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     Section Officer Diana Mary Ware (307)


On the BBRC website I posted a story about “The Very First Women's Auxiliary Air Force Balloon Barrage Operators” in which I mentioned a W.A.A.F., Section Officer Diana Mary Ware (307). To my surprise I was contacted by her son who was delighted to have seen his mother mentioned. Between us we were able to reconstruct much of her life before and after the war. She was born on 15th March 1912 the daughter of Dr Arthur Maitland Ware and Edith Frances Maude. They had an older daughter Ursula Frances Ware born 15th September 1910. Before the war Diana was one of the early members of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty, eventually becoming a Director and from 1936 was frequently mentioned in the newspapers with various news items related to the organisation and was in the newspapers just about every week.  She was reported as saying that in 1936 that 90,000 women were members in Britain.  

Women’s Health & Beauty with Diana Mary Ware


She travelled widely with the organisation. There is no doubt that when it came to the question of women being able to operate the balloon barrage she definitely led from the front and was determined to show that women were quite capable of doing such work.

 881316 Diana Mary Ware joined the W.A.A.F. on 24th May 1939 and was stationed at R.A.F. Station, Odiham, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire. Her occupation within the W.A.A.F. was given as “Administration.”. She was quickly seen as a capable and efficient airwoman and given a commission.

On 24th October 1939 she was appointed as a Company Assistant and given a new Service Number (No. 307). This was later renamed to the title of Assistant Section Officer.  She later became a Section Officer.

Section Officer Diana Mary Ware leading the first Balloon Operators to pass out at Cardington.

 On 24th March 1942 the engagement was announced between Squadron Leader Adam Boleslaw Kropinski, Polish Air Force, and Diana Mary, younger daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Ware, of Tyting Down, Guildford.

 On 27th March 1942 she was promoted to temporary Section Officer.  On 6th May 1942 she resigned her commission on account of ill health as she had an old injury from horse riding that was troubling her. She was a great loss to the W.A.A.F.

She married Squadron-Leader Adam Kropinski in March 1942 (Later Group-Captain) and he was awarded the Virtuti Militari (1943), along three awards of the Cross of Valour, the D.F.C., and mentioned in dispatches twice. The family moved to Canada in the spring of 1948 and took up farming.

 They got married on March  28, 1942 in St. Martha’s Chapel, Guildford. She said this:

It was very difficult because there was heavy rationing of clothes and food in those days, so all my family had to join in.  Food coupons had been saved for weeks before in order to buy the few ingredients needed for a modest wedding cake, as had clothes coupons for new shoes for me.  Hats were coupon free.  There was no chance of having a wedding dress but I had an afternoon coat dress which I wore.

 and also this:

I nearly missed my wedding as the night before on going to Guildford I was caught in an air raid in London, and spent the whole night at the railway station with hundreds of others as the trains were stopped.

She wrote an article in Health and Beauty magazine just after leaving the W.A.A.F. and it is reproduced here.

DIANA WARE, now wife of Squadron-Leader Adam Kropinski, dates her association with the League from 1935.  One of the most successful teachers, she especially excelled in public speaking and won many adherents to the League cause in speeches throughout the country.

                                                                                            THREE  YEARS  IN  THE W.A.A.F.




It is more than three years since I had the privilege of contributing to this magazine – three years spent in uniform, and not, alas, the comfortable “black and white” of pre-war days, but a more constricting one with collar and tie, buttons and pockets and thick stockings, a uniform which nevertheless it was an honour to wear.

I joined the W.A.A.F. in July [sic May 24] before the outbreak of war in company with many members of my Aldershot centre.  There were then only five trades in which it was possible to serve – motor transport driver, cook, equipment assistant, accountant clerk and mess orderly. Now there are over fifty different trades open to women; including most responsible and secret work, and jobs entailing a high degree of technical skill and knowledge, such as flight mechanic and balloon operator, instrument repairer and so on.  I remember so well the prejudice and suspicion with which this service viewed at viewed beginning.  Many of the regular R.A.F. thought that having women working on the stations would be more of a hindrance than a help, that discipline would be impossible to maintain, and that men and women could not work together successfully in such close collaboration.  However, that prejudice has now entirely disappeared, and the W.A.A.F. is now an honoured and integral part of the R.A.F.  This change of outlook was earned entirely by the conducted themselves with dignity and pride and who proved their worth by working loyally and conscientiously under good conditions and bad.

