WORRALS OF THE W.A.A.F.
by W. E. Johns
NB - W.A.A.F stands for "Women's Auxiliary Air Force". This story was first published in 12 monthly instalments in the "Girl's Own Paper" from October 1940 to September 1941 where it was entitled "Worrals of the W.A.A.F.s (with an "s" on the end). The 12 parts were the 12 chapters of the book and although the chapter headings changed somewhat on book publication at the end of the series run, the text is virtually identical. I have only spotted a couple differences in the text which I have noted in the summary below.
I. WORRALS TAKES A TRIP (Pages 7 - 29)
In this book, the first of the series, we are introduced to "Flight Officer Joan Worralson, W.A.A.F., better known to her personal friends as "Worrals"". (In the original monthly instalment she was introduced as "Pilot Officer Joan Worralson" so she was promoted for the book publication!). Her best friend is Betty Lovell, better known as "Frecks" due to her freckles. Worrals is 18 years and 3 months old and Frecks is 17 years old. Worrals is bemoaning the lack of excitement in ferrying old Tiger Moths back to the makers for reconditioning. Worrals would prefer the excitement of flying a Reliant fighter and in fact her friend Bill Ashton had taken her up in a Reliant previously to allow her to practise flying it. (There was a US Reliant aircraft in 1941 but it would appear that Johns has created a fictional ‘Reliant’ here, based on the real life British ‘Defiant’ as Frecks sits in the “gunner’s seat”. The ‘Defiant’ did have a rear gunner). Worrals had been flying solo for a year before the war started whereas Frecks is not able to get her "wings" until she is 18. For the last three months they have been attached to "N" Squadron, a Home Defence Unit under Squadron Leader McNavish, but with a training squadron on the same aerodrome. Johns description of Worrals is this. "Not even her friends could truthfully call Worrals pretty, although her features were regular enough - perhaps too regular; but that she was attractive in a way not easy to define no one could deny. She was dark; her hair was brown and always tidy; her eyes, the same colour, were steady and thoughtful except when softened by a flash of humour - as they often were. They could also gleam aggressively when things went wrong. Her nose was well cut, with delicately chiselled nostrils, and balanced a firm mouth with lips that were, perhaps, judging by orthodox standards of beauty, a trifle too thin. Of average height, her figure was slim and neat." Worrals is summoned to see Squadron Leader McNavish (whom she refers to as the "old bear") and finds herself and Flying Officer Bill Ashton, being hauled over the coals for him taking her up in the Reliant. Worrals says that she thought it might be a good thing if she learned how to fly a Reliant as an emergency could arise where she might be called upon to fly one. McNavish is having none of it and both of them have their leave cancelled. Bill is also sent to the advanced post for a week as punishment and leaves immediately by car. However, shortly afterwards, much to his embarrassment, McNavish has to ask Worrals to fly the Reliant as there has been a minor crash at the advance post and they need another machine. Bill was his only reserve pilot and he has sent him away by car. Worrals asks if she can take her friend Frecks, because she says the Reliant flies better with two people on board, so she is allowed to do so. Soon after take off, Worrals sees a strange monoplane aircraft that she doesn't recognise and then hears a radio message calling all aircraft of Fighter Command to say that an aircraft, with a matching description and in her sector, must be stopped at all costs. Worrals immediately turns round to find it again. Flying through clouds and fog she spots it and gets behind it. She notices a grey horse (in the original first instalment this was a white horse!) by a golf course and sees the unknown plane either trying to land or dropping something. The plane zooms away but Worrals catches up with it and opens fire. Black smoke swirls towards her and when she looks up again, the unknown monoplane has disappeared.