Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service

Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service is the nursing branch of the British Royal Air Force.
It was established as the Royal Air Force Temporary Nursing Service 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 to supplement the regular service during times of war or emergencies.
A history of the service was commissioned from the writer Mary Mackie and appeared in 2001. An updated and extended edition covering subsequent decades was published in September 2014.


The initial ranking system used by the PMRAFNS was as follows.
PMRAFNS rankEquivalent RAF rank
Staff Nurse
SisterFlying Officer
Senior SisterFlight Lieutenant
MatronSquadron Leader
Principal MatronWing Commander
Chief Principal MatronGroup Captain
Matron-in-ChiefAir Commodore

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.
PMRAFNS rankEquivalent RAF rank
Flying OfficerFlying Officer
Flight OfficerFlight Lieutenant
Squadron OfficerSquadron Leader
Wing OfficerWing Commander
Group OfficerGroup Captain
Air CommandantAir Commodore
Air Chief CommandantAir Vice-Marshal

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.


The RAF had several hospitals which were staffed by nurses from the PMRAFNS. These were located at Akrotiri, Albrighton,Wolverhampton, Ely, Halton Nocton Hall,Lincolnshire, Aden, Uxbridge, Wegberg and Wroughton.