The New Zealand Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was established on 16 January 1941. Its members – referred to as WAAFs – played a vital role in supporting the wartime expansion of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) by freeing men up for overseas service. It was the first of the women’s auxiliary services to be formed in New Zealand, with women’s Army and Navy auxiliaries established soon after.

WAAFs initially worked in a small number of traditional support roles such as cooks, typists, clerks and medical orderlies. As the war continued, WAAFs were increasingly employed in the technical trades which were highly skilled and required intensive qualifying courses. Some were commissioned as officers. In all, WAAFs served in 39 different trades.

WAAFs served on every major RNZAF station across the country. A few experienced overseas postings in Fiji and Norfolk Island. By the end of 1945, a total of 4, 753 WAAFs had been mobilised.

The number of WAAFs dropped significantly at the end of the war as men returned from overseas and took up peacetime air force roles. However, the value of women serving in the RNZAF had been clearly demonstrated, and in November 1947 the WAAF became a permanent part of the peacetime RNZAF.

The ground-breaking service of the wartime WAAFs paved the way for greater involvement of women in the RNZAF. In 1954 the WAAF was renamed the Women’s Royal New Zealand Air Force (WRNZAF), and was disestablished in 1977 when women were completely integrated into the RNZAF.