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BRNC celebrates WRNS100

2 June 2017
Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) has celebrated the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) with an afternoon reception on the College Quarterdeck.

Former members of the WRNS were invited to BRNC for a trip down memory lane and to meet some of today’s Officer Cadets and share their experiences of training. 

They were given a historic tour of the College, which was opened in 1905, and were able to see a display of WRNS uniforms, photos and line books from the College archive.

Commandant Anthea Larken, who served as the Director WRNS from 1988 to 1991, was invited to cut the celebratory cake.

It was great to meet the ladies, hear their stories and show them how the Service has changed.

Lieutenant Maxine Stiles RN

WRNS Officer training moved from the Royal Navy College Greenwich to BRNC in 1976.

Those attending the celebration included those still serving who wore the WRNS ‘blue stripes’, former members of BRNC staff (Officers and Ratings) from 1976 onwards, members of the Naval Service Women’s Network and invited guests.

Nichola Aldridge, a former WRNS Officer, began her career in the WRNS at HMS Dauntless, the former WRNS ratings training centre in 1978. 

In 1980 she transferred to Officer and began training at BRNC.  Nichola left the Service in 1986 and joined the Women’s Royal Naval Reserve in 1989, which was later integrated into the Royal Naval Reserve. 

Nichola finally completed her service in 2013.  She now works for the Britannia Association at BRNC. 

Nichola said:  “I’ve got very happy memories of being in the WRNS.  I loved the camaraderie that the Armed Forces generally gives you. 

“I felt incredibly proud to wear the uniform, particularly that of the WRNS.  It was lovely to meet the other ladies at the WRNS100 celebration here at the College. 

“Ladies who have that shared experience of Dauntless and Dartmouth and being in the WRNS working alongside, but as a separate entity to the men. 

“The up-to-date training information was fantastic, so the women that I had trained alongside were suddenly learning about the training that the Cadets do today and the fact that it is now gender-neutral.  The Cadets themselves were a credit to the College. 

“They were engaged and interested in what we were saying and our memories.  It was a lovely afternoon.”

The former WRNS were invited to meet Cadets at varying stages of their 30-week initial naval training course as well as members of staff. 

Lieutenant Maxine Stiles, the organiser of the event, said:  “Our WRNS100 event is one of a number being held this year to celebrate the contribution of the WRNS and the influence they had on opportunities for women in today’s Royal Navy.

“It was great to meet the ladies, hear their stories and show them how the Service has changed.”

The WRNS was formed in 1917 to cope with a deteriorating manpower situation as a result of the First World War under the leadership of Dame Katherine Furse. 

The initial intention was for the Wrens, as they became known, to serve in supporting roles, but as the manpower shortages continued Wrens found themselves taking on jobs such as sail-making, driving, maintaining aircraft, signalling and coding. 

Since the formation of the WRNS, changes have taken place that the ladies of 1917 could only dream of. 

Today’s women serve alongside their male colleagues at sea, under the sea, in the air and on land, in conflicts including the first Gulf War, the Balkans, the 2003 Iraq War and, more recently, in Afghanistan. 

Further information on WRNS100 is available on the Royal Navy website:  www.royalnavy.mod.uk/wrns100.

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