The Aden Mutiny Affair


waaf caningA little known and now forgotten event took place during the Second World War, some of the details of which were reported in a magazine published back int the 1980s. I have only a photostat of a long letter carried by the publication and many more details we forthcoming, but here is what I was able to type up and summaries.

In 1943 12 women serving in the British Women’s Auxilliary Air Force (WAAF) had to make a forced landing in the Aden Protectorate while on route to Asia. There being no accommodation on hand the group were taken to a guest house six miles outside the Crown Colony authority into Aden itself.

For reasons that are unclear the next day the WAAFs refused to board taxis sent to collect and police were called during which there was an altercation and several police constables were assaulted. Within two hours the 12 women were hauled up before a civilian judge who acquitted six of them and convicted the other six of affray.

Five of those found guilty of affray were summarily sentenced to 12 strokes of the cane each on the bare bottom downstairs at the court and then released later that day. Meanwhile, a sixth, a public school educated 19-year-old Leading Aircraft Woman known only as Shirley, faced six further charges. She seems to have been the most belligerent and as the senior officer present was assumed to be the ringleader.

Shirley was sentenced to nine months in Sana Gaol and for the duration of her punishment was to receive eights strokes of the birch on the bared bottom at five intervals for each of the five separate (making 40 in total)all at the discretion of the prison governor.

On appeal and following a campaign launched by her home town newspaper this sentence was later reduced to 12 strokes of the cane.

But as she was seen as the ringleader and as the authority of the court had seen to be challenged by outside interference this was subsequently raised 18 strokes of the cane for being the ringleader of an affray and a single birching of 24 strokes for inciting mutiny was reinstated. Although the prison sentence was quashed.

The caning was witnessed by a serving police officer in the Aden police and a 21-year-old WAAF Officer from the girls’ unit, who were ‘shocked and outraged’ at this turn of events, but both admitted later that they were also ‘rather aroused by the situation,’ and most of their outrage was over the issue that the girl had been thrashed by a male police sergeant.

The punishment as described by them: The girl was fully clothed and in uniform for her punishment but after being bent over a frame in the prison yard, she had her skirts raised and her draws taken down. The strokes themselves were laid 3/4 of an inch apart and applied at intervals of 20 or 30 seconds.

There birching was carried out on another occasion within the confines of the prison and exact details were not known to these witness.

An appeal launched in her home town did little to persuade the authorities to be merciful. In fact one of the mothers of another of the girls, 22-year-old Peggy, wondered what all the fuss was about. Their daughter’s punishment was no worse than that suffered at Batley High right up to the age of 18. Where as a senior girl she had received 12 strokes on three occasions for anti-social offences and petty theft.

Peggy said the worst part was the waiting for her turn. The strokes themselves were received at 10 to 15 second intervals and although painful causing her to she sob and scream, they were “no worse than those received at Batley High from Mrs Moore.”

During 1943 and 1944, no less than 79 other European women were  punished in this way in Aden, including eight stewardesses, three nannies, one teacher and nine nurses.

One Response to “The Aden Mutiny Affair”

  1. There were no Birch Trees in ADen. They were imported from England and Pickled and downright nasty! She wOuld have been inI AGONY. i WAS BIRCHED IN ENGLAND, ACROSS THE KNICKERS AND KNOW HOW PAINFUL IT WA.S. ACROSS THE BARE WOULD HAVE BEEN ALMOST INTOLERABLE!

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