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Royal Horticultural Society marks WRNS100 at Chatsworth

12 June 2017
Strong winds, torrential rain and a lack of photographers failed to dampen the spirit of former WWII Motor Transport Wren Mrs Jean Turner (92), who met up with serving Naval personnel invited to Press Day at the inaugural Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Flower Show at Chatsworth House, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

To mark the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), the RHS decided to commission an artist to create a display to commemorate WRNS100. 

The RHS Project Manager was Diana Levy, herself a former Wren, and it was she who invited the Royal Navy to be present at a photo call on Press Day.

Present at the photo call was Admiral Jonathan Woodcock OBE, the Second Sea Lord who said: “As a keen gardener myself I recognise the huge amount of effort that has gone into preparing the show at Chatsworth, and I am delighted that the RHS has recognised WRNS100, an important naval centenary in 2017.”

I’ve had a great day and feel honoured to have been selected to represent the Royal Navy.

Engineering Technician Bailey Hill

Being one of the oldest wartime Wrens, Jean found herself accompanied by not only Second Sea Lord but also had the opportunity to meet one of today’s youngest serving women in the Royal Navy, Engineering Technician Bailey Hill (17). 

Bailey’s squadron Chief attended the event too:  Chief Petty Officer Debbie Faben who had initially joined the WRNS, but transferred over to the Royal Navy when the separate service was disbanded, and was one of the first women to volunteer for sea service.

Despite the atrocious weather veteran Jean said: “I’ve loved every minute of today, meeting the Admiral and some women from today’s Royal Navy.   

“It’s also been a privilege to be one of the first to view the RHS’s WRNS100 display.”

On hearing that ET Bailey Hill, who is currently undertaking her Phase 2 training at HMS Collingwood, hopes to get a draft to the new Queen Elizabeth carrier Jean remarked: “It’s all so different from my day with so many more opportunities for women.  

“I have fond memories of my time as an MT Wren and will never forget the day, when transporting meat supplies back from the butcher, I braked too sharply and the tray of liver slid off the front seat. There was liver all over the floor and amongst the vehicle’s pedals!”

Meanwhile, the youngest serving female, ET Hill said: “I’ve had a great day and feel honoured to have been selected to represent the Royal Navy.

“So far, I regard my Raleigh passing our parade as one of my highlights, and this is another, despite the dreadful weather.”

Diana Levy, had a pleasant surprise at the event -  Diana and CPO Debbie Faben joined the WRNS together back in 1986. 

Chief Faben said: “I’ve loved meeting one of our oldest Wren veterans today but what a bonus to meet one of my former Hermes division mess mates, after all these years. 

“I’m thrilled Diana remembered WRNS100 in this special year.”

Forming part of the Free Form section of the Show, Tony Smith, a Gold Winner on many occasions created a turf sculpture, in which a three dimensional anchor is depicted; the sculpture incorporates four small Wren birds in the colours representing uniforms of the former WRNS and today’s women of the Royal Navy.


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