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15 October 2014
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A Wren's Romance at Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight

by agecon4dor

Contributed by 
agecon4dor
People in story: 
Mrs Brenda Fielding Woollard
Location of story: 
Lyme Regis/Portsmouth/Isle of Wight
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A4622339
Contributed on: 
30 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from Age Concern, Dorchester on behalf of Brenda Fielding Woollard (née Varley) and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Woollard fully understands the site’s terms an conditions.

I was 20 when war broke out and was living at Monkton Wyld Court near Lyme Regis, Dorset. I was the Girl Friday at the hotel and smallholding. I did anything anybody asked. The hotel had to pack up – there were no holidaymakers. I was left to look after four horses. Then I moved to Hurstbourne Priors near Andover, to which the Bank of England was evacuated. I helped to look after the horses. Then I volunteered to join the Wrens because I realised that if I didn’t volunteer, I wouldn’t have a choice in what I would have to do. We had rationing and petrol was rationed so I used a pony and trap to do the shopping.

I joined the Wrens at Portsmouth and I had to do cooking. After I had been there about six months we were at an evening dance for all the forces and I was asked to do a raffle and that is how I met my future husband who sang beautifully. I was smitten by his voice – a wonderful tenor voice. While I was at Portsmouth I went away for a weekend to stay with my sister who was a Land Army girl. Returning I got on a train and found myself with four other matelots. The train kept stopping and starting over and over again. Then it stopped completely. We walked along the track and then from Havant to Portsmouth. Absolutely everywhere seemed to be on fire, particularly the dock area – it was the start of the bombing of Portsmouth.

Then I was posted to the Isle of Wight from about June 1941 to April 1942, where I was Officers’ Cook. We all used to stand round a great big tub and do the vegetables together and sing “We’ll meet again”. I felt very sad because we knew that some of the men wouldn’t come back. I was promoted to Leading Wren. I was sent over to Ryde; billeted in a house on the sea front and I could hear the shrapnel as the guns were fired. I got to know Victor and we got married in May 1942 because I had been sent over to Southsea and we didn’t want to be parted. Victor was a Signaller with the Marines. I still had to go to Southsea. I had to get permission from a senior officer to get married. I came out of the Wrens in November 1942 and our baby was due in June 1943. We wrote to each other every day and we visited as often as we could.

After our baby was about a year old and we had moved to Totland, Isle of Wight, the baby was in his cot – there were drones of aircraft going over, thousands and thousands of them. I stood anxious, should I pick our baby up; we had no shelter to go to.

Victor used to get Kittiwakes eggs off the cliffs and watercress from the river. A neighbour let me pick as much parsley as I liked from her garden to make parsley sandwiches. Victor was stationed in Wales. The baby and I were on the Isle of Wight and as I was expecting our daughter (our second child), I went to stay with some friends near Andover. Victor was to be demobbed about 4 months later in about December.

If it were not for the war I would never have met my husband, Victor. We had a very happy marriage for 53 years with 5 children. I think I was very lucky.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Women's Royal Naval Service Category
Isle of Wight Category
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