRAF on April 1, 1918.
The album of photographs and ephemera included in the lot had been collated by Hargreaves and began with a number of personal snap-shots of various members of the WRAF and RAF officers when stationed at No 2 Stores Park, Eltham in south London, in 1918. It then covers service in France and post-war Germany.
Matthew Tredwen, C&T militaria specialist, said: “We’ve had bits of such uniforms like insignia, badges and one of the hats before, but never in this quantity and in such a complete grouping. When I spoke to the collector who bought it he said the photo album was what really made him go that extra mile – it made it more personal.”
The WRAF, a wartime force, was disbanded in April 1920. In only two years, 32,000 WRAFs had proved a major asset to the RAF.