Newhaven Seaplane Base’s WRAFs

For just two years, between 1917 and 1919, a Seaplane Base operated from Newhaven.

When fully manned, the Base consisted of 194 staff, including 17 women in uniform and 17 female household staff.  This photograph shows some of the staff at the base, with a few of the women at each end of the group.

When the base opened in May 1917, it was run by the Royal Naval Air Service, and the women working there would have been WRNS.  The Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was founded on 1st April 1918 (the same day as the RAF) and the women became WRAFs. Their work was divided into four groups:-

  • Clerks and Store-women
  • Household
  • Technical
  • Non- technical

Most WRAFs were clerical workers.  Short-hand typists earned the most. The household staff earned the least, although they had the longest hours. At Newhaven, they could have also worked as Seamstresses, repairing the canvass wings of the seaplanes, or Pigeon Keepers.  Two pigeons were always carried by the seaplanes for sending messages back to the base.