SAAFA Johannesburg
A short history of the Women’s Aid and Friendship Society of the Johannesburg branch of the South African Air Force Association
WAAFS
By 1938 it was evident that Britain was on the brink of war with Germany. In South Africa a few women aviators decided to prepare themselves for the worst, and to form an organisation to train women for service i.e. flying and handling of aircraft. The inaugural meeting took place on 6 December 1938 at the Wanderer’s Hall in Johannesburg. It was well attended, and the Women’s Aviation Association, under the chairmanship of Doreen Hooper, came into being with Mrs Smuts as their first patron. Branches soon sprang up all over the country. Bursaries were offered and the number of women pilots increased.  By Feb 1939, 32 ladies had been trained and were ready for ground duty. They paid for their own uniforms and wore dungarees for work, and overalls and blue caps for parades. Golden wings adorned their pockets and so did their motto, Ad Manum. In 1939 Miss Marjorie Egerton-Bird offered the services of the girls to the government. General Smuts invited them to join forces with the men and to take the oath and wear the orange flash. By 1942, their organisation fell under the auspices of the South African Air Force and WAAF recruitment was handed over to the Director of Recruiting. Valhalla near Pretoria became the only training school for new recruits. As more and more women joined up, there were many setbacks – lack of accommodation, delays in call-ups and spasmodic recruiting were the order of the day. The road of the Air Force Women was difficult - they were met with resistance, as they came to carry out more and more traditionally male roles, but they freed the men to go North and by the end of the war no less than 10 000 had served in the WAAFS and had carried out a huge variety of tasks. They packed and repaired parachutes and replaced men in every branch of SAAF admin. They were pay officers, quartermasters and private secretaries. They worked in the stores. Everywhere that SAAF went, the WAAF was sure to go. Women pilots ferried planes like Spitfires and Harvards or became link trainer instructors teaching pupil pilots to become instrument proficient. There were those who became mechanics. They had to put up with a fair amount of uphill from their male counterparts. Some women aviators were “Met girls” doing weather observation. Others did photo missions and long surveillance flights. A small proportion of the intake went north to Kenya, Egypt and Italy. A few were mentioned in dispatches, and, although no big deal today, there was even a WAAF brass band. Once the war came to an end, the women’s permanent force came into being. Over the years women’s rights have been reviewed and revised and women are powerful in the SAAF workplace today, but the modern women would be extremely proud of the role played by their predecessors, the WAAF girls in World War II. In 2008 the then chairman of the Johannesburg Branch of the South African Air Force Association, and National Vice President of SAAFA, Don Johnston, suggested that his wife Di form a modern day version of the WAAFS – Women’s Aid and Friendship Service of the Johannesburg branch. With no lack of volunteers, the organisation thus came into being with Di Johnston as Chairman and Eileen Ruff, a past SAAFA national secretary and 2nd World War WAAF, as Patron. The extract below comes from Don’s December 2009 report and gives an idea of what this small group of SAAFA ladies do. “Our Ladies Section, the WAAFS, have since their inception in October 2008, been a tower of strength and have raised over R20 000 by their own efforts, all of which has been or will be applied for the good of our beneficiaries and SAAFA in general. They have stepped up their visits to seniors and beneficiaries and by the time this reaches you will have distributed to them hampers and gifts for Christmas. They also arranged a well attended Christmas lunch for them. The WAAFS certainly put a cheerful face on our Branch efforts and we thank Di and her “gals” as they refer to themselves. Please keep it up. We need you!” : .
Back row from left to right: Jean Urry, Dee Palmer, Don Johnston, Di Tabor, Heather Erasmus, Rosemary Barratt. Front row from left to right: Carol van Rensburg, Gwynn Slade.  
SAAFA Johannesburg
WAAFS
The Women’s Aid and Friendship Society
By 1938 it was evident that Britain was on the brink of war with Germany. In South Africa a few women aviators decided to prepare themselves for the worst, and to form an organisation to train women for service i.e. flying and handling of aircraft. The inaugural meeting took place on 6 December 1938 at the Wanderer’s Hall in Johannesburg. It was well attended, and the Women’s Aviation Association, under the chairmanship of Doreen Hooper, came into being with Mrs Smuts as their first patron. Branches soon sprang up all over the country. Bursaries were offered and the number of women pilots increased.  By Feb 1939, 32 ladies had been trained and were ready for ground duty. They paid for their own uniforms and wore dungarees for work, and overalls and blue caps for parades. Golden wings adorned their pockets and so did their motto, Ad Manum. In 1939 Miss Marjorie Egerton-Bird offered the services of the girls to the government. General Smuts invited them to join forces with the men and to take the oath and wear the orange flash. By 1942, their organisation fell under the auspices of the South African Air Force and WAAF recruitment was handed over to the Director of Recruiting. Valhalla near Pretoria became the only training school for new recruits. As more and more women joined up, there were many setbacks – lack of accommodation, delays in call-ups and spasmodic recruiting were the order of the day. The road of the Air Force Women was difficult - they were met with resistance, as they came to carry out more and more traditionally male roles, but they freed the men to go North and by the end of the war no less than 10 000 had served in the WAAFS and had carried out a huge variety of tasks. They packed and repaired parachutes and replaced men in every branch of SAAF admin. They were pay officers, quartermasters and private secretaries. They worked in the stores. Everywhere that SAAF went, the WAAF was sure to go. Women pilots ferried planes like Spitfires and Harvards or became link trainer instructors teaching pupil pilots to become instrument proficient. There were those who became mechanics. They had to put up with a fair amount of uphill from their male counterparts. Some women aviators were “Met girls” doing weather observation. Others did photo missions and long surveillance flights. A small proportion of the intake went north to Kenya, Egypt and Italy. A few were mentioned in dispatches, and, although no big deal today, there was even a WAAF brass band. Once the war came to an end, the women’s permanent force came into being. Over the years women’s rights have been reviewed and revised and women are powerful in the SAAF workplace today, but the modern women would be extremely proud of the role played by their predecessors, the WAAF girls in World War II. In 2008 the then chairman of the Johannesburg Branch of the South African Air Force Association, and National Vice President of SAAFA, Don Johnston, suggested that his wife Di form a modern day version of the WAAFS – Women’s Aid and Friendship Service of the Johannesburg branch. With no lack of volunteers, the organisation thus came into being with Di Johnston as Chairman and Eileen Ruff, a past SAAFA national secretary and 2nd World War WAAF, as Patron. The extract below comes from Don’s December 2009 report and gives an idea of what this small group of SAAFA ladies do. “Our Ladies Section, the WAAFS, have since their inception in October 2008, been a tower of strength and have raised over R20 000 by their own efforts, all of which has been or will be applied for the good of our beneficiaries and SAAFA in general. They have stepped up their visits to seniors and beneficiaries and by the time this reaches you will have distributed to them hampers and gifts for Christmas. They also arranged a well attended Christmas lunch for them. The WAAFS certainly put a cheerful face on our Branch efforts and we thank Di and her “gals” as they refer to themselves. Please keep it up. We need you!”. Modern Day WAAFS
Back row: from left to right: Jean Urry, Dee Palmer, Don Johnston, Di Tabor, Heather Erasmus, Rosemary Barratt. Front row: from left to right: Carol van Rensburg, Gwynn Slade.