The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)
The women's branch of the army was called the Auxiliary Territorial Service, or ATS. It was formed in 1938 and after one year 17,000 women volunteers had joined up. This number grew to over 200,000 by the end of 1943. The new recruits were sent to army camps for their basic training. Here they slept in huts, learnt to march and obey orders and kept the camp scrubbed clinically clean. At the end of the four weeks of training there were written and practical tests to find out which line of work they were best suited to.
Left, Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, joined the ATS as a mechanic. Here she is showing her mother what she does.
Photograph copyright Imperial War Museum neg: H41644
The women wore khaki uniforms with black shoes. Even their underwear was uniform issue and khaki in colour. Women were not allowed to go into action with the men or to use firearms, but apart from that they did the same work as the men and were paid the same wages. Jobs in the army varied from cooks, clerks, telephonists and translators to lorry drivers, motorbike messengers and engineers. Women did most of the driving in the army. They drove everything from staff cars to trucks and had to be able to maintain and repair the vehicles. The ATS anti-aircraft crews watched out for enemy aircraft. They could track them with radar, pick them out with searchlights and aim the large anti-aircraft guns onto them, but only the men were allowed to fire the guns!

Sometimes a soldier serving abroad would go missing and their family had to be notified.
Click here to view a 'missing' note.
Women on duty with the ATS anti-aircraft command. The crews found, tracked and shot down enemy aircraft.
Photograph copyright Imperial War Museum: neg H15452
If you have Quicktime installed on your system, use the control bar to hear the sound of the enemy aircraft attack.