Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Celebrating Wrens' centenary year

Champagne time! November 2017 marks the start of the Women's Royal Naval Service in 1917.

I myself am writing a history of not just the WRNS but also naval nurses: QARNNS and Voluntary Aid Detachments, and Reservists, as well as women and girls in the Sea Rangers and Girls' Nautical Training Corps.
It's called Women and the Royal Navy (IB Tauris/National Museum of the Royal Navy).

My book will be coming out at some point in this year. It looks at the Navy's history of working with women, from women's perspective. It covers the past 600 years to today.

One of the VADs who has been helping me by telling her story, Norah Hanson, kindly loaned this picture which shows the variety of women in naval life in World War II.

Picture shows women working together despite being in different parts of naval services: HMS Cabbala signal school sick bay personnel, 1943: Lto R on back row: the Wren steward who cleaned the ward; two Red Cross VADs; the RNVR medical officer; a St John's VAD, Norma Wilson(a Red Cross VAD), and Wren writer who did the sick berth’s clerical work.
Front row: St John's VAD and QARNNS Sister (almost certainly a Reserve).

February 18 will see the exhibition at the National Museum of the Royal Navy: ‘Pioneers to Professionals: Women and the Royal Navy’, From now on there will be frequent blog items with exciting photographs. One of the main images they are using for the exhibition is also the one we will be using for the cover of my book. Other smaller exhibitions and on-line exhibits are expected too.

PICTURE: Off to Arromanches. Wrens set off for France on HMS St Helier just after D-day, 15 August 1944. From the album of Elizabeth Ashton, NMRN


The Association of Wrens and WRNS 100 are organising many celebratory activities which can be found on this website:

At least two books are coming out as well as mine.They include:

~ Autumn: Hannah Roberts'academic book focused on wars: A History of the WRNS in Two World Wars (IB Tauris).

~ April: The 64-page version by Neil R Storey, WRNS: The Women’s Royal Naval Service a Shire publication).

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