Auxiliary Territorial Service
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The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS; often pronounced as an
acronym An acronym is a word or name formed from the initial components of a longer name or phrase, usually using individual initial letters, as in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or European Union, EU (European Union), but sometimes using sy ...
) was the women's branch of the
British Army The British Army is the principal Army, land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces. , the British Army comprises 80,040 regular full-time personnel and 30,020 Army Reserve (United Kingdom), reserve personnel. ...
during the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved World War II by country, the vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the gr ...
. It was formed on 9 September 1938, initially as a women's voluntary service, and existed until 1 February 1949, when it was merged into the
Women's Royal Army Corps The Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC; sometimes pronounced acronymically as , a term unpopular with its members) was the corps Corps (; plural ''corps'' ; from French language, French ''corps'', from the Latin ''corpus'' "body") is a term used f ...
. The ATS had its roots in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), which was formed in 1917 as a voluntary service. During the
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war that began on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918. It involved much of Europe, as well as Russia, the Unite ...

First World War
its members served in a number of jobs including clerks, cooks, telephonists and waitresses. The WAAC was disbanded after four years in 1921. Prior to the Second World War, the government decided to establish a new Corps for women, and an advisory council, which included members of the
Territorial Army Territorial Army may refer to: * Territorial Army (India) * Territorial Army (United Kingdom) * Territorial Army (Ethiopia), part of the Ethiopian National Defense Force * Territorial Army (Germany) part of the West German Army during the Cold War ...
(TA), a section of the Women's Transport Service (FANY) and the Women's Legion, was set up. The council decided that the ATS would be attached to the Territorial Army, and the women serving would receive two thirds the pay of male soldiers. All women in the army joined the ATS except for nurses, who joined
Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC; known as ''the QAs'') is the nursing branch of the British Army and part of the Army Medical Services. History Although an "official" nursing service was not established until 1881, the corps t ...
(QAIMNS), and medical and dental officers, who were commissioned directly into the Army and held army ranks, and those remaining in the FANY, known as Free FANYs.


In action

The first recruits to the ATS were employed as cooks, clerks and storekeepers. At the outbreak of the Second World War, 300 ATS members were billeted to France. As the German Army advanced through France, the British Expeditionary Force was driven back towards the English Channel. This led to the evacuation of troops from
Dunkirk Dunkirk ( , ; french: Dunkerque ; vls, label=French Flemish, Duunkerke; nl, Duinkerke(n) ) is a Communes of France, commune in Nord (French department), Nord, a Departments of France, French department in northern France. It lies from the Belg ...
in May 1940, and some ATS telephonists were among the last British personnel to leave the country. As more men joined the war effort, it was decided to increase the size of the ATS, with numbers reaching 65,000 by September 1941. Women between the ages of 17 and 43 were allowed to join, although these rules were relaxed in order to allow WAAC veterans to join up to the age of 50. The duties of members were also expanded, seeing ATS orderlies, drivers, postal workers and ammunition inspectors. Over the six-year period of the War, about 500 ATS personnel were trained to operate the
Cinetheodolite Image:Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command, sits in a cinetheodolite during a visit to Cape Canaveral AFS.jpg, The Air Force Space Command commander sits in a cinetheodolite at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station A cinetheod ...
, with the highest number being in 1943–44, when 305 ATS were in active service using this equipment. One application of this specialist camera was in gunnery practice, where a pair of Cinetheodolites a known distance apart filmed the shell bursts from
anti-aircraft artillery Anti-aircraft warfare or counter-air defence is the battlespace response to aerial warfare, defined by NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North ...
against target drones towed by an aircraft. By comparing the filmed location of the shells' detonation and the target, accurate calculations of their relative position could be made that would reveal any systematic error in the
gunsights A sight is an aiming device used to assist in visual perception, visually aligning ranged weapons, surveying instruments or Fire-control radar, optical illumination equipments with the intended target. Sights can be a simple set or system of mar ...
.


The National Service Act

In December 1941, Parliament passed the National Service Act, which called up unmarried women between 20 and 30 years old to join one of the auxiliary services. These were the ATS, the
Women's Royal Naval Service The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS; popularly and officially known as the Wrens) was the women's branch of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. First formed in 1917 for the World War I, First World War, it was disbanded in 1919, then revived in 1 ...
(WRNS), the
Women's Auxiliary Air Force The Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), whose members were referred to as WAAFs (), was the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force during World War II. Established in 1939, WAAF numbers exceeded 180,000 at its peak strength in 1943, with over 2,0 ...
(WAAF) and the Women's Transport Service. Married women were also later called up, although pregnant women and those with young children were exempt. Other options under the Act included joining the
Women's Voluntary Service The Royal Voluntary Service (known as the Women's Voluntary Services (WVS) from 1938 to 1966; Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) from 1966 to 2004 and WRVS from 2004 to 2013) is a voluntary organisation concerned with helping people in need ...
(WVS), which supplemented the emergency services at home, or the
Women's Land Army The Women's Land Army (WLA) was a British civilian organisation created in 1917 during World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July ...
, helping on farms. There was also provision made in the act for objection to service on moral grounds, as about a third of those on the
conscientious objector A conscientious objector (often shortened to conchie) is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service Military service is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia A militia () is ...
s list were women. A number of women were prosecuted as a result of the act, some even being imprisoned. Despite this, by 1943 about 9 out of 10 women were taking an active part in the war effort. Women were barred from serving in battle, but due to shortages of men, ATS members, as well as members of the other women's voluntary services, took over many support tasks, such as
radar Radar is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Ear ...

