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Womens Royal Naval Service in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

Womens Royal Naval Service





    If you can provide any additional information, especially on actions and locations at specific dates, please add it here.



    Those known to have served with

    Womens Royal Naval Service

    during the Second World War 1939-1945.

    • Ashburner Joan Margaret. Ldg Wren (d.9th Jun 1944)
    • Bailes Olive Winifred.
    • Barclay Madeline. First Offcr.
    • Batchelor Margaret Elsie Claire. Ldg Wren (d.9th Jun 1944)
    • Canning Gertrude. Wren (d.30th Jun 1942)
    • Canning Gertrude. Wren. (d.30th Jun 1942)
    • Cram Elizabeth Laidler.
    • Cunliffe Pauline.
    • Dellar-Davey Anita.
    • Dickinson Dorothy Patricia.
    • Gompers Pauline Mary. Petty Officer Wren (d.27th Jul 1945)
    • Hamnett Sheila.
    • Harvey Pearl Daphne.
    • Jackson Thelma Daphne. 3rd Officer (d.23rd Jul 1944)
    • Lamb Christian.
    • Ludford Peggy Elsie.
    • Nickless Phyliss.
    • Owen Edna Grace.
    • Rodgers Emelia.
    • Samme Sylvia Lilian.
    • Squires Isobel Florence. Petty Officer Wren (d.27th Jul 1945)
    • Tansley Pamela Annette. Ldg Wren (d.7th Jul 1942)
    • West Priscilla Rose.
    • Wright Dorothy May.

    The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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    Did you know? We also have a section on The Great War. and a Timecapsule to preserve stories from other conflicts for future generations.






    3rd Officer Thelma Daphne Jackson HMS Shrike (d.23rd Jul 1944)

    Daphne Jackson was the daughter of Charles Trench Stewart and Norah Eileen Trench Stewart, of Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Republic of Ireland. She was married to Sub-Lieut.(A) Arthur Myles Jackson, R.N.V.R. who lost his life at H.M.S. Shrike




    Dorothy Patricia Dickinson

    My mother Dorothy Patricia Dickinson was in the Wrens. She married my father Frederick John Cole of 57 Sqd RAF on the 10th April 1944. Read his story

    Susan Vivian



    Christian Lamb

    Christian Lamb wrote the book "I only joined for the hat" about her experiences as a wren.

    Susan Vivian



    Elizabeth Laidler "Spelk" Cram

    I only know my mother Elizabeth Cram was stationed in Ramsgate I believe on searchlights and/or tracking equipment. I can tell very little of her service life but till the day she passed away in 1987 if she was caught unaware by the sound of an air raid siren or "doodlebug" on the TV she would still jump. If anyone remembers her or has any information I would love to hear from them

    David Cowton



    Dorothy May Wright

    I would like to hear from anyone who remembers my mum, Dorothy Wright as I was conceived while she was in the Wrens at Seaford, I was born when she was 7mths and would like to know if anybody remembers her and who might my father be

    Eunice Southam



    Wren Gertrude "Paddy" Canning HMS Quebec (d.30th Jun 1942)

    I would like to let you know of my Aunt Gertrude Canning in the hope that there are still some of her old "chums" with us today. We, Gertrude's family, have been looking for someone that served with her on HMS Quebec the Special Operations Training Camp in Inveraray, Scotland. Unfortunately, her time in the service,WRNS,was tragically cut short. Gertrude was coming back to her base on June 30th 1942 when she was murdered in woods close to her camp. She became the subject of a 4 day search. When her body was found in undergrowth, close to the "Marriage tree" it was discovered that she'd been shot 4 times with a .38 revolver. Her killer was never found despite a nationwide investigation and thousands of ballistic tests on revolvers. It is thought her killer was probably a casualty of the disastrous Dieppe raid.

    Next June 30th my family will travel to Inveraray to dedicate a bench and brass plate to her memory on the 70th anniversary of her death. I am pleased to share this information with all. If anyone wants to read about the case, please go to the web and type,"Gertrude Canning murder". I hope to get some feedback through this and especially from a Wren, soldier, or civilian that knew her in Inveraray back in 1942. Sadly,many servicemen and women of that time have passed on, but I live in hope as they say. Gertrude's story has recently been told in the Argyll Advertiser,The Scottish Herald and The Scottish Daily Mail. Strathclyde are still treating it as a live enquiry and the case is now the subject of a review.

