The Women's Royal Army Corps Association
Since 2018, we have used a wide combination of media training, media campaigns, collaborations and documentary film-making, to raise the profile of The W.R.A.C. Association – the only charity that specifically supports women who serve, or have served, in the British Army. We are delighted to see our work continue to drive new membership, as well as awareness, for the charity. Over the past few years, we have secured a global media audience of several billion.
It is now over 100 years since the first women served in the forces, and how their roles have progressed! HM The Queen, who is the charity’s Patron, joined up during WW2 when the women’s regiment was known as the A.T.S. (Its name changed to the Women’s Royal Army Corps (W.R.A.C.) after the war, but the corps was disbanded in 1992 and there is no longer a specific women’s corps.) Joining-up was rare for women before that time, but now, women make up 1 in 10 of those serving in the British Army, and they do hold almost the same roles as their male counterparts.
We continue to have the honour of educating the public about the pioneering roles that early Army females played: women such as 97 year old Betty Webb MBE, who helped to crack enemy codes at Bletchley Park. Key moments in history have led to great media interest in their stories, and a very busy press office at ‘Curious Towers’!
In 2020, we launched the charity’s global campaign to ‘Find Our O.A.T.s’ (oldest A.T.S. lady) after the death of Anne Robson aged 108 – Britain’s oldest female veteran at the time. Anne’s “fiercely independent spirit” was celebrated in headlines around the world – Mail Online, BBC News (TV & Online), Fox News, The Scotsman, and elsewhere. The campaign was announced first by The Express in the article, ‘Do you know Britain’s oldest female veteran?’ resulting in new women coming forward to join the charity.
Later that year, the campaign led to finding 103 year old Ena Collymore-Woodstock. She is alive and well, and still does her daily exercise regime in Jamaica, having served during WW2 as the first black female radar operator in both England and Belgium.. After WW2, Ena trained in London at Gray’s Inn and went on to be the first woman of colour to serve in the judiciary in her home country of Jamaica. Her collaborative spirit and determination to ‘see action’ rather than ‘join the typing pool’ gained her global media attention from the likes of Sky News (broadcast and online) Mail Online, The Telegraph, The Times, MSN, Polish News, earning the story a global media audience of over 114,000,000.
The year 2020 meant our team was busy with VE Day 75 and VJ Day commemorations which meant media platforms such as the BBC, ITV and Fox News queue up to interview these rare and inspiring veterans. Despite Covid-19 lockdown, May saw Britain mark 75th years since VE Day, a rare moment when people take to their front gardens and shared tea (at a safe distance) to honour the contribution of veterans. Our team worked hard to secure interviews in multiple publications, such as The Times, and thanks to carers, families and TV producers, live broadcasts included a heart-warming 3-way interview on BBC Breakfast TV with 97 year old Betty Webb MBE, and 102 year old Molly Francis (who spoke lucidly from her care home). TV presenter, Lorraine, also interviewed Betty Webb on this auspicious day, whose photo graced the cover of iconic magazine, National Geographic, in June 2020. [GET IMAGE!!!]
When the nation marked the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan on August 15th, WRAC veteran, Joan Rich, shared her memories of rehabilitating British P.O.W.s returning from Japan via The Times, BBC Radio 5 Live and ITV, (plus local news titles), helping us reach over 35 million people.
BENEVOLENCE & SUPPORT
As well as providing social contact, events and camaraderie for members, the WRAC Association’s benevolence fund provides grants to help army women who fall on hard time, as highlighted by a special report for Channel 4 News – ‘Meet The Forgotten Women Veterans’ – in response to the hardship campaign we ran in the media based on new data. This sensitively-handled report highlights the specific challenges women face after leaving The Army, and the lack of support available to them, despite their contribution to society.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we helped launch the charity’s Buddy-Buddy scheme, whereby veterans and vulnerable women are paired up. Interest amongst the media has been strong, with the stories of these pairs of women being told by various broadcasters, print and online publications, including ForcesRadio and BBC Radio.