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Auxiliary Territorial Service Cap Badge

Women who joined the army did so as volunteers, until the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) was granted a full military status in 1941.

The ATS was formed in September 1938, in order to recruit women to fill the jobs men had to leave in order to fight in the War. Roles were initially very limited, with women having the choice between cooks, clerks, orderlies and drivers. However as the War went on demand for personnel increased and with it the variety of jobs available to women grew, although they were not allowed to fire any weapons.

Around 5ooo women served in the Middle East, with many of them being locally recruited. The West Indies Territorial Service employed around 300 women, although they had initially been rejected because of the colour of their skin. It was later claimed that they would not be able to work effectively as they could not adapt to British culture or colder climates. However the Colonial Office had put out a non-discriminatory recruitment policy to improve the relationship between Britain and the Caribbean. This opened the door for women of colour to enlist from 1943.

By 1945, around 250,000 women had served in the ATS. It had proved that women were an invaluable resource, and although there were still some reservations, female soldiers were no longer seen as an emergency temporary soloution.

The ATS was replaced with the Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC) in February 1949.




Brass badge with letters 'ATS' within a laurel wreath below a crown.

Did you know?

HRH The Princess Elizabeth (HRH Queen Elizabeth II), joined the ATS as a driver and mechanic during World War Two.