Leicester

Rutland WW1 female volunteer's name added to memorial

Braunston-in-Rutland war memorial
Image caption Gladys Walter's name has been added to Braunston-in-Rutland's war memorial 97 years after her death

A war memorial has been rededicated to include the name of a female air force volunteer who died on the last day of World War One.

Gladys Walter joined the war effort in 1916, aged 18, at an air base near Grantham, in Lincolnshire.

Villagers in Braunston-in-Rutland believe her name was left off the memorial because of her gender.

Parish council clerk, Carole Brown, said the village had now "put right the wrong".

Ms Brown and local historians, Connie and John Beadman, began researching Gladys Walter's life in 2014, World War One's centenary year.

Ms Walter, who must have volunteered as women were not conscripted, started work as a rigger at the base, later named Spitalgate.

Her work probably involved maintaining the wires that held the earliest fighter planes together, Mrs Beadman said.


The WRAF

Image copyright Imperial War Museum
Image caption WRAF personnel at RAF Duxford, Cambridgeshire, with two male colleagues in 1919
  • During World War One, members of the Women's Royal Naval Service and the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps worked on Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service air stations
  • The Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) came into being with the formation of the Royal Air Force in April 1918
  • Most women worked as clerks. Others worked in the Household section while those in the Technical section included skilled tinsmiths, fitters and welders
  • On 24 March 1919, the first group of WRAFs arrived in France to begin overseas service. Later in the year a contingent was sent to Germany
  • But in 1920 the unit was disbanded, along with the other women's services
  • In those two years 32,000 WRAFs had proved a major asset to the RAF and paved the way for all future air service women

Source: RAF Museum


Ms Walter joined the WRAF soon after it was formed in April 1918, in the 29th Training Squadron, only to die seven months later on Armistice Day from pneumonia, probably related to the Spanish Influenza epidemic which killed millions across Europe.

She was one of only three servicewomen from Rutland to die in World War One, Mrs Beadman said.

Although her name was not included on the memorial, she has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone in the churchyard, just yards away.

Image copyright Chris Doyle
Image caption Gladys Walter's gravestone is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

"It's a shame but that's how things were in those days. Women weren't recognised," said Mrs Beadman.

The parish council paid about £120 to inscribe her name, alongside 14 others who died in both world wars.

Council clerk Ms Brown said: "The whole village is behind it, we are all very proud it's happening."

During the service, led by Oakham rector Rev Canon Lee Francis Deqani, children placed 15 flowers on the memorial representing the servicemen.

Image caption The WRAF volunteer was just 16 when she joined the war effort

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