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Memories of 1974

1 August 2016
A time capsule buried at RN Air Station Culdrose is to take pride of place at a new exhibition at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

Next year marks the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service and will see the exhibition, entitled Women and the Royal Navy, launched on March 8 2017 – International Women’s Day.

The capsule was placed beneath an accommodation block on October 2 1974 by Commandant Mary Talbot, head of the Wrens, during a £5 million base refurbishment programme.

It contained everyday items that defined the life of a Wren 40 years ago, including badges, descriptions of their trades, clothing and official documents.

It was quite exciting to see the items as the majority would not be recognised today.

Cathy Timmins

Three blocks provided quarters for 230 Wrens, with many sleeping six to a room.

One of the Wrens who was on parade to watch the ceremony in 1974 was a Writer Pay, 21-year-old Catherine Beckett, now Cathy Timmins, who retired after working at Culdrose UPO for many years and whose husband  Glynn, a former sailor, is the Central Fund Manager.

“Life at Culdrose was much more of a community as the majority of people lived on board,” said Cathy.

“Besides the Naafi there was the Automat where you met up in free time and after the bop on a Thursday and Sunday night.

“There was a cobblers, the Navy tailors, the chip wagon came on the base twice a week and the Naafi wagon went round the base.

“Wrens still had to sign in if you were under 21. We were also expected to sign into the WRNS Quarters.

“Needless to say, as the camp was much more open then we would sign in and go out the back door.

“On the nights of the dance the duty PO Wren Reg would patrol round the quarters. We lived in messes of 12 with a leading rate at the top who was privileged to have a very small cabin.

“There were about four baths to cover about 48 of us, and a twin-tub washing machine or you did your washing by hand – though we were allowed to send our shirts and collars to the laundry free of charge.

“When they dug up the capsule Sue Sharkey and I went together. It was quite exciting to see the items as the majority would not be recognised today.

“I think my overall memories of the WRNS is the fact we were unique with our own identity.

“Some of the friendships you made have lasted a lifetime.

“We had a lot of fun, but the skills you learnt stood you well.

“Culdrose to me was, and I still feel is, a unique place. In a way it is your family.

“Having been drafted to Drake after Culdrose I realised how much freedom we had – too many bigwigs around.”

Of the capsule, Base Warrant Officer WO Bridgette Turner said: “This is a really great collection of what life was like for the girls serving here at Culdrose.”

If you have served and have any interesting artefacts the National Museum of the Royal Navy would be interested in hearing from you.

Please email them at [email protected]

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