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Achievements of Naval Women recognised at ExCel

25 September 2017
As part of DSEI 2017 held at ExCel in London Docklands, the International Security event also marked the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS).

Former members of the WRNS met up with current serving members of the Royal Navy to learn how life has changed since the separate service was disbanded, and 'Wrens' were fully integrated into the Royal Navy. 

Welcomed by Mt Stephen Phipson CBE, head of the Department for International Trade, Defence and Security Organisation (DESO) the group enjoyed complimentary coffee before attending a presentation in the Naval theatre. 

Clarion, organisers of the DSEI event, made a particular point of scheduling a WRNS100 presentation as part of the People and Skills Day seminar schedule.  

I really wish I was still serving with all the opportunities that are available now.

Yvette Ellis-Clarke

Mr Adam Thomas, Head of Media Relations for DESO said: “My Mother served as a Wren, so I was very keen to mark the Centenary of the formation of the WRNS; opportunities for women have changed beyond all recognition over the past 100 years.”

The Naval presentation given by Captain Sharon Malkin, an air engineering officer, looked back at those early days of 1917, putting the efforts of the first WRNS pioneers into context of the current Royal Navy.

Captain Malkin’s presentation was also designed to endorse and give prominence to the Women in Defence campaign. 

There followed a private lunch, again made possible by the generous support of Mr Stephen Phipson’s organisation. 

Veterans included Jonni Berfield, a WW2 Wren Coder and former Leading Wren Radio Operator Yvette Ellis-Clarke. 

Yvette who was in the first batch of Wrens to volunteer for sea service in 1990 on board HMS Brilliant said: “I felt honoured to be a part of the day, and I had an absolutely delightful time meeting former Wrens, and women serving today – all had very interesting stories to tell. 

“I really wish I was still serving with all the opportunities that are available now.”

Also attending was one of the last Director WRNS, Commandant Anthea Larken CBE who took the opportunity to meet a cross section of today’s  Royal Navy women including, Commander Sarah Oakley (Fishery Protection Squadron), Observer Lieutenant Commander Cheryl Jones, Mine Clearance Diving Officer Lieutenant Catherine Ker, and naval reservist WO1 Elaine Grist. 

The hosted visit finished with the group enjoying a tour of HMS Mersey, an offshore patrol vessel that had been in London all week taking part in DSEI.

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