radar
operators, forming part of the crews of
anti-aircraft gun Anti-aircraft warfare or counter-air defence is the battlespace Battle-space is a term used to signify a unified military strategy Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals ...

anti-aircraft gun
s and military police. However, these roles were not without risk, and there were, according to the
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Imperial War Museum
, 717 casualties during World War II. The first 'Mixed' Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) battery of the
Royal Artillery The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA) and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is the artillery Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch Ammunition, munitions far bey ...
( 435 (Mixed) HAA Battery) was formed on 25 June 1941, and took over an operational gun site in
Richmond Park Richmond Park, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames () in southwest London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England ...

Richmond Park
, south-west London, in August. It was the forerunner of hundreds of similar units with the ATS supplying two-thirds of the personnel: at its height in 1943 three-quarters of
Anti-Aircraft Command Anti-Aircraft Command (AA Command, or "Ack-Ack Command") was a British Army The British Army is the principal Army, land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces. , the British Army comprises 80,040 regular fu ...
's HAA batteries were mixed. Several Heavy Anti-Aircraft regiments deployed to North West Europe with
21st Army Group The 21st Army Group was a World War II British headquarters formation, in command of two Field army, field armies and other supporting units, consisting primarily of the Second Army (United Kingdom), British Second Army and the First Canadian Arm ...
in 1944–45 were 'Mixed' regiments.Brig N.W. Routledge, ''History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Anti-Aircraft Artillery 1914–55'', London: Royal Artillery Institution/Brassey's, 1994, , pp. 399–401. A secret trial (the 'Newark Experiment' in April 1941) having shown that women were capable of operating heavy searchlight equipment and coping with conditions on the often desolate searchlight sites, members of the ATS began training at
Rhyl Rhyl (; cy, Y Rhyl, ) is a seaside resort and community (Wales), community in the Local government in Wales, Welsh county of Denbighshire. It lies within the Historic counties of Wales, historic boundaries of Flintshire (historic), Flintshire, ...
to replace male personnel in searchlight regiments. At first they were employed in searchlight Troop headquarters, but in July 1942 the 26th (London Electrical Engineers) Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery became the first 'Mixed' regiment, with seven Troops of ATS women posted to it, forming the whole of 301 Battery and half of 339 Battery. In October that year the all-women 301 Battery was transferred to the new 93rd (Mixed) Searchlight Regiment, the last searchlight regiment formed during World War II, which by August 1943 comprised about 1500 women out of an establishment of 1674. Many other searchlight and anti-aircraft regiments on Home Defence followed, freeing men aged under 30 of medical category A1 for transfer to the infantry. Similarly, by 1943 the ATS represented 10 per cent of the
Royal Corps of Signals The Royal Corps of Signals (often simply known as the Royal Signals – abbreviated to R SIGNALS) is one of the combat support arms of the British Army The British Army is the principal Army, land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a p ...
, having taken over the major part of the signal office and operating duties in the
War Office The War Office This article contains text from this source, which is available under th Open Government Licence v3.0 © Crown copyright was a Department of the British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army The ...
and Home Commands, and ATS companies were sent to work on the lines of communications of active overseas theatres. Mary Soames, Baroness Soames, Mary Churchill, in her ATS uniform, accompanying her father Prime Minister Winston Churchill By VE Day and before Demobilization of the British Armed Forces after World War II, demobilization, there were over 190,000 members of the women's Auxiliary Territorial Service. Famous members of the ATS included Mary Soames, Baroness Soames, Mary Churchill, youngest daughter of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and Elizabeth II, Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth, eldest daughter of George VI, the King, who trained as a lorry driver and mechanic.


Post-war

After the cessation of hostilities women continued to serve in the ATS, as well as in the WRNS and WAAF. It was succeeded by the
Women's Royal Army Corps The Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC; sometimes pronounced acronymically as , a term unpopular with its members) was the corps Corps (; plural ''corps'' ; from French language, French ''corps'', from the Latin ''corpus'' "body") is a term used f ...
(WRAC), which formed on 1 February 1949 under Army Order 6.


