Stories from RAF Wives

Rosemary’s Story

One Squadron Leaders wife , Rosemary , became aware of the loss of her freedom fairly early in her marriage , her husband had gone to hospital for a routine check -up , but instead had been admitted unexpectedly , and was kept there for several weeks , leaving her alone with 3 small children and uninformed. In her words , "I was frantic, and one night went out and telephoned the Samaritans ,but when the woman on the line realized I was from the RAF she said she would fetch someone else to deal with me , and would ring me back . I waited in the call box and eventually a man rang , he said his name was Harry and that he was an RAF officer , we spoke for a while and he calmed me down , and I returned home. The next morning the senior Medical Officer called at the married quarter and his first words were " I hear you called the Samaritans " before berating me , it was very disturbing , and I wouldn`t dream of ringing the Samaritans again."

Another disturbing account she told me about was that one day her husband came home later than usual for lunch , and couldn`t contain his laughter while he explained the reason . A few officers were having a usual pre-lunch drink in the Mess when the M.O. joined them , he held up his hand and said "Guess where these have been ," he indicated each finger in turn and sniffed it , saying " this is Mrs Wing Commander--, Mrs Squadron Leader--, and 2 Flight Lieutenants wives ," actually naming them , to whom he had given internal examinations . He then stirred each of the pints of beer with a different finger , " to give them some flavour " while he gave amusing descriptions of the patient wives private parts , to the enjoyment of all the officers present . Rosemary was absolutely shocked and naturally wondered whether her patient confidentiality had been violated in the same way , this caused her great anxiety , with reason , considering that on most RAF stations there is no alternative to an RAF doctor .

While living in Germany an officer made a surprising confession to his wife , and also asked an equally surprising request , he had been having an affair with a younger woman in the WRAF , but had been ordered to finish with her , as his promotion was in danger. The young woman had become "awkward", so the request for the wife to go with him to the woman`s house to plead with her to end the affair , against her wishes she went on this strange visit , and her husband got their promotion . His senior officer told him to choose someone off station next time , and not to get involved with service personel .

Another wife was living in Germany and looking forward to going to a mutual friends farewell party , when her husband arrived home unexpectedly , and told her that he couldn`t attend the party as he had the chance of going to Berlin on a `Jolly`,occasionally there are spare seats in aircraft for personel to have a trip for pleasure not duty . When her husband returned , he told her that the MO was on board and "Was handing out `Speed` pills as if they were`Smarties`, and urging us to have as many as we liked ."

Some officers wives are entirely ignorant , and some choose to condone the true nature of a `Jolly .` Berlin is a favourite destination for visits to the strip shows and brothels , where the `Speed` is used for competitions. The disappointed wife had no idea what amphetamines were used for until she discovered the facts in a library medical book. She was devastated when she found out , remarking "To think the country is supposed to be defended by that lot .

This is Rosemary`s account of her eviction from her married quarter , when her husband abandonded on retirement and decamped with all the substantial gratuity payment (intended for house purchase ) pension, including her half share also

The first sign she received was notification that she was illegally occupying a servicee quarter , and that she was ordered to leave within a specified number of days . After which time the MOD would start Court proceedings to have her evicted , in the meantime the rent would be increased to approximately £25 .00 a week.

The shock of this treatment was dreadful ,so she immediately took the notice and stuck it on the front door for the benefit of all passers by to see and read. Reaction was very swift , as during the morning various officials from HQ called at the house , asking and imploring her to remove the notice which she refused to do . Then around 2 pm the Station Commander drove up in his staff car and pleaded with her to take the notice down . Now this is where farce enters the situation as just before this event Rosemary had been left penniless at Christmas , with no preparation for her children`s enjoyment of even a celebration dinner. The same Station Commander had driven up to her house in his staff car with the pennant flying , and had personally delivered a ` Butterball ` turkey on a tray , presumably paid for out of the S C special fund. The memory of the gift persuaded Rosemary to take the notice from the door .

During this early stage she also received a visit from the Senior Medical Officer , who handed her a bottle of tranquillizers , telling her to " Take these , but don`t tell your G P . She had been able to sign on the list , despite RAF opposition , with a civilian doctor . Fortunately she next sought advice from a very sympathetic person , who suggested that she should not budge out of her quarter , also that she should apply to the D S S to pay her increased rent , which they did . The D S S would send the money each week , then Rosemary would walk over to the H Q Strike Command and pay the rent to them , a transfer from one Government department to another. At the same time as a stamped receipt for the payment was given , notification to ask the Court for an eviction was handed to her . These notices were taken from a pile of copies , official numbered forms , establishing the fact that it is standard practise .

