Women's Royal Army Corps
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|Women's Royal Army Corps|
Badge of the Women's Royal Army Corps
|Motto||Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re (Gently in manner, strongly in deed)|
|March||Quick: Lass of Richmond Hill, Early One Morning
|Anniversaries||Corps Day (1 Feb.)|
The Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC; sometimes pronounced acronymically as //, a term unpopular with its members) was the corps to which all women in the British Army except medical, dental and veterinary officers and chaplains (who belonged to the same corps as the men) and nurses (who belonged to Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps) belonged from 1949 to 1992.
The WRAC was formed on 1 February 1949 by Army Order 6 as the successor to the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) that had been founded in 1938. For much of its existence, its members performed administrative and other support tasks, but later they began to be attached to other corps, including the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers. In the 1980s, married members of the WRAC that had husbands serving with 17/21L were posted to serve within the Regiment as members of the QM Staff, they participated in large exercises in the field. Other WRAC personnel served with the Royal Signals and Royal Army Ordnance Corps as integrated unit members.
On 6 April 1992, the WRAC was disbanded and its members transferred to the appropriate corps of the army, signalling full integration of women into non-combat roles. This was not greeted with enthusiasm by all members of the WRAC, particularly the more senior officers and NCOs, who felt that advancement would be more difficult if they had to compete on an equal basis with men. This was in some ways partly justified as the post of Director WRAC, which carried the rank of Brigadier, was abolished and it was seven years before a woman, Brigadier Patricia Purves, again reached that rank. Officially, since a majority of its members had been administrative personnel, the WRAC amalgamated into the new Adjutant General's Corps.
Ranks and uniform
The WRAC wore a distinctive Lovat green uniform and for dress occasions a bottle green uniform. Their cap badge was a lioness rampant within a laurel wreath surmounted by a crown. Their motto was Suaviter in Modo, Fortiter in Re (Gentle in manner, resolute in deed).
Initially the WRAC retained the separate ATS ranking system. However, in March 1950, it switched entirely to Army rank titles, the first of the women's services to do so (the Women's Royal Air Force switched in 1968; the Women's Royal Naval Service retained separate ranks until its disbandment in 1993). The highest rank available to a serving officer was Brigadier, held by the Director WRAC, although the Controller-Commandant, a member of the Royal Family, held a higher honorary rank. Princess Mary held the post from 1949 to her death in 1965 (beginning as a Major-General and being promoted General on 23 November 1956) and the Duchess of Kent held it from 1967 to 1992 (with the rank of Major-General).
List of Directors WRAC
- Brigadier Dame Mary Tyrwhitt, 1949–1950
- Brigadier Dame Mary Coulshed, 1950–1954
- Brigadier Dame Mary Railton, 1954–1957
- Brigadier Dame Mary Colvin, 1957–1961
- Brigadier Dame Jean Rivett-Drake, 1961–1964
- Brigadier Dame Joan Henderson, 1964–1967
- Brigadier Dame Mary Anderson, 1967–1970
- Brigadier Sheila Heaney, 1970–1973
- Brigadier Eileen Nolan, 1973–1977
- Brigadier Anne Field, 1977–1982
- Brigadier Helen Meechie, 1982–1986
- Brigadier Shirley Nield, 1986–1989
- Brigadier Gael Ramsey, 1989–1992
- Brigadier Joan Roulstone, 1992–1994 (as Director Women (Army) during transitional period)
Band of the WRAC
At the time of the WRAC's disbanding the Band of the Women's Royal Army Corps, formed in 1949, was the only all-female band in the British Armed Forces, although the Royal Air Force (which had once had its own all-female band) had already started to integrate female musicians into all of its bands. From the mid-1990s, women have served in all British Army bands. The instruments, assets and personnel of the former WRAC Band became the new Band of the Adjutant General's Corps.
- Graduate Careers: How I got here: Brig Patricia Purves 'I just happened to be good at my job,' The Independent, April 26, 2001
- "Army Titles in the WRAC", The Times, 20 March 1950
- Bidwell Shelford. Women's Royal Army Corps (1997) 141pp
- Noakes, Lucy. Women in the British Army: War and the Gentle Sex, 1907–48 (2006), the standard scholarly history; focus on ATS
- WRAC archive of regiments.org