Women and the aerial war

Muriel Vera Derby, WRAF

Over the course of the First World War there were increasing pressures from women for their own uniformed services to assist the war effort. As a result by the end of the war women were serving in the army, navy, and even the newly formed Royal Air Force.

The Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was established on 1 April 1918. They undertook mechanical and technical roles as well as cooking, driving and administration.


Muriel Vera Derby

Muriel is a fantastic example of one of the life stories that will be added to Lives of the First World War over the course of the project. Born in London but living in Cambridgeshire, she was a member of the Women’s Royal Air Force during the First World War, working as a Typist Clerk.

She was an ‘Immobile’ WRAF, which meant that while working at Duxford she lived at home, and could not be sent to another RAF station to work. When she left the WRAF, she took a glowing report with her. Duxford’s Commanding Officer described her work as ‘excellent’.


Help us to remember the women who served in uniform

We’ll be adding life story pages for women who served in uniform to Lives of the First World War as the project progresses, giving you the opportunity to further explore the personal stories behind the major social change that took place during the First World War. Can you help us to uncover more about their stories?

In the Historic Duxford exhibition at IWM Duxford, you can see a propeller which was given to Muriel by an admirer at Duxford. Muriel’s family kept the propeller, and her daughter, Dr Kathleen Symonds, donated it to IWM in 2011.

Find out more about women’s services in the First World War here.

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