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Title: The many behind the few : the lives and emotions of Erks and WAAFs of RAF Bomber Command 1939-1945
Author: Ellin, Dan
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines the lives and emotions of male and female ground personnel who served in Bomber Command during the Second World War. Histories of Bomber Command usually focus on the flyers, or on the strategy of the bombing campaign. The experiences of four fifths of the service, the ground personnel, are often neglected. They are frequently reduced to two dimensional stereotypes, as the ‘Erk’ who serviced the aircraft, or the WAAF ‘chop girl’ whose sexual promiscuity presaged death. The RAF assigned personnel to different trades ranging from the most technical to the most mundane. The central theme of this thesis is the gendered hierarchy of trades within Bomber Command. It was constructed in part by widespread beliefs about fear, heroism and stoicism, the interconnected discourses of class and gender, and specific quirks of RAF culture. These included its trade selection process, dialect, pay scale, and trades’ perceived importance to the raison d’être of Bomber Command. The hierarchy is important in explaining the experiences of ground personnel, as some personnel were overstretched while others felt that they were not ‘doing their bit.’ Bomber Command servicemen and women were part of a community that experienced high rates of air crew loss. This thesis also discusses their emotional responses to service life and the treatment by the RAF medical services of those who suffered breakdowns. In examining non-combatant military personnel who served on operational stations but were also part of the home front, my thesis will inform and bring together different areas of study. It gives a voice to an important but previously underrepresented group and in doing so, contributes to the histories of the RAF, emotions, military medicine and psychiatry, as well as understandings of the wartime experience, work and citizenship.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain