The Experiences of Women in World War One

A collection of information, experiences and photographs recorded by Women's Archive of Wales in 2014-18

A collection of information, experiences and photographs recorded by Women's Archive of Wales in 2014-18

Ladas Powell (WAAC/QMAAC)

Ladas May Powell (c) Courtesy / trwy garedigrwydd Mildred Stearn

Ladas May Powell

Ladas May Powell joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (the WAAC) in May 1918, possibly, her daughter thinks, as a result of hearing Margaret Haig Thomas (then Lady Mackworth) giving a speech in Cardiff. She may have visited the Women’s War Service Exhibition in James Howell’s Stores held that April. She was only 16 years old, though the official age for recruitment was 18.

Ladas, who was according to a family tradition named after a racehorse, was born in Cwmaman near Aberdare on 15 December, 1901, the daughter of a miner. She was educated at Cwmaman Girls’ Council School. Her final school report of July 1914, when she was in Standard 5 describes her Writing and Composition, and Conduct as ‘Excellent’, and her General Progress as ‘Very satisfactory’.

Ladas was known in the WAAC as Gladys. She seems to have spent most of her time posted to Stonar Camp, Sandwich, Kent. Stonar Camp was huge, as it served the new harbour at Richborough built to service military traffic to and from France. It continued in use until at least 1920, when Ladas was discharged. WAACs acted as cooks and waitresses at the camp; these women were ranked as ‘workers’, and lived in a separate sub-camp across the road. Ladas was housed in Hut 167, 3 Stonar Camp.

Photograph 7.11.19 (c)  Courtesy / trwy garedigrwydd Mildred Stearn

Photograph 7.11.19

In September 1919 Ladas was given an album. She not only asked her friends from her hut to write in it, she also kept photographs, a travel pass , an invitation to a demobilisation party (‘and gentleman friend’) and her officer’s business card

Travel Pass (c) Courtesy Mildred Stearn

Travel Pass

She also wrote or wrote out verses celebrating the change of her service’s name from WAAC to Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC), which had taken place in April 1918, and a long poem ‘Only a WAAC’

The other entries vary a great deal. There is one good little watercolour of a warship coming in to harbour, as well as a slightly risqué version of Mary Had a Little Lamb . Most of the spelling and handwriting of contributors is very good, and a credit to the short education given to working class girls who left school at 13 or 14.

Other papers on this site include Ladas’s discharge paper dated 2nd February 1920 and a photograph, possibly celebrating the Armistice, of QMAACs, including Ladas, marching through Sandwich.

Discharge document (c)  Courtesy / trwy garedigrwydd Mildred Stearn

Discharge document
Certificate of discharge from the QMAAC on Termination of Engagement, 20.2.1920

After her discharge from QMAAC Ladas returned to Wales, where she worked as a parlour maid at Glandare House, Aberdare. In 1928 she married Charles Pritchard, who had been seriously injured during the War and had spent several years in hospital. They settled in Aberdare and had two children. Charles died in 1962. Ladas Pritchard never forgot her army past, and remained a strong supporter of the British Legion Women’s Branch until her death in 1977, aged 75.

We are very grateful to Ladas’s daughter Mildred Stearn for allowing us to use this material.