Ranks

Initially ranks were completely different from those of the army, but used the same rank insignia, although the crown was replaced by a laurel wreath."Badges of Rank in the ATS", ''The Times'', 30 September 1939 Members were required to salute their own superior officers, but not other organisations' officers, although it was considered courteous to do so. On 9 May 1941, the ATS rank structure was reorganised, and as of July 1941 the ATS was given full military status and members were no longer volunteers. The Other ranks (UK), other ranks now held almost identical ranks to army personnel, but officers continued to have a separate rank system, that was somewhat modified. All uniforms and badges of rank remained the same, although crowns replaced laurel wreaths in the rank insignia. Members were now required to salute all superior officers. The only holders of the rank of chief controller were the first three directors, promoted to the rank on their appointment, and Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood, Princess Mary, who held it from 1939 and was appointed the ATS's honorary controller-commandant in August 1941. When other ranks were assigned to mixed-sex
Royal Artillery The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA) and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is the artillery Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch Ammunition, munitions far bey ...
batteries of
Anti-Aircraft Command Anti-Aircraft Command (AA Command, or "Ack-Ack Command") was a British Army The British Army is the principal Army, land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces. , the British Army comprises 80,040 regular fu ...
starting in 1941, they were accorded the Royal Artillery ranks of gunner (rank), gunner, lance-bombardier, and bombardier (rank), bombardier (instead of private, lance-corporal, and corporal), and wore the RA's braided white lanyard on the right shoulder and the 'grenade' collar badge above the left breast pocket of their uniform tunic.Col J.D. Sainsbury, ''The Hertfordshire Yeomanry Regiments, Royal Artillery, Part 2: The Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment 1938–1945 and the Searchlight Battery 1937–1945; Part 3: The Post-war Units 1947–2002'', Welwyn: Hertfordshire Yeomanry and Artillery Trust/Hart Books, 2003, , Plate 9, p. 7.


Officers


Other ranks


List of Directors ATS

* Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, Chief Controller Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, July 1939 – July 1941 * Jean Knox, Chief Controller Jean Knox, July 1941 – October 1943 * Leslie Whateley, Chief Controller Dame Leslie Whateley, October 1943 – April 1946 * Mary Tyrwhitt, Senior Controller Dame Mary Tyrwhitt, April 1946 – January 1949


Notable ATS personnel

* Julian Phelps Allan * Betty Harvie Anderson, Baroness Skrimshire of Quarter * Henrietta Barnett (WRAF officer), Henrietta Barnett, later Director of the Women's Royal Air Force, WRAF * Violet Bathurst, Lady Apsley * Joan Bernard * Bridget Boland * Nadia Cattouse * Mary Soames, Mary Spencer-Churchill (later Baroness Soames) * Mary Colvin * Primrose Cumming * Elizabeth II, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) * Margaret Fairchild * Pamela Frankau * Christian Fraser-Tytler * William Gell (RAF officer), Edith Gell * Murder of Gay Gibson, Gay Gibson * Valerie Goulding * Susan Hibbert * Elisabeth Kirkby * Esme Langley * Linda McCullough Thew * Bridget Monckton, 11th Lady Ruthven of Freeland * Stella Moray * Maisie Mosco * Jennifer Moyle * Eileen Nolan * Julia Pirie * Elisabeth Rivers-Bulkeley * Yvonne Rudelatt * Stella Schmolle * Nancy Salmon * Leslie Whateley * Estelle White * Celia Whitelaw, Viscountess Whitelaw


See also

*Air Transport Auxiliary *National Association of Training Corps for Girls *
Women's Auxiliary Air Force The Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), whose members were referred to as WAAFs (), was the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force during World War II. Established in 1939, WAAF numbers exceeded 180,000 at its peak strength in 1943, with over 2,0 ...
*
Women's Royal Naval Service The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS; popularly and officially known as the Wrens) was the women's branch of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. First formed in 1917 for the World War I, First World War, it was disbanded in 1919, then revived in 1 ...


Notes


References


Further reading

* Bidwell Shelford. ''Women's Royal Army Corps'' (1997) 141pp * Bigland, Eileen. ''Britain's other army: The story of the A.T.S'' (1946), an official history * Cowper, J. M. ''The Auxiliary Territorial Service'' (1949), an official history * Crang, Jeremy A. "The revival of the British women's auxiliary services in the late nineteen-thirties," ''Historical Research'' (May 2010) Volume 83, Issue 220, pages 343–357, online at EBSCO * Crang, Jeremy A. "'Come into the Army, Maud': Women, Military Conscription, and the Markham Inquiry," ''Defence Studies,'' Nov 2008, Vol. 8 Issue 3, pp 381–395, online at EBSCO * Dady, Margaret. ''Women's War: Life in the Auxiliary Territorial Service'' (1986) * De Groot, Gerard J. "'I love the scent of cordite in your hair': Gender dynamics in mixed anti-craft batteries" ''History,'' Jan 1997, Vol. 82 Issue 265, pp 73–92 * Kerr, Dorothy Brewer. ''Girls Behind the Guns: With the Auxiliary Territorial Service in World War II'' (1990) * Noakes, Lucy. ''Women in the British Army: War and the Gentle Sex, 1907–48'' (2006), pp 61–81 on ATS of war years * Robinson, Vee. ''Sisters in Arms'' (1996) A personal memoir by an ATS anti-aircraft gun crew member.


External links


ATS/F.A.N.Y Uniforms

ATS Remembered
{{Authority control British administrative corps All-female military units and formations British women in World War II Military units and formations established in 1938 Military units and formations disestablished in 1949