The Ladies of Army Intelligence
'Hush' WAACs - ATS - WRAC to Intelligence Corps
Women have always played an important role in intelligence work although the first women, wearing Army uniform, who were formally recruited to carry out a military intelligence function, came from the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC).
Twelve German-speaking ladies were recruited by General Headquarters Intelligence (GHQ-Int) in France in 1917 to assist in the effort to break German codes. These ladies became known as the 'Hush' WAACs on account of the secretive nature of their employment.
The very first of these 'Hush' WAAC was Mabel Dymond Peel (photo) who after the war wrote a short account of her time in France, regaling the reader with tales of her time when not on duty, but keeping very tight-lipped about the actual secret work she carried out.
The WAAC was formally disbanded in 1921.
Marie Le Blond joined the ATS at the age of 18 in 1939. She began work as a clerk.
In 1941 she was asked to attend an interview, not knowing what it was about, but she recognised the Intelligence Corps badges worn by her interviewing officers.
A few months later she become part of a team tasked with creating a reference book of German Air Force (Luftwaffe) radio call-signs.
In 1942 Le Blond became a Log Reader at Bletchley Park where she would interpret the direction of intercepted signals and the volume of traffic and also try to identify which call-signs belonged to which Luftwaffe units.
Much of the traffic that she analysed came from the nearby Y Service listening station at Chicksands.
Le Blond was told she wasn’t allowed to go abroad because she knew too much!
The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women's branch of the British Army, was formed on 9 September 1938, initially as a women's voluntary service.
During the Second World War a large number of ATS were seconded to do intelligence work and those pictured here, Sergeants Hazel Early and Kaye Norman, can be seen proudly wearing the Intelligence Corps badge over the left breast pocket to denote that they are employed with the Corps.
Sergeant Early was employed at Bletchley Park whilst Sergeant Norman was stationed at Beaumanor Hall near Loughborough in Liecestershire.
Betty Webb served at Bletchley park and recorded an interview for the museum.
The Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC) was formed on 1 February 1949 by Army Order 6 as the successor to the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
As before, members of the WRAC working in the Intelligence Corps wore the Corps badge on their tunics.
However, that all began to change in October 1990 when WRAC officers were transferred to their employing Corps and in April 1992 the WRAC was finally disbanded with its remaining members being transferred to the Corps they served with.
So, after 74 years of being attached, or 'badged', to the Int Corps, all female personnel now join the Intelligence Corps on day one and serve alongside their male colleagues in all roles around the globe.