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"Leading the way for women in the RAF"

When the WRAF was formed in 1918, Ruth Theaker was one of the first to sign up. In this blog, part of our Women at War 100 series, her grandson David Rainford tells her story.

Ruth Theaker

Ruth was born Ruth Hale in Southill, near Biggleswade Bedfordshire on 7 April, 1889. She met her future husband Sam Theaker while he was convalescing from wounds at Southill and they married in March 1917. 

Sam had enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a driver in June 1914 and spent the whole of the First World War in the field being awarded four blue chevrons in addition to the 1914-15 Star, the War Medal and the Victory Medal.

After his convalescence (and the wedding), he returned to the front and Ruth (then Mrs Theaker) enlisted in the newly formed Women's Royal Air Force on 6 August, 1918.
Ruth was given the rank of Member and classified as immobile, which meant that she could not be posted away from home. She served her whole time at RAF Henlow as a storewoman. Sam returned from the war on demobilisation in May 1919 and Ruth was discharged from the WRAF in June the same year.

They lived and worked at the Whitbread estate in Southill after discharge, but Sam himself then joined the RAF in 1923, serving until his death in service in 1945. He was in the RAF police after training at Halton was posted to Egypt and then to Baghdad with the mounted police (second from the left in the photo) returning to RAF Henlow and Ruth in 1927. They had four children, Marguerite, my mother, George, - born after Sam left for the middle east and was four when he first met his dad, Wendoline who died at PMRAF Hospital Halton in infancy and Yvonne (born 1932). It was a hard life for a service wife in those days!

The family then moved together to Cranwell, Digby, Felixstowe and finally Bridgnorth in 1940 where Sam was the Senior Warrant Officer. Sam was detached to prepare RAF Full Sutton in for opening in 1944 when he fell ill. He was sent back to Bridgnorth where the family were living and died in service 1945.

In 1968 on the 50th Anniversary of the RAF, Ruth was entertained by students at RAF Henlow which she enjoyed enormously. Ruth died in 1978 at the age of 89 years, but always remained immensely proud of her service in the WRAF and of her long association with the Royal Air Force.

David, who describes himself as a proud grandson, also served in the RAF, retiring as Air Commodore.

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