Churchill daughter's WW2 colleagues sought by Cambridge archive

  • Published
Sarah Churchill and unknown WAAF colleaguesImage source, Churchill Archives Centre
Image caption,
Sarah Churchill (second from left) was serving at RAF Medmenham when this photograph was taken but no record was kept of her WAAF colleagues' names

An appeal has been made to trace three women who appear in a World War Two photograph with one of Sir Winston Churchill's daughters.

Sarah Churchill and her colleagues are pictured when serving at RAF Medmenham in Buckinghamshire in 1940 or 1941.

The photograph belongs to the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge.

An archivist said she wanted to "participate meaningfully" in the war and identifying her colleagues would "add to our understanding of her life".

Image source, Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of Sarah Chu
Image caption,
She analysed aerial reconnaissance photos, a demanding job including 12-hour overnight shifts - and eye exams every eight weeks

Miss Churchill had rejected an aristocratic debutante's life for a career on the stage before joining the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1940.

The prime minister's second daughter "was intent on filling a more challenging role where she could make a meaningful contribution", according to archives assistant Thomas Wales.

As a section officer in the Photographic Interpretation Unit of the RAF Intelligence Branch at Medmenham - which looked at aerial reconnaissance photos for European and North African operations - she identified critical targets while working 12-hour overnight shifts.

Mr Wales said: "The most challenging work was during Operation Torch, during which the unit worked in conjunction with ground intelligence to prepare for the invasion of North Africa in 1942."

Image source, IWM/Getty
Image caption,
Sarah Churchill and her father in Egypt at the 1943 Cairo Conference, before heading to Iran for the Tehran Conference

Later Miss Churchill accompanied her father as his aide-de-camp at international meetings with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and US president Franklin Roosevelt in 1943 and 1945.

Her papers and photographs were donated to the archive, which was purpose-built at Churchill College in 1973 to house Sir Winston's papers. She died in 1982.

The University of Cambridge collection now includes archives from nearly 600 major political, military and scientific figures, including Margaret Thatcher, Neil Kinnock and Rosalind Franklin.

Mr Wales of the archive said Miss Churchill's life is "often viewed through the narrow lens of her father Winston, so it's really exciting and important to explore Sarah's journey from her perspective".

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