The Wartime Memories Project - Women's Royal Naval Service, WRENS



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Women's Royal Naval Service, WRNS



Women's Royal Naval Service was reformed in April 1939, having been disbanded at the end of the Great War. The main objective was to release men for active service with women taking over the shore based tasks. By the end of the war the Wrens numbered 74,000.



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List of those who served with the The Womens Royal Naval Service during The Second World War

Select a story link or scoll down to browse those stories hosted on this website



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



Christian Lamb

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



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



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



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.



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.



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





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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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