The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) was the women’s branch of the Territorial Army during the Second World War. Formed on 9 September 1938, the ATS had 65,000 members by 1941. Recruits would be sent to army camps where they would receive basic training and at the end of four weeks of training they would be given a role within the ATS. Notable members included Queen Elizabeth II and Mary Churchill, Winston Churchill’s youngest daughter.
When war was declared on 3 September 1939, many women were eager to help with the war effort. The ATS offered the opportunity for women to carry out the same wartime jobs as men. Although they did the same job, women were given 20 per cent of the rations of men, and two thirds of the pay.
The ATS was not subject to military laws for at the beginning of its life because it was a voluntary organisation. This meant that desertion was merely punished by being thrown out of the ATS. However, the ATS was incorporated into army regulations in 1941 which made the organisation more disciplined. It also showed how respected the ATS had become. All non-commissioned ranks in the ATS were allowed to call themselves ‘auxiliaries’ after July 1941 instead of ‘members’.
The ATS was expanded between 1941 and 1943 so by the middle of the war it boasted 200,000 auxiliaries and 6,000 officers taking part in more than 80 trades.
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