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Lilian Bader: The First Black Woman to join the RAF

Lillian Bader


Lilian Bailey b.18 Feb 1918 d.13 Mar 2015 (aged 97) Liverpool, England. In 1927, Bader and her two brothers were orphaned when their father died. At the age of 9 she was separated from her brothers and placed in a convent, where she remained until she was 20 because no one would employ her because of racism. In 1939, at the onset of the Second World War, Bader enlisted in the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) at Catterick Camp, When it was discovered that her father was not born in the United Kingdom, she was dismissed.

On 28 March 1941, she enlisted in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), after she heard that the Royal Air Force (RAF) were taking citizens of West Indian descent. She trained in instrument repair, which was a trade newly opened to women. She then became a Leading Aircraft Woman and was eventually promoted to the rank of corporal.

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