    Joseph Canning



    Pearl Daphne Harvey

    My mother, Pearl Harvey, married Albert Edward Briggs (Tedd) one of the three survivors of HMS Hood, in Derbyshire England. She was from Southend-on-sea, Essex and he from Redcar, Yorkshire. They were married on 20th March 1943 and I believe they met in 1940 and again on HMS Arthur after the sinking of HMS Hood. I would much love to hear any stories and anecdotes from colleagues or sons and daughters form those times. I have photos of them as a pair in 1940, and after and Mum in WRNS' uniform plus a photo of their wedding in 1943, which I can scan and upload if anybody remembers them.

    Elizabeth Hoy



    Wren. Gertrude "Paddy" Canning HMS Quebec (d.30th Jun 1942)

    My late aunt Gertrude Canning was a serving Wren at the combined operations bases in Inveraray. Gertrude was stationed in Admiralty House in Inveraray and worked in the officer's mess. She was walking to her base to begin her duties after posting a letter to her father but was followed on that day and attacked in the woods. She was only 20 years old and was shot 4 times by someone who was never caught.It led to one of the most covert investigations in WW2 which resulted in the ballistic testing of thousands of Webley.38 revolvers. Her killer was thought to have perished at the disastrous Battle of Dieppe. Although my aunt was only in the service 3 months before she died, it is nice to think that she played her part in the campaign. It would be interesting to find out if anyone is still alive that remembers the case and if anyone has been told about it from an older relative. I would love to hear from anyone. The story is on the net: Gertrude Canning murder

    Joe Canning



    Sylvia Lilian Samme

    My Mother, Sylvia Samme served with the Women's Royal Naval Service. I am looking for information .... anything at all or where I can find it will help

    Pat Hamilton



    Anita Dellar-Davey

    My mother, Anita Dellar-Davey, was in the WRNS during WW2. She met my father, Raymond Ferron, who was with the US Army Corp of Engineers. They returned to Ohio, US, got married and had five children. I am the youngest of the five. My mother was adopted as a child and I have always wanted to find her birth mother's family. Her birth mother was named Hilda Dellar and she worked as a house maid in London. My mother was born January 1927. My mom was a strong beautiful woman and a great mother. I miss her every day, she passed away in December 2013. RIP. I will always be proud of the examples she set for me.

    Julie Scott



    Olive Winifred Bailes

    After a whirlwind romance Ernie Cochrane of the RAMC proposed to Olive Winifred Bailes. They met at a YMCA dance in London and married at St George & St Ethelbert Parish Church, East Ham, London on 26th of July 1944. There were no photographs of this wartime wedding as there was no photographic paper available at the time. They were married for over 50 years and had four children.




    Peggy Elsie Ludford

    My mum, Peggy Elsie Ludford, born Portsea 1924, joined the Wrens during WW2 and was posted to various places such as Malta, Gilbraltar, Juno, Junta, Bombay, Calcutta, Kandy, Aden, Suez, Port Said. She enjoyed the benefits of facilities such as the Allied Air Force Club, Calcutta Swimming Club where she swam, played tennis, danced. She had several friends; Muriel, Pat, Mabel, Doris, Midge, Margery and Lucky. Her unit was in contact or worked closely with MSD1 which I have learnt was Military Supply Depot 1. Her album mentions a Joe Brandi, Charlie, Bart, Robbie, Jimmy and Sid. She has photos of Colombo and this makes me think she was involved with the Colombo and Trincomlee events. She remembered this time with much affection.

    S Plumb



    Edna Grace Owen Fleet Air Arm

    My mother was in the Fleet Air Arm. She served on HMS Merlin, HMS Spartiate in 1944, HMS Fledgling, HMS Heron as a specialist air mechanic and HMS Merlin in 1944-46 from where she was released in November 1946. She died in 2002.

    Owen Daunt



    Phyliss Nickless HMS Tern

    My mum Phyliss Nickless served during World War 2 as a Wren at a remote Naval Airstation called Twatt, RN HMS Tern. She has very fond memories of the time she spent there despite the extreme cold and hardship.




    Emelia "Emmie" Rodgers HMS Merganser

    I know this is a very long shot, but I'm trying to find out about my nan. Unfortunately, she died before she could tell me about her life during the war. Now that I have a son I would like him to know what ordinary people can do when the need arises, especially his family. My nan was in the WRENS stationed (as far as I know) at HMS Merganser, I guess from June 6 1944 (as she told me she was on a train to Scotland on D-Day) up until late 1947 when she left the service. Her name was Emmie (Emelia) Rodgers, she'd have been around about 20 when she was posted. If anyone knew her or knows of her please drop me a line. Thanks for any help you can give.

