Auxilliary Territorial Services (ATS)
The ATS was formed in September 1938. It followed the tradition of women undertaking non-combatant roles in the Armed Forces started by the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in the First World War.
By September 1939 there were 17,000 volunteers. By December 1940 there were over 200,000 members. Service in the ATS was voluntary until 1941 after which women were conscripted into the services.
These women performed many tasks including office work, telephone duties, drivers, military police, and working in Anti Aircraft batteries. Office work was considered to be a 'safe' job but on the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, ATS telephonists were amongst the last British forces to leave France.
One quarter of the ATS served in Anti Aircraft batteries where they risked coming under fire and were not (officially) allowed to fire back! These women operated the searchlights, rangefinders and radar sets and were allowed to load but not to fire the guns.
The women of the ATS served all over the world including France, Norway, North Africa, Sicily, Italy India and Burma.
During the period of hostilities 335 members of the A.T.S. were killed, 94 were reported missing, 302 were wounded and 20 became prisoners of war.