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Future Mothers of the Empire

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Merrill Chudleigh bullied her way into the WAAF, there were no two ways about it. She was older than the average member of the service, but being single and wealthy, as well as very keen, it was hard for the officer who took her application to find a reason to reject her.

She shut up the house in Hampstead and reported for training. She survived the 'square-bashing' and lectures on hygiene and aircraft recognition, and made it quite plain to her superiors that she wanted to be assigned to either Signals or Intelligence. Instead, she was assigned to the office of Wing Commander McNavish, as an office clerk.

Merrill being Merrill, she complained loudly. And yet, where anyone else would have been sent to Coventry for grousing, or at the very least severely told off, but even Merrill's grousing managed to be done in a humorous way that endeared her to her fellows.

She got along well with the other women in the WAAF. Many of them ached to be doing "more" war work than they were permitted to do, and in Joan Worralson – known to almost everyone as 'Worrals', Merrill found a kindred spirit.

Worrals had joined the WAAF already knowing how to fly, and chafed daily against the order that women were not to pilot aircraft, or even to go up in the air as a passenger. Her constant companion 'Frecks' Lovell was in the same situation: fully qualified to pilot a plane, and frustrated by the assumption of the male commanders that they were incapable of doing so.

'Oh, I see why they do it,' said Merrill one day, as the three women ate lunch together in the Mess. 'They don't want any of us getting hurt, and think we're safer on the ground. But I'm an old maid – I don't see why they should care about me.'

'Don't be idiotic, Chudleigh,' retorted Worrals.

'I'm not. They're concerned about the future mothers of the Empire,' replied Merrill. 'That's pretty girls like you and Frecks, here, not old maids like me.'

'Yes, but we're the ones who can fly,' said Worrals.

Frecks put her oar into the conversation. 'Grousing won't change the rules, Worrals.'

'I'm not grousing,' replied Worrals. 'I'm pointing out common sense. Our poor boys are being wounded and dying every day, and that means we've got fewer pilots. At the very least they could put us on the transport runs.'

'Planning a mutiny, Worrals?'

The women looked up to see Worrals' immediate CO standing by the table. 'Of course not, sir,' said Worrals, as all three women scrambled to their feet. 'Just pointing out some common sense.'

The CO nodded. 'You may yet get your wish,' he said. 'Oh, I'm not saying anything for certain,' he added. 'What about you, Chudleigh. Do you want to fly transport runs too?'

'No, sir,' said Merrill. 'I haven't got my wings as Worrelson and Lovell have. But I wouldn't mind being re-assigned to something other than being a typist,' she added hopefully.

He smiled. 'On the day that I give Worrelson here a flight assignment, I'll get you transferred to Intelligence.'

'Thank you, sir!' exclaimed Merrill, as the CO turned and walked away.

Worrals watched him go. 'I'll believe that when I see it, Chudleigh.'

'Have some faith, Worrals,' said Merrill. 'You'll be flying missions sometime before the war is out, I'm certain of it.'