    Michael Rance









    Recomended Reading.

    Available at discounted prices.



    I Only Joined for the Hat

    Christian Lamb


    A wonderfully evocative illustrated memoir that gives the reader a rare account in close-up of what life was truly like for World War II Wrens, as they were catapulted into the drudgery and deprivation, mayhem and maelstrom, and the tribulations and triumphs of war. In 1939, the young Christian Lamb felt she had to 'do her bit' for the war effort. Her comfortable life was about to be turned upside down. With a Naval background, the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was the obvious choice, besides it had by far the most attractive uniform - topped by the splendid tricorne hat. On joining as a lowly Wren rating she found that this crowning glory was not for her but strictly for officers only. It was to be the first of many nasty surprises. In "I Only Joined For The Hat", the author wittily describes how class and snobbery had no place in a world of girls from all social backgrounds, suddenly plunged into life together. From scrubbing floors and squad drill to coding and catering, Christ
    More information on:

    I Only Joined for the Hat




    Bellbottoms and Blackouts

    Louisa M Jenkins


    'The big day had arrived and after only three weeks' intensive training Susan passed out and mustered on the parade ground--a fully fledged Wren in the much sought after Communications branch of the service, proudly boasting the Naval flags on the badge on the sleeve of her jacket. There was a gabble of excited noise as the young Wrens, sounding like their feathered namesakes, jostled and pushed each other around the drafting board...' The author tells it like it was, the trials, the tribulations, and the fun--her detailed and humorous account of her experiences as Wren in World War II is both historically informative and delightfully entertaining.
    More information on:

    Bellbottoms and Blackouts




    British Women's Uniforms in Colour Photographs (World War 2)

    Martin Brayley & Richard Ingham


    This reference book contains the uniforms of the women's services during World War II. Nearly 200 colour photographs of rare, original uniforms from private collections are featured with detailed explanatory text. This really is an extraordinarily good book if you're looking for details of women's uniforms from the WWII period. Every page has a large, clear photograph of a uniform (worn by a modern model, but with 40s styling), plus detail shots of shoes, insignia, berets and so on.



    The 1940s Look: Recreating the Fashions, Hairstyles and Make-up of the Second World War

    Mike Brown


    "The 1940s Look" tells you everything you need to know about the fashions of wartime Britain and the impact that rationing, the Utility scheme, changing tastes and the demands of everyday life had on the styles people wore. People had to 'Make Do and Mend' - with varying degrees of ingenuity and success. Hair styles, glasses, jewellery, and tattoos were essential in creating your own fashion statement. Women's magazines advised readers on the difficulties of dressing growing children, offered instructions for making clothes and accessories, and hosted debate over whether by dressing up, women were helping or hindering the war effort. Thoroughly researched and lavishly illustrated, "The 1940s Look" tells you how civilian men, women and children dressed - and why they looked the way they did during the Second World War. It draws on contemporary sources including government advice, periodicals and books, and benefits from an entertaining narrative by author Mike Brown.



    Voices of The Codebreakers: Personal Accounts of the Secret Heroes of World War II

    Michael Paterson


    a comprehensive look at the undercover war, revealing just how much of WWII was won away from the battlefields and how each side desperately tried to get into the 'mind set' of their enemies' code makers.From the British cryptologists to the Navajo Indians whose codes helped win the war against Japan, this book reveals the stories of extraordinary people and their chance finds, lucky accidents, dogged determination and moments of sheer brilliance, to expose how the war was really won.It includes an intriguing glimpse of the early history of the computer - its spectacular uses and subsequent development. It features vivid first-hand accounts from the staff of Bletchley Park, French and Dutch resistance fighters, the American secret agents and members of the Services Liaison Unit who passed on vital coded information to field commanders. It also includes a 16 page plate section with rare archive photographs.



    Wartime: Britain 1939-1945

    Dr Juliet Gardiner


    Juliet Gardiner's 'Wartime' provides a marvellously rich, and often entertaining, recreation of life on the Home Front, 1939-45, drawing on an enormous range of oral testimony and memoir.
    More information on:

    Wartime: Britain 1939-1945










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