Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service
|Royal Air Force Nursing Service|
1 June 1918 - Present
|Allegiance||HM The Queen|
|Branch||RAF Medical Services|
|Garrison/HQ||Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM)
part of University Hospital Birmingham
|Engagements||World War II,
Gulf War (Op GRANBY),
War in Afghanistan,
Gulf War II (Op TELIC)
|Matron-In-Chief||Group Captain Phil Spragg|
|Patron||HRH Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy, LG, GCVO|
|Red Cross Emblem|
It was established as the Royal Air Force Temporary Nursing Service (RAFNS) in 1918, and became part of the permanent establishment as the Royal Air Force Nursing Service on 27 January 1921. It received the Royal prefix after Princess Mary agreed to become its Patron in June 1923.
It was a women-only branch until 1980, when men were also permitted to join. Until the Second World War, it was only open to unmarried women, or childless widows. There was also a Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (Reserve) (PMRAFNS(R)) to supplement the regular service during times of war or emergencies.
Its current mission statement reads: "The Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service is committed to providing a nursing workforce that is determined to develop the skills, knowledge and ability to deliver high quality care whilst being responsive to the dynamic nature of RAF Nursing in peacetime and on operations."
A history of the service was commissioned from the writer Mary Mackie and appeared in 2001. An updated and extended edition covering subsequent decades (including service in Afghanistan) was published in September 2014.
The initial ranking system used by the PMRAFNS was as follows.
|PMRAFNS rank||Equivalent RAF rank (from 1943)|
|Senior Sister||Flight Lieutenant|
|Principal Matron||Wing Commander|
|Chief Principal Matron||Group Captain|
From 1 June 1943, PMRAFNS personnel were granted emergency Commissions, and wore rank insignia corresponding to their equivalent Royal Air Force officer rank. On 1 February 1949, the women's forces were integrated into the Armed Forces, and a new ranking system was introduced, although professional titles were still used on the wards.
|PMRAFNS rank||Equivalent RAF rank|
|Flying Officer||Flying Officer|
|Flight Officer||Flight Lieutenant|
|Squadron Officer||Squadron Leader|
|Wing Officer||Wing Commander|
|Group Officer||Group Captain|
|Air Commandant||Air Commodore|
|Air Chief Commandant||Air Vice-Marshal|
Other Ranks were introduced in 1956, although unqualified Nursing Orderlies had previously served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and Women's Royal Air Force. They held standard RAF ranks. Officers used the separate ranking system until 1980, when they too adopted RAF ranks.
- Joanna Cruickshank, 1918–1930
- Katherine Watt, 1930–1938
- Dame Emily Blair, 1938–1943
- Gladys Taylor, 1943–1948
- Air Commandant Dame Helen Cargill, 1948–1952
- Air Commandant Dame Roberta Whyte, 1952–1956
- Air Commandant Dame Alice Williamson, 1956–1959
- Air Commandant Dame Alice Lowrey, 1959–1963
- Air Commandant Dame Veronica Ashworth, 1963–1966
- Air Commandant Dame Pauline Giles, 1966–1970
- Air Commandant Ann McDonald, 1970–1972
- Air Commandant Barbara Ducat-Amos, 1972–1978
- Air Commodore Joan Metcalfe, 1978–1981
- Air Commodore Joy Harris, 1981–1984
- Air Commodore April Reed, 1984–1985
- Group Captain Mary Shaw, 1985–1988
- Group Captain Elizabeth Sandison, 1988–1991
- Group Captain Ethnea Hancock, 1991–1994
- Air Commodore Valerie Hand, 1994–1997
- Air Commodore Bob Williams, 1997–2001
- Group Captain Annie Reid, 2001–2004
- Group Captain Wendy Williams, 2004–2006
- Group Captain Jackie Gross, 2006–2010
- Group Captain Phil Cushen, 2010–2013
- Group Captain Phil Spragg, 2013 -
- Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service website
- Mary Mackie: Sky Wards - A History of the Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (London: Robert Hale, 2001).
- Mary Mackie: Wards in the Sky – the RAF's Remarkable Nursing Service (The History Press, UK, 2014, ISBN 9780750959568).
- Phased out during the Second World War.
- Initially called Superintending Sister, but renamed after a few years.
- Introduced later than other ranks.
- Introduced later than other ranks, possibly not until the Second World War.
- An honorary rank held only by Princess Mary (7 October 1950) and Princess Alexandra (1 November 1966).