Jan Ballantyne CBE ~ Squadron Officer
Jan Bannatyne’s ability had already been widely recognised during service at Bomber Command stations and Group Headquarters, for which she was mentioned in despatches, when she was transferred to the Headquarters of Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett’s Pathfinder Force in March 1943. The force had been in existence for a few months only, and Jan Bannatyne was to remain in her post for the remainder of the war. As Pathfinder techniques grew in sophistication, the raid plans for the main bomber force, often totalling 1,000 aircraft, became increasingly complex. It was crucially important that the details remained secret and were transmitted rapidly to the many bomber airfields, requirements that placed great demands on Jan Bannatyne and her staff, almost entirely members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).
Janet Arderne Bannatyne was born on 2nd February 1911, at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, to a Scottish father and an English mother. She was educated at Malvern Girls’ College and graduated from St Anne’s College, Oxford, with a degree in History. On leaving Oxford she was for a time assistant secretary of the National Council of Women. The day after the Second World War broke out she joined the WAAF as a clerk; she was commissioned a few months later, having qualified as a Codes and Cipher Officer. In 1946 she was promoted to Squadron Officer (female equivalent of squadron leader) and held various administrative posts before serving in the Air Ministry with responsibility for WRAF career planning and promotions. The WRAF had been established in February 1949, replacing the WAAF and marking the formal creation of women’s branches within, rather than as an adjunct to, the RAF. After a series of staff appointments, Jan Bannatyne left for Cyprus in February 1957 to serve on the staff of the HQ Middle East Air Force as the Command WRAF Administrative Officer. On her return in September 1959, she was promoted to Group Officer to take command of the RAF Station at Spitalgate, near Grantham, the home of WRAF recruit training and for courses for RAF and WRAF officers on service accountancy and administration. After service at the headquarters of Technical Training Command, Jan Bannatyne was appointed Inspector of the WRAF, which gave her a wide remit to travel to many stations, at home and overseas, to meet senior commanders and discuss WRAF issues.
She retired in 1964 and was appointed CBE.
She settled at Bibury, Gloucestershire, where she cared for her widowed mother and played an active part in village life, becoming a fundraiser and treasurer of the Village Hall Trustees, a stalwart supporter of the British Legion and a member of (and assiduous fund-raiser for) the Conservative Association. She was secretary of various committees until well into her 90’s. She travelled widely, including annual trips to Norway to visit cousins until 1997. The whole village celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this year with a special tea party. She was thrilled to receive her card from the Queen. Jan Bannatyne, was unmarried.
Group Officer Jan Bannatyne, born 2nd February 1911, died 28th August 2011.