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Culdrose time capsule brings back memories from 1974

1 September 2016
A time capsule buried at Royal Naval 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 Woman’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) formation and on 08 March 2017 – International Women’s Day – will see an exhibition entitled; Women and the Royal Navy, launched.

The capsule was placed under the foundations of the new Wren’s accommodation block in October 1974, by the then head of the Wrens, Commandant Mary Talbot. Culdrose was undergoing 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.

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’, Catherine Beckett, now Cathy Timmins, who retired after working at Culdrose Unit Personnel Office for many years and whose husband Glynn, a former sailor is the Central Fund Manager. 

I think my overall memories of the WRNS are that we were unique with our own identity.

Cathy Timmins

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

"Besides the NAAFI there was an automat where you met up in free time and after the Bop on a Thursday and Sunday night. There was also a cobblers, a Naval tailors the chip wagon came on base twice a week and NAAFI wagon which went around 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 Base was much more open then, we would sign in and go out the back door.

"On the nights of the dance, the duty Petty Officer Wren would patrol around the quarters. We lived in messes of around 12 with a leading Wren at the top with a single cabin.

"There were about four baths to cover about 48 of us, and just a twin tub washing machine or you did all your washing by hand. But we were allowed to send our shirts and collars to the laundry free of charge.”

“When they dug up the time capsule Sue Sharkey and me went along to see what was in it. It was very exciting to see all the items, which would not be recognised today.

"I think my overall memories of the WRNS are that we were unique with our own identity.

"Some of the friendships you made have lasted a lifetime. We had a lot of fun and the skills you learnt stood you well."

"Culdrose to me was and I still feel is a unique place. In a way, it is a big family. When I was drafted to HMS Drake in Plymouth after Culdrose I realised how much freedom we had, compared to all the Bigwig Officers around Drake.”

Of the time capsule, Base Warrant Officer, WO1 Bridgette Turner said, “This is a really great collection of what life was like for the girls serving at Culdrose.”

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