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15 October 2014
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Wartime in the Wrens: In Plymouth and Yeovilton

by cwmbranlibrary

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Cwmbran Library
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26 March 2004

This contribution is posted by Torfaen Libraries on behalf of Trudy Younger, Talywain, South Wales

At the outbreak of World War Two I was living with my parents in Garndiffaith, South Wales. After the outbreak of war, my sister and I tried working in a munitions factory but didn’t like it! We saw an advertisement for the WRENS — Womens’ Royal Navy Service — and as a result went to the railway station at Newport (Monmouthshire). We were interviewed, had a medical and joined up. One week later we reported to HMS Raleigh at Torpoint, Plymouth, which was a training base for the Royal Navy. We did our basic training which consisted of marching and keep fit exercises.
We’d had cooking experience before the war and my sister and I were placed in the galley, where we formed part of a watch cooking for 700 seaman. I was termed as specialist — cook. We cooked in large quantities, with trays and trays of bacon, huge frying pans for eggs, big tubs of food and drink and masses of fish and chips!
I always liked to have my hair in a page boy bob, but we were supposed to wear it much shorter — I got told to have it shortened all the time but managed to get away with it. In our leisure time we would go off base to dances, concerts, walks and the cinema. There would be groups of men and women having fun and good times. It was all good clean fun - nothing vulgar or sordid. We made many good friendships over the years.
All the time we were in Plymouth there were air raids and a lot of bombing. Just after we arrived at HMS Raleigh, an air raid shelter suffered a direct hit and we had bodies laid out all over the galley tables. It was awful. My nearest brush with death during the war, came when my sister and I were on watch during an air raid. A bomb dropped close by and we were blown right across the room.
On another occasion, I was on watch in the galley at 3.00am when an enemy aircraft was hit and baled out right above our building. I was scared and armed myself with a rolling pin. A leading seaman came through the door and I almost hit him — I don’t know what I’d have done if it had been a German!
In January 1943 I was sent to the Royal Navy Station at Yeovilton. I joined my sister there — it was a rule that sisters could serve together so we went on the same bases throughout the war. In February I was promoted to Leading Hand and in November I was promoted again to Petty officer. D-Day took place when I was at Yeovilton and many friends never returned — this happened all during the war but on D-Day there were so many at one time.
Whilst at Plymouth I met the man who was to become my husband — Bill — he was involved in commando raids in Europe and led a very dangerous life! We married in 1942. In March 1945 I was transferred to HMS Foliet where I remained until I was demobbed on 26th October 1945. I returned home in my WRENS uniform.
I had been away for five years and now I wanted to settle down with Bill, have a house and bring up a family.
Looking back to the war , they were difficult times and the world was never the same afterwards. I had many experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise had . You had to have a sense of humour and get on with it. It was a memorable time.

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