Wednesday 10 November 2010, 09:04
During World War Two, women across Britain were encouraged to do 'their bit' as part of the war effort.
Posters and campaigns were seen around the country asking women to "Join the Wrens and free a man for the fleet".
Members of the Women's Royal Navy Service (WRNS) were referred to fondly as 'Wrens' and they played a valuable role in both world wars, as well as in other conflicts throughout the 20th century.
Women were encouraged to join and to do jobs that had previously been done by men. Women joined in their thousands and by the end of World War Two over 74,000 women had been recruited to the service.
Margaret Street and Margaret Read are active members of the North Wales Branch of the Wrens Association.
Margaret Street and Margaret Read responded to the call, and even though the ladies are now in their nineties they have very clear memories of their time spent in the Wrens. You can read some memories of their wartime experiences below.
Margaret Street (left) and Margaret Read (right) in uniform
Both woman are members of the North Wales Branch of the Wrens Association which very recently received a grant from the Big Lottery Fund to help their members attend reunions in Liverpool, Caernarfon and Cambridge, among others.
To find out more about the Big Lottery Fund's Heroes Return 2 programme, call the helpline on 0845 00 00 121 or visit the website www.biglotteryfund.org.uk.
It was the lure of crossing oceans that led Margaret Street who now lives in Prestatyn, north Wales, to join the Wrens.
Margaret Street in in Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka. Margaret is on the far right side of the middle row.
"All I wanted to do was go abroad and I thought joining the Wrens was the perfect answer to my wanderlust," says Margaret who signed up in 1944, aged 19.
She recalls her disappointment at being located just 10 miles from home:
"When I joined I went to a training establishment called Mill Hill in London from where they sent me back to Liverpool,"
"I volunteered for overseas duties as a signalling watchkeeper, but if you were under 21 you had to have your parents' permission to go abroad. It took me six long months to persuade my parents to agree to that."
A few months later Margaret was drafted to Ceylon, or Sri Lanka, as it is known today.
The first officer described the posting as, "a completely different life - you'll have to work hard because there's a huge harbour there and a lot of signals going on all the time, but you can play hard. There's swimming, picnicing and barbecues."
To a 19-year old girl, this sounded too good to refuse. Margaret, along with six other Wrens, packed their bags and headed for Trincomalee.
"Trincomalee was hectic. By then the European war was over so they sent out ships from both the home fleet and the Mediterranean fleet to join the Far Eastern fleet ready to invade Japan.
"It was a huge harbour, one of the biggest in the world and the ships were absolutely crammed in and sending signals all the time to each other. You could almost walk from one ship to another it was so crowded," recalls Margaret.
Margaret was on duty when the signal came through that the atom bomb had fallen and VJ day (Victory in Japan) was announced.
"You could never believe what it was like; everyone was really excited. The sailors were throwing their hats in the air and we were given free drinks. All the local people as well as the sailors were all around the harbour cheering. When dusk came, all the ships were lit up and there were hundreds and thousands of fireworks going off - it was a wonderful experience," says Margaret.
But of course, VJ day meant that it was time for the Wrens to head back to Britain.
Along with thousands of other Wrens Margaret was demobbed in 1946, but she remains an active member of the Rhyl Wrens Branch.
Margaret Read was 24 years old when she answered the call of duty. After signing up to the WRNS, the Women's Royal Navy Service, Margaret was sent to Blundellsands in Liverpool where she trained as a signal watchkeeper before being drafted to a new post at Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
Communications team for the HMS Landrail in Machrihanish, Scotland. Margaret Read is in the second row, third from right. Photograph taken in 1943.
"I worked underground in a PCB - a protective communications building. I was a signal distributing watchkeeper or 'bunting tossers' as they were known. When we received messages we had to know whether it was confidential. It was then up to us to pass it on to the right people," says Margaret who, at 93 years old, is the oldest member of the Rhyl Wrens Branch.
"I was on duty when VE Day was declared - it was night time and the armistice with Germany would be signed the next day. To celebrate, the battleships company, including the Wrens, were given permission to 'splice the mainbrace'," which meant they had permission to have a little drink.
"We all had a tot of rum. All the men had it regularly, but us Wrens had never had it before. We went across and all we had was our mugs. There was this big barrel which had big brass bands that shone and the officer of the day had a ladle and he gave us all a little.
"One of the Wren officers was there with some water - she didn't want a lot of tiddly Wrens!" laughs Margaret.