In her vivid memoir For the Duration, Ashbee gives a candid, often humorous account of her experiences during World War II as she rose through the ranks in Britain’s Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). Joining shortly after the outbreak of the war in 1939, Ashbee began in the nerve center of the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) battle with the enemy, soon advanced to the intelligence department, and later served as an administrator at various RAF stations. She relates how she and other WAAFs coped with a war machine that desperately needed the help of women but whose all-male leadership did not quite know how to manage the sudden influx of females.
Throughout her lively narrative she limns the impact of war on individuals and families from all classes and walks of life, both in and out of the military. As a radar teller, she tracked Rudolph Hess as he flew across the North Sea. As a writer and producer of original “shows” in her offduty hours, she brought forth amateur theatricals at several RAF stations, dispelling much of the incredible monotony and boredom of duty in remote outposts. Ashbee’s vitality infuses this memoir as it moves from the “phony” war and the Battle of Britain, to intelligence and duties as an officer to, at last, the victory celebrations in London.