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DUTY PADRE'S PIECE

July 2017

Rev. Eric Freeman

At our June meeting, I was reminded of a very important event – this year is the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Women’s Royal Naval Service – the lovely Jennie’s, who over the years have rendered such sterling service to their country – and certainly deserve all the encomiums of praise being heaped on them at various events throughout this anniversary year.

Wrens were formed in 1917 during the First World War.  . One of the slogans used in recruiting posters was "Join the Wrens—free a man for the fleet."  This certainly informed naval thinking of the time, for the first Jennies were to employed in shore based duties.  However, that did not last long.  On 10 October 1918, nineteen-year-old Josephine Carr from Cork, became the first Wren to die on active service, when her ship, the RMS Leinster was torpedoed. By the end of the war WRNS had 5,500 members, 500 of them officers. In addition, about 2000 members of the WRAF had previously served with the WRNS supporting the Royal Naval Air Service and were transferred on the creation of the Royal Air Force. The WRNS was disbanded in 1919.

 

The WRNS was revived in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War, with an expanded list of allowable activities, including flying transport planes. At its peak in 1944 it had 75,000 people. During the war there were 100 deaths.  This time their service was fully recognized and there was no talk of disbandment!

In 1990, falling R.N. recruitment raised the need for Wrens to go to sea. The first 20 volunteer Wren Officers and ratings joined HMS BRILLIANT.

Finally, in 1993 the Women’s Royal Naval Service was disbanded and 4535 women were integrated fully into the Royal Navy and able to serve on HM Ships at sea, at all ranks and rates.  In their newly expanded role of seagoing members of the Royal Navy the ladies have continued their sterling service to our country – fully justifying the decision of the Admiralty of 1917 to form the first WRNS.

We have a typical example from our own family story.  Just before we came to Cyprus 13 years ago, our son-in-law was serving as Weapons Officer on board one of the mine hunters and he told me that his First Officer, the Navigating Officer, the Doctor and the Master at Arms on that vessel were all ladies, as were several other members of the crew!  Well done them!

As an amusing footnote, not long after that conversation, I heard a radio broadcast in which that lady doctor was interviewed about her life and role aboard.  At one point she laughed and said that whichever ship she served on, she always had to have the assistance of the most experienced male sick berth attendant – because none of the male members of the crew would come to her for help!

Then, in possibly the most significant development yet, Three RN Lieutenants, Maxine Styles, Alexandra Ollson and Penny Thackray, earned their ‘dolphin’ clasps as qualified members of the Submarine Service, the first females to do so since the service was established 110 years ago.

 

 

As we always say...

 "Till the seas be no more, we will remember them!"   

 

 
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