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15 October 2014
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My First Posting by Olive the WREN

by CSV Solent

Contributed by 
CSV Solent
People in story: 
Location of story: 
Oban and Geenock in Scotland
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
27 May 2005

Olive in uniform

This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Marie on behalf of Olive and has been added to the site with her permission. Olive fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

My first posting, along with three fellow WRENs was to Oban. We were quartered in the Palace Hotel which was right on the front, in a convenient place to walk every where in the small town. It was a wonderful viewpoint to watch the spectacular sunsets over the island of Kerrera I shared a cabin with several WRENs and it was a more pleasant way of life than before. We took over from several sailors, who after we’d had a few weeks of training, were then posted overseas. We worked at the nearby Station Hotel which had been requisitioned by the Navy. A mouse lived in the office and it was good company at night, running up curtains and we used to encourage it by bringing in cheese!

There was plenty of beautiful countryside and I often joined groups walking over the hills or going by ferry rowing boat to Ganavan Sands, a beach around the bay. Interesting trip, watching the seals bobbing up and down in the sea - and the Sunderland and the Catalina flying boats were also in the bay. Often we would go to the Church of Scotland Forces canteen which was a special meeting place for all the forces in the area including the R.A.F. and the W.A.A.F.s. This was organised by local ladies. There was also one small cinema in the town.

After a smallpox scare, they brought in compulsory vaccinations - I was ill for 2 days.

After a short time I was posted to Greenock on the River Clyde. I soon settled into Stoneleigh House, a large stone built property at the end of a long drive. I shared a cabin with 19 other WRENS - and it wasn’t very peaceful after night duty as there would always be someone around during the day when we had to sleep. On the walk to the wireless office we would see liners used as troop ships, aircraft carriers and other naval ships anchored in the river. There was great excitement one day as the tugs successfully put a smoke screen round the ships to hide them from enemy aircraft on their way to bomb Glasgow. The troop ships always went full speed ahead on their way back and forth from Canada and America to out-distance the U-boats that were always waiting at the mouth of the River Clyde.

Men from these ships would come to the dances we held at Stoneleigh, but unfortunately any date made rarely materialised as they would immediately be drafted somewhere else, or unfortunately killed. One day I joined a party of WRENs invited aboard an aircraft carrier which was very interesting. We were given a tot of the ships rum which was strong stuff - one sip was enough for me!

I enjoyed the work in Greenock which was mainly ship to shore Morse. There were 4 to 6 workers in the office, including one sailor and we’d go to dances held in the hall in Gourock the next place along the river - all Scottish reels so exhausting but great fun and it was nice to walk home to cool off!

I was promoted to Leading Wren so had one anchor, known as a hook, placed on my arm. Our hats had been changed to sailor style which were more comfortable and stylish. I’d occasionally be able to go home on leave - but the journey could be scary. I remember once the train was stopped and the lights put out for quite some time as an air raid was imminent - thankfully we were able to carry on eventually but we’d been in a tunnel for hours as an enemy plane must have been following us.

Never was I scared to walk alone at night - it was sometimes necessary after leave to walk from the station to quarters and you’d always get someone saying “hello Jenny (the nickname for all WRENs) do you want some help with your bag?” So I was very sorry to leave at short notice to go to Liverpool. My laundry was out so I think I had the shirt and collar I was wearing and nothing else! You were literally told one day and off the next! You grumbled but you did it - I think if they’d said go and work for a week in hell we’d have gone. Everybody obeyed orders - I can’t imagine people these days doing it.

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Women's Royal Naval Service Category
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