There can be no doubt whatsoever that countless RAF officers wives have had similar treatment,and that due to a total lack of publicity and the use of incredible abuse , they are silenced by isolation and grave poverty.

The next move in the game, which was so obviously being enjoyed by Rosemary`s tormentors ,was a visit from the station Adjutant who told her " look you can`t stay here forever , hat do you want ,£ 2,000 or £ 20,000 , just say " Rosemary answered that she would let the Court decide , so the Adjutant left without another word.

She then decided to visit the Citizens Advice Bureau in High Wycombe for clarification of the issue , and was seen by the resident manager , an ex-Wing Commander . . In only one respect could she be considered fortunate, by having one child under 16 years she would be entitled to a council house or flat, otherwise her only hope of shelter would have been at the Hostel for the Homeless at Saunderton, for 6 months only.

He told her that she would be given a lovely council house in Marlow where they wanted nice tenants who wouldn`t go around upsetting the boating community . This was totally untrue as she was never offered a council house, but instead was allocated a council flat with only 2 bedrooms, which considering the fact that she had a son and 2 daughters , and with no furniture or equipment necessary for, she was forced to turn it down .

Then after the bribery the sexual harassment began, gradually at first then increasing in terror, the facts are so terrible and she experienced outrageous pressure and intimidation from literally all branches of the RAF including the clergy, who took advantage of the usual practise of being able to enter her house to give comfort in her plight, a very grave mistake. The physical effects of this disgraceful treatment was very serious, Rosemary`s hair dropped out in chunks and her weight decreased from 10 stone to 7 stone , the absence of flesh on her foot bones made it too painful to walk, and her eldest daughter told her that she looked like someone out of Belsen. It was symptomatic of her condition that she took an overdose, but fortunately her daughter found her in time, and she was taken to an RAF hospital despite being registered with a civilian doctor. After she had returned home for several months she was very distressed to suffer a miscarriage with an obvious foetus, which she showed to her civilian doctor, to whom she swore that she had not had sexual intercourse with either her husband or any other male since her husband had left many months previously. They both came to the conclusion that she must have been implanted while she was in hospital.

Consequently in Rosemary`s weakened state she was utterly defenceless to protect her younger daughter when the same obscene practises were started against her, and she knew she was beaten. In desparation she accepted the position of a housekeeper in a country house in Wiltshire because a furnished cottage was supplied for her and her children. Her pitfully few possessions were loaded into a horsebox by 3 Squadron Leaders and was trundled off to Wiltshire, payment for the petrol was again drawn from the Station Commanders Fund. Rosemary had no household equipment of her own, not even a kettle, so the Adjutant gave her 2 old saucepans and an ancient steamer from the married quarter. Such an ignominious end to a marriage of 20 plus years, with 20 house moves, which earned her husband his rank, pension and large gratuity payment. While she was recovering her health her husband tried to abduct her younger daughter but the attempt was foiled in time, then he warned Rosemary to keep quiet about her situation otherwise her child would be taken, not that he wanted her, as he admitted, it was an effective threat.

The son had to sign on in the Army for a few years to enable him to earn enough money to put himself through University, because his Father refused to pay. Many RAF officers will create a crisis at their children`s GCE exam time to save their salary or pension being used to supplement s grant, and to stop them being a burden after University should they fail to find employment. Postings with the inevitable disruption, divorce, separation or abandonment are very convenient in numerous ways.

During the last awful months while Rosemary was forced to come to terms with her drastically altered position, although she was threatened with Court proceedings, she never received a summons, it obviously would have damaged the totally false image of the RAF, and all it amounted to was a gigantic confidence trick. The entire system is a secret confidence trick, forcing particular wives and families to move house continually to enable the husband to gain promotion, earned by his wife`s unpaid efforts, then being able to retire with such a large reward. The wife and family are then a distinct liability and have to be dumped, but the cynical callousness with which they gain their bounty is against all civilised behaviour and is an abuse of human rights, little wonder that secrecy is all important.