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The Orkney Isles - Late WW2icon for Recommended story

by Northumberland County Libraries

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Northumberland County Libraries
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Royal Navy
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02 June 2004

The Orkney Isles — late WW2
Muriel Bacon, ex WREN

Nostalgia is great after 50 years, as all the good times in the Forces are usually remembered and the difficulties mostly forgotten.

I have been nudged to recall my time in the WRNS which, after six months training at HMS FLEDGLING in Staffordshire, was mostly spent as an air mechanic electrician at HMS TERN, an airfield at Twatt on the Orkney mainland.

Only 25 of us spearheaded the advent of WRNS on the station and we were carefully segregated, even having to sit in a separate section of the cinema, the First Officer (an ex-policewoman) saw to that.

As more women arrived life became easier and we explored the countryside and the towns of Kirkwall and Stromness. We met some of the Orcadians, a hardy bunch who gave us tots of their homebrew while we bought their eggs to cook on our stove in the nissen hut, as we were always hungry.

On camp we had classical record concerts on Sundays and the great highlight came one Sunday evening when one of the officers brought a friend, Yehudi Menuhin, to play for us.

I was lucky that my sister was a Wren at the Naval Base on Hoy so we popped over by drifter to each other at times for party weekends, ship-visiting on the way. In 1943/44 Scapa Flow was full of shipping, including aircraft carriers, and their planes came to our airfield regularly for maintenance, up-dating and pilot training. All this action suddenly went quiet in mid 1944 and we knew that something big was in the offing but we couldn’t find out exactly what, then D-Day happened!

The Orkney Isles are a special place, despite the cold and winds. The skies are vast and beautiful, especially when there are displays of the Northern Lights - magical.

A short time ago I discovered an old friend from those days — the EARL OF ZETLAND. This gallant ship took us over the Pentland Firth from Scotland to Orkney — often a rough trip. It is now ‘parked’ in the Albert Edward Dock marina down the road from the Royal Quays shopping centre and has been updated to cater for food and drink and wedding receptions.

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