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Different demands but still rewarding

2 December 2016
Public relations specialists Chief Officer Pamela Williams WRNS and Lt Cdr Francesca Woodman RNR have almost 60 years of Naval Service between them.

Over the decades there have been huge changes in both the role of women in the Armed Forces, as well as in the media – but the rewards have not diminished.

Pamela Williams joined the WRNS in September 1953 at the age of 19, hoping to combine journalism, travel and a career with good prospects – which she achieved during her 29-year career in the WRNS.

She trained at HMS Dauntless as a Wren Writer (G) and went on to complete officer training in 1957, finally leaving the WRNS in 1983.

Pamela worked in a variety of jobs, ranging from secretarial duties, recruiting, and PR, taking her to Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta and the USA.

Pamela took on her first PR role as a First Officer at HMS Collingwood – it came with her main job.

When she left in 1974 the Southern Evening Echo reported that she had been thrown into Naval PR at the deep end when she was the Officer in Charge of Wrens at HMS Collingwood.

In the RNR I have done far more than I ever imagined and have had a fantastic time.

Lt Cdr Francesca Woodman

It mentioned that she had quickly organised Collingwood’s newsdesk and with her “enchanting approach” charmed even the most hardened reporters.

From Collingwood Pamela went to DPR(N) in the Ministry of Defence as Head of WRNS PR.

She became the Navy co-ordinator for the first military ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary, Sailor (1976), which went on to win several documentary awards.

She was also involved with the TV series Warship and the radio programme The Navy Lark.

At that time in MOD, the national press all had individual correspondents for each of the Services and she got to know the Fleet Street journalists very well, including Desmond Wettern.

Pamela said that she loved the PR work during her career.

When she left in 1982 she commented that opportunities in the WRNS were widening every day that passed, but that women were unlikely to command a Polaris submarine.

While strictly true – Polaris boats no longer patrol – in 2016 those opportunities have opened up far more than she envisaged.

Lt Cdr Woodman has had a career that has spanned the WRNS, the Royal Navy and now the Royal Naval Reserve.

As a late entrant to the WRNS in 1989, having been a teacher prior to joining, she was completing WRNS officer training at BRNC Dartmouth when it was announced that the WRNS and Royal Navy were to amalgamate.

“I joined as a Wren in blue for a short period and then switched to gold, so I have bridged the changes,” she said.

“The biggest changes have reflected the rapid technological advances in society.

“The demise of the old PR pack system and pen and ink to electronic ways of working has certainly made correspondence more efficient and quicker!”  

In an echo of Pamela’s ambitions, Francesca also joined for the adventure and a varied career.

Joining the Navy must have been in her blood as her great-great uncle was a gunner who died at the Battle of Jutland in HMS Defence, and she is the fifth generation of her family to join the Navy.

Francesca joined the Media Operations Branch of the Royal Naval Reserve in 2003, two years after completing her Short Career Commission.

Since then it has become a full-time career.

“In the RNR I have done far more than I ever imagined and have had a fantastic time,” said Francesca.

“I have been able to work and then take time out to fulfil my passion of adventure and travel – it is a perfect work-life balance for me.”

Her career in the Media Operations Branch has taken Francesca to Iraq, Afghanistan (twice), the Falklands and Bahrain, and she was also Staff Media Officer at Flag Officer Sea Training, amongst other roles.

“With many highlights, including jumping out of a helicopter onto a snowy field in the middle of nowhere in Norway, working at the Olympics stands out as it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I was with the media when the Olympic torch flew into Culdrose and was media minding on HMS Ocean when it sailed up the Thames.

“What more could I ask for?”

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