Women’s History Month: “My top secret and demanding job at RAF Medmenham during WW2”

This Women’s History Month, we want to celebrate the contributions women have made throughout history in the RAF. The RAF Benevolent Fund spoke to Sybil Piper, who served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in the Second World War, about her service and how the Fund has helped her in recent years.

Sybil Piper, 98, joined the WAAF during the Second World War and at the age of 19 began work as special duties clerk at RAF Medmenham – renowned for its role in aerial reconnaissance, where experts analysed and interpreted aerial photographs to gather crucial intelligence on enemy movements.

Sybil explained:

“We specialised in photographic intelligence at Medmenham, so it was all top secret and very demanding, an exacting job.”

Women played a significant role in contributing to the intelligence efforts in the Second World War. Sybil continued:

“It was my role to coordinate maps for the plotters, we had to work together, but it was like stepping into another world, the discipline and demands of it. But it stood me in good stead for the rest of my life.”

Sybil felt the sudden change at the job after VE Day. She said: “Times were different. I shouldn’t say this, but in wartime we were there for a purpose.

“When it ended, we wondered what would happen. We won the war, then suddenly it was all over. So peacetime I found different. It was more relaxed. Where once we used to be flying every hour of every day, now that wasn’t the case.”

Sybil moved to RAF Odiham where she continued clerical work until 1947. She was allowed to fly in an aircraft of her choice as a treat. She said:

“I chose the Spitfire, obviously, and went up around Hampshire with one of the flying aces – it was fantastic.”

Sybil was married to her husband James three years later and pursued a new career in education.

Since the passing of her husband 15 years ago, Sybil has been supported by the Fund, finding friendship and camaraderie in the RAF Family once more, 77 years since she left the Women’s Air Force.

Speaking about the support of the Fund, Sybil said:

“The community engagement team do such important work and make sure you’re not forgotten.

“What the Fund gives you, more than anything, is a sense of security. And at our age, that’s important.”

The RAF Benevolent Fund provides financial, emotional, and practical assistance to serving and retired RAF personnel and their families. This includes grants to help with financial difficulty, mental health support, Airplay youth clubs, and more.

Our Executive Members

By @Cobseo 54 years ago

Afghanistan support

In light of recent events in Afghanistan, please find information and support resources here