The Women Behind the Few: The WAAF in British Air Intelligence during the Second World War

NOTE: This event has been rescheduled. Please note that the newly listed date is subject to change. Please also keep an eye on our Crowdcast channel and the RAFM's Events page for a confirmed date. 

19 May 2023 

At 12.30pm on Friday 19 May 2023,  Dr Sarah-Louise Miller will explore the Women's Auxiliary Air Force's vital contribution to British Second World War military intelligence. This lecture will be hosted in-person at the RAF Museum's Midlands site and live-streamed via Crowdcast.

‘Our Wing Engaged, Ops Room, RAF Kenley’ by Lilian R A Buchanan, 1943.

Talk Outline

Behind every significant battle or operation involving the Royal Air Force in the Second World War, members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force worked behind closed doors to collect, analyse, sort and disseminate vital intelligence. In many cases, this intelligence would directly affect the outcome of the battle or operation. During the Battle of Britain, for example, WAAF personnel worked in the radar network and the Dowding system, the world’s most sophisticated air defence system, to help the RAF defeat the Luftwaffe in the skies above Britain. WAAF worked in the Y Service, intercepting German ground-to-air and air-to-air communications, which were of obvious use to the RAF. They assisted with the Allied offensive bombing campaign in various capacities, including working behind the scenes leading up to Operation Millennium. It was WAAF personnel who were behind the discovery of the terrifying German V-weapons, and WAAF worked to collect and disseminate intelligence ahead of and during the Normandy landings in June 1944. They were also present in their hundreds at Bletchley Park, working with the Government Code and Cypher School on air intelligence and liaising with the RAF’s Y service.

Though the work and memory of the pilots and the men of the RAF are rightfully revered and treasured, their success was often made possible by the WAAF working behind the scenes. These women, however, have traditionally remained in the shadows where the historical narrative of British intelligence and the RAF’s use of it are concerned. This lecture is based on a brand-new book, The Women Behind the Few, due for release 9th March 2023. Both the book and the lecture aim to recover this missing piece of RAF history, granting the WAAF the recognition they deserve for their wartime contribution to British military intelligence and demonstrating the way in which many of the RAF’s victories in the air were directly affected by the WAAF and the intelligence they provided.

Link to the book:


This hybrid lecture will be hosted in-person at the RAF Museum's Midlands site (National Cold War Exhibition - Lecture Theatre) and live-streamed via Crowdcast.


This lecture is free to attend in person or via the RAF Museum’s Crowdcast channel. Registration is required to attend virtually. Booking is quick and easy.

About Dr Sarah-Louise Miller

Dr Sarah-Louise Miller is a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford’s Faculty of History. She was awarded her PhD at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, in July 2022, and her academic research is predominantly concerned with women in Allied military intelligence during the Second World War. Sarah is the author of The Women Behind the Few, which is due for release with Biteback Publishing on 9th March 2023. Sarah has two other books under publication, one on women in Allied naval intelligence during the Second World War, and one on Hawaii’s wartime women. She writes, teaches, speaks and lectures widely on the history of the Second World War, and on espionage, intelligence and national security. She is also involved in public history, appearing regularly on British television with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky History.  (Twitter: @SarahLouMiller)

About the RAF Museum Research Programme

The RAF Museum’s 2023 programme includes Lunchtime Lectures at the RAF Museum, Cosford; Air Power Lectures, co-organised with the Centre for War and Diplomacy at Lancaster University; and Air Power Seminars, co-organised with the University of Wolverhampton. You can attend these lectures in person or join us online as we live-stream from the venue.