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The key role played by WAAC british post office female staff in army signal units on the western front, 1917-1920: Information and Culture

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  • B. Walsh
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>3/01/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Inf. Cult.
Issue number1
Volume55
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)75-97
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

There is a gaping void in the historiography of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), later called the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps QMAAC), brought about by the absence of an informed understanding of the crucial role played by the young women seconded from British post office exchanges to serve as telephonists and telegraphists in France in 1917. Specifically attached to Royal Engineers' signal units in British Expeditionary Force army bases and all three echelons of its General Headquarters, their arrival ensured the continued smooth operation of the army's vital lines of communication. This article examines how their key role as professional technologists within a tightly secured military sector made a significant contribution to the final successful outcome of the conflict. Questions can be raised why their skills were never later addressed within the historiography, and it may be concluded that adequate recognition is long overdue. © 2020 by the University of Texas Press

Bibliographic note

Export Date: 13 July 2021 Correspondence Address: Walsh, B.; Lancaster UniversityUnited Kingdom References: Bidwell, Brigadier Shelford, (1977) The Women's Royal Army Corps, pp. 25-26. , (London: Leo Cooper Ltd); Gwynne-Vaughan, Helen, (1941) Service with the Army, p. 56. , also (London); Philo-Gill, Samantha, (2017) The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in France 1917-1921, , (Barnsley: Pen and Sword); World War I service medal and award rolls, 1914-20, and National Army Museum, army service records, , www.nationalarchives.gov.uk; (1916) Telegraph and Telephone Journal, 3, pp. 125-126. , also (-17); Priestley, R. E., (1921) Work of R.E. in the European War, 1914-18: The Signal Service (France), p. 61. , (London, repr., East Sussex: Naval & Military Press, 2006); Hall, Brian N., (2017) Communications and British Operations on the Western Front, 1914-1918, pp. 68-69. , (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press); Priestley, Work, p. 58; Priestley, Work, p. 292; http://www.samhallas.co.uk/bt_museum/telegraph.htm, explains this procedure; Priestley, Work, p. 14; Marwick, Arthur, (1977) Women at War 1914-1918, p. 88. , (London), remains one of the most useful studies to consult, having provided a solid basis for many subsequent studies; (2009) Regulations for the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps 1918, pp. 33-39. , reprint of Army Council Instructio 652 of 1918 (Naval & Military Press Ltd., in association with the Imperial War Museum); https://www.gchq.gov.uk/features/hush-waacs; (1922) Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire during the Great War 1914-1918, p. 204. , (War Office, March); Marwick, Women at War, p. 169. , also; Gould, Jennifer Margaret, (1988) The Women's Corps: The Establishment of Women's Military Services in Britain, p. 449. , (London); Noakes, Lucy, (2006) Women in the British Army: War and the Gentle Sex, 1907-1948, p. 81. , (London: Routledge), cites a higher figure, but she has not given any new source to confirm this suggestion; Messenger, Charles, (2005) Call to Arms: The British Army 1914-18, p. 256. , (London); Hay, Marjorie, (1919) On Waactive Service, p. 93. , (Whitfield: Plymouth Press); (1917) Telegraph and Telephone Journal, 3, p. 138. , (July); (1938) OCA Gazette, 17 (4), p. 2. , (April): (in a speech given by former chief controller Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, CBE); POST 31/99/10//62 and 72 are GPO record forms noting their commended work during air raids, , BT Archives; (1919) Telegraph and Telephone Journal, 5, p. 16. , (December-January); Clinton, Alan, (1984) Post Office Workers: A Trade Union and Social History, pp. 73-74. , (London: Allen & Unwin); Glew, Helen R., (2010) Women's Employment in the General Post Office, 1914-1939, p. 212. , (PhD diss., University of London, Institute of Historical Research); Clinton, Post Office Workers, p. 242; Marwick, Women at War, p. 83; Frahm, Jill, Women Signalers in World War I France, p. 10. , https://www.nsa.gov/Portals/70/documents, sets out an excellent assessment of their work in assisting AEF troops to help the BEF achieve a successful outcome in France; Cobbs, Elizabeth, (1917) The Hello Girls, , (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), which explains the setting up of and difficulties encountered by the American army women; Dennant, Lynda, (1998) Women at the Front during the First World War: The Politics of Class, Gender and Empire, p. 178. , (PhD diss., University of Warwick); Downs, Laura Lee, (2004) Writing Gender History; Gullace, Nicoletta, (2004) The Blood of Our Sons; Hunt, Karen, (2002) Equivocal Feminists: The Social Democratic Federation and the Woman Question, pp. 1884-1911; Thom, Deborah, (1998) Nice Girls and Rude Girls; Watson, Janet, (2007) Fighting Different Wars; Priestley, Work, p. 161; Gwynne-Vaughan, Service, 3, pp. 91-130. , pt