Lady Gertrude, 1st Chief Commandant of Women’s RAF

from Croxteth Hall to Royal Air Force

In 1901 Lady Gertrude was living in 3 Willow Place, Knightsbridge with 6 servants. Her brother Richard was a Lieutenant in the Royal Horse Guards, living in Hyde Park Barracks.

On the 1911 census none of the Molyneux family were resident in the Hall, just a number of servants. At this time Gertrude’s younger brother Osbert Cecil was the 6th Earl.

Before the war Gertrude practised ornamental turning, like her father and grandfather. Ivory was turned at Croxteth Hall on a lathe. Gertrude continued this hobby after she was married to Captain John Halkett Crawford and she was awarded prizes at the Worshipful Company of Turners.

Members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) worked in the air stations of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The RFC and RNAS were to merge to form the Royal Air Force (RAF), however to ensure the specialised female workforce remained a separate service, the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was formed on 1 April 1918.

In 1918 Gertrude became the 1st Chief Commandant for the (WRAF). This organisation aimed to provide female mechanics to free up men, who were needed to fight on the front. Large numbers of women enroled for various occupations, such as drivers and mechanics. Gertrude would have worked on a base in Britain. In May 1918 Violet Douglas-Pennant became the second Commandant for the WRAF. The WRAF was disbanded in 1920.

Gertrude died on 5th November 1937 aged 69 years old. Gertrude is buried in the plot reserved for the Earls of Sefton and their families in St. Chad’s Church, Kirkby.


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