Harman Patil (Editor)

Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service

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Country  United Kingdom
Type  Nursing
Allegiance  HM The Queen
Role  Medicine

Active  1 June 1918–present (originally as Royal Air Force Temporary Nursing Service)
Branch  Royal Air Force RAF Medical Services

Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) is the nursing branch of the British Royal Air Force.


It was established as the Royal Air Force Temporary Nursing Service (RAFNS) in 1918, and became part of the permanent establishment as the Royal Air Force Nursing Service on 27 January 1921. It received the Royal prefix after Princess Mary agreed to become its Patron in June 1923.

It was a women-only branch until 1980, when men were also permitted to join. Until the Second World War, it was only open to unmarried women, or childless widows. There was also a Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (Reserve) (PMRAFNS(R)) to supplement the regular service during times of war or emergencies.

Its current mission statement reads: "The Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service is committed to providing a nursing workforce that is determined to develop the skills, knowledge and ability to deliver high quality care whilst being responsive to the dynamic nature of RAF Nursing in peacetime and on operations."

A history of the service was commissioned from the writer Mary Mackie and appeared in 2001. An updated and extended edition covering subsequent decades (including service in Afghanistan) was published in September 2014.


The initial ranking system used by the PMRAFNS was as follows.

From 1 June 1943, PMRAFNS personnel were granted emergency Commissions, and wore rank insignia corresponding to their equivalent Royal Air Force officer rank. On 1 February 1949, the women's forces were integrated into the Armed Forces, and a new ranking system was introduced, although professional titles were still used on the wards.

Other Ranks were introduced in 1956, although unqualified Nursing Orderlies had previously served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and Women's Royal Air Force. They held standard RAF ranks. Officers used the separate ranking system until 1980, when they too adopted RAF ranks.


  • Dame Joanna Cruickshank, 1918–1930
  • Dame Katherine Watt, 1930–1938
  • Dame Emily Blair, 1938–1943
  • Dame Gladys Taylor, 1943–1948
  • Air Commandant Dame Helen Cargill, 1948–1952
  • Air Commandant Dame Roberta Whyte, 1952–1956
  • Air Commandant Dame Alice Williamson, 1956–1959
  • Air Commandant Dame Alice Lowrey, 1959–1963
  • Air Commandant Dame Veronica Ashworth, 1963–1966
  • Air Commandant Dame Pauline Giles, 1966–1970
  • Air Commandant Ann McDonald, 1970–1972
  • Air Commandant Barbara Ducat-Amos, 1972–1978
  • Air Commodore Joan Metcalfe, 1978–1981
  • Air Commodore Joy Harris, 1981–1984
  • Air Commodore April Reed, 1984–1985
  • Group Captain Mary Shaw, 1985–1988
  • Group Captain Elizabeth Sandison, 1988–1991
  • Group Captain Ethnea Hancock, 1991–1994
  • Air Commodore Valerie Hand, 1994–1997
  • Air Commodore Bob Williams, 1997–2001
  • Group Captain Annie Reid, 2001–2004
  • Group Captain Wendy Williams, 2004–2006
  • Group Captain Jackie Gross, 2006–2010
  • Group Captain Phil Cushen, 2010–2013
  • Group Captain Phil Spragg, 2013–2015
  • Group Captain Michael Priestley, 2015–present
  • References

    Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service Wikipedia