I was posted to stations all over the country during my service with the W.A.A.F., and a very good chance it was to get to know parts of the country one would never have had the opportunity of seeing otherwise.  Whenever I went to these widely separated camps, there were always many League members amongst the W.A.A.F.’s.  What a splendid organisation the League is!  A lesser movement would have been defeated by the conditions of war, but this very catastrophe has made members realise even more its true worth – the fun and friendship of the classes which they miss so much, and the truth of the ideals for which it stands.  Being on their own certainly developed initiative and enterprise, and members were in constant demand for items for the station concert parties, for cabarets, by the dance committees, and for exercise classes by other W.A.A.F.’s who were anxious about the weight they all put on with the excellent and abundant food in the service.  At one of the largest of the Royal Air Force stations there was a tremendous demand for a League class, and Prunella came and gave an excellent talk and demonstration, assisted by Margaret Davies, to the 1,000 W.A.A.F.’s there.  The following week the first class was held and the enormous gymnasium was packed with enthusiastic airwomen in every imaginable getup, wrestling with the intricacies of “bucking broncs” and “wiggle waggle.”  It reminded me of the Free Class at an opening demonstration.

The most interesting and enjoyable job I had in the W.A.A.F. was being in command of the 300 airwomen who had volunteered to take part in an experiment to see whether women could “man” the balloon barrage.  I remember attending a conference at which it was proposed this experiment should be made.  It was ridiculed and almost unanimously doomed to failure – “women will never stick to a 24-hour-a-day job under such conditions,” “they won’t like getting their hands dirty,” “they will be on duty in the front line when air raids occur, what then?” and “you’ll never get enough volunteers even to experiment with.”  Such were the sort of remarks that were made.  However, the senior R.A.F. officer there stuck to his proposal, and said that the airwomen had never failed yet.  “Give them the chance to prove themselves again.  When they know that the men are urgently required elsewhere they will manage it somehow.”  Volunteers were called for and within a few days the first 300 were chosen.  Many were disappointed because there were no more vacancies or because they did not come up to the physical standard required.  And so, in the spring of 1941, the training of the first W.A.A.F. balloon operators was begun.  The first week of the course is devoted to tying of knots and to rope and wire splicing.  The tests at the end showed that the average was higher than ever before.  Thus encouraged they went through the rest of the training, learning to drive the winches and to fly the balloon in all weathers, a difficult and even dangerous job if not handled with skill.  During the final two weeks of the course they were divided into crews of fourteen, and they camped out in tents flying their own balloon and taking turns at sentry-go armed with a truncheon.  At the station dances in the evenings it was difficult to recognise the smartly turned out girl with neat hair and well cared for hands as the same one you had seen an hour or so earlier in an oilskin coat and rubber boots, with the rain on her face; or the pretty girl in the well pressed uniform as the one who had been on sentry guard in the chilly early hours of that morning, and who had come to the dance from her temporary house in a tent.  How splendid is the morale of such women!  It is something of which we may well be proud.  Now in this winter, women in increasing numbers are helping to protect our cities and other important targets by undertaking a man’s job, and keeping the balloon barrage flying day and night in all sorts of weather.

As I look back on my three years in the W.A.A.F. many incidents come to my mind among them humorous, though somewhat embarrassing times, such as when, as a very junior officer, I visited one of the Messes, and seeing a bowl of orange-looking liquid I congratulated the R.A.F. Sergeant cook on the appearance of his tomato soup, only to be told in a cold voice: “That is tea, madam.”  I feel admiration, as I remember the hundreds of women who have volunteered –unselfishly for the jobs with the least glamour, scrubbing floors and keeping the stations the clean and pleasant places they always are.  I feel proud when I remember the impressive passing out parade of those first 300 balloon operators, marching behind their own band; and when I think of the telephone operators and others who stuck to their place of duty when bombs were falling all round.  Such things are not peculiar to the W.A.A.F.  They are typical of what is happening in all the women’s services, in the factories and on the land.  No wonder visitors to these islands stand amazed at the magnificent part women are playing in our effort for victory.

And when the war is over, what then?  Will this willingness to serve, this great unselfish effort, this splendid expression of patriotism disintegrate and fade away?  It is for us to decide.  It is not too much to say that on our answer depends the outcome of the battle for Peace.

Diana continued teaching the Women’s League of Health & Beauty exercises, until she was 80 years old.



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