Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) is the nursing branch of the Royal Air Force. It was established as the RAF Temporary Nursing Service in 1918 and became part of the permanent establishment as the RAF Nursing Service on 27 January 1921. It received the royal prefix after Princess Mary agreed to become its Patron in June 1923.
RAFNS Nurses were posted to Iraq in 1922 and the first Aeromed service was created at RAF Halton in 1925. Under the Defence (Women’s Forces) Regulations of 1941 emergency commissions were granted. PMs wear rank but are addressed by professional titles; e.g., Matron, Sister etc. Married PMs were allowed to stay, for the duration of the War, in the PMRAFNS. Strength in 1943 was 1,126 Sisters staffing 31 RAF Hospitals and 71 Station Sick Quarters. 300,000 casevacs were carried out after D-Day, the largest ever carried out in the history of the Service.
The Womens’ Service was integrated into the RAF on 1 February 1949. PMs held commissions and wore female officer badges of rank, but continued to use professional titles in the clinical environment.
In the Korean War, PMs were used as Flight Nursing Officers for the first time and sea trooping of casualties and long haul aeromeds commenced. Aeromed training began at RAF Lyneham in 1959.
It was a women-only branch until 1980, when men were also permitted to join and female officers adopted male rank titles. . 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.
An Aeromed chain via Montevideo and Ascension was established for the Falklands War in 1982. PMs became part of the tri-Service Defence Nursing Services in 1985. In the 1991 Gulf War, the aeromed chain began at the RAF War Hospital Murharraq in Saudi Arabia and extended to PMRAFH via RAF Brize Norton. PMs were sent to the Bosnian War in 1995 and Kosovo in 1999.
An aeromed chain via Oman, RAF Akrotiri and RAF Brize Norton was established for the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan. The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine in Birmingham was the receiving hospital. In the 2nd Gulf War the aeromed chain via Kuwait, RAF Akrotiri (TPMH used as a holding facility for injured troops, prior to onward move to the UK). RAMP system used to distribute injured throughout NHS hospitals in the UK.
Click here to read the history of RAF hospitals.
Read about how the nurses in the Royal Air force got their name.