Lilian Bader

Aircraft Instrument Engineer

Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum

  • BORN 18th February 1918, Toxteth Park, Liverpool
  • DIED 13th March 2015, Unrecorded, but perhaps Northamptonshire
  • WORKED NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes), Catterick Camp, Yorkshire, WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force)
  • HONOURS Towards the end of her life, she was celebrated as a black woman who made important contributions to the Second World War

Artistic Connections

As a mature student, she studied for a BA degree at London University


Basic as a child, but she remedied that by getting a degree after her children had grown up.  She also passed an exam for a WAAF training course


Domestic service
Forced into it as often the only way a black woman could earn money

Worked there briefly but dismissed because of her West Indian father

Very successful as an instrument repair worker, rising to Leading Aircraftwoman

Returned for a brief period until her first child was born

Scientific Achievement

Her main achievement was succeeding as a black woman during a time of strong gender and racial discrimination

African stories in Hull & East Yorkshire (from

Did You Know?

In a 1990 BBC discussion programme, she justified her war work by explaining that Hitler would have sent her to the ovens

When she joined the WAAF, she found herself ‘the only coloured person in this sea of white faces’ but she cheered up when somebody told her she looked smart in her uniform

Because of the wartime sugar shortage, the icing on her wedding cake was just an artificial lid with a plain cake underneath

An Inspiring Woman

Determined to contribute to her country, she inspired other black women to succeed at a time when discrimination was far stronger than it is today. When one door was closed to her (NAAFI), she forced open another one (WAAF)