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21 April 2014
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WW2 - People's War

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About the contributor

User ID: U725196

I was a schoolgirl in 1939 waiting to go to University. However the war came, and because I would be of an age to be called up I immediately volunteered to join the Womens Royal Naval Service since my father was a serving Royal Marine and many male members of our family were already in the Royal Navy, plus an aunt who had joined the W.R.N.S.

I had to wait a few months before a suitable job came my way, since most of the women serving in the very early days were either office staff or cooks, stewards and drivers. However at the end of January 1940 I heard from the Director of W.R.N.S. at Plymouth that I would join the Communication Branch and should report to the Royal Naval Barracks on the 8th February 1940.

At that time there was no uniform for us Wrens, and we were told to wear black stockings and flat shoes. Later we were issued with men`s shirts and black ties until our uniforms were ready. We wore an awful hat, similar to the ones issued for the Wrens in the First World War, but later they were replaced by the round sailor`s cap.

I spent a few weeks at the Signal School learning the morse code, visual signals and codes, and was drafted to the Signal Station in Barracks where I spent the next two years.

The Wrens were accommodated in the Royal Hotel, Devonport, and when the Plymouth Blitz came we escaped that building when it caught fire via incendiary bombs. We were then accommodated outside the city, and my friend and I found that we were billeted with a retired Rear Admiral and his wife in Yelverton. As we had to get to Devonport for duty, we often had to leave his house in the early hours, and as there was no transport and few cars on the road it was a question of hitching a lift. Sometimes I had to hitch six or seven lifts until I reached Devonport, and on one occasion the sentry on the gates of the Naval Barracks was very surprised to see me getting out of a milkman`s float. On another occasion a full-blown Admiral picked me up in his official car and we drove into the Barracks to a full Admiral`s salute.

The King and Queen visited Plymouth during this time, and they inspected us on two occasions in the Naval Barracks. The Queen spoke to me on one occasion when she noticed my badge of two crossed flags on my arm and asked what I did. It was after these visits that the Germans unleashed their bombs on Devonport and Plymouth.

I served in the W.R.N.S.until November 1945, being drafted to a number of places at home and overseas, and although it was grim at the time I often look back and remember those days.

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