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Sultan honours trailblazing female engineer

22 June 2018
Royal Navy engineers have renamed one of their key buildings after a wartime female trailblazer.

Tomorrow’s marine and air engineers at HMS Sultan in Gosport will now receive some of their instruction in the Drummond Theatre, renamed on the eve of International Women in Engineering Day in memory of Victoria Drummond, the first women in Britain to enter the profession a century ago.

In a male-dominated industry Drummond fought against discrimination and prejudice to become respected by her marine engineer peers and receive the MBE for bravery during the Battle of the Atlantic.

In a seagoing career spanning four decades, she completed 49 voyages – including numerous Atlantic convoys and a three-month on a tanker supporting the invasion of Normandy.

Having female role models and historical figures within engineering is very important to inspire female engineers of the future.

Lt Cdr Kim Mehta RN

One former skipper described her as “one of the most competent engineers ever employed” while a shipmate praised her coolness under fire: Victoria Drummond was “about the most courageous woman I ever saw.”

She was the first female member of the Institute of Marine Engineers (now the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology – IMarEST) and a leading light in the Women’s Engineering Society.

While she became something of a wartime celebrity – her visit to Flower-class corvette HMS Chrysanthemum in 1942 was much publicised and recorded for posterity – and continued to go to sea into the early 1960s when she was nearly 70, 40 years after her death Victoria Drummond is largely forgotten.

But given her pioneering efforts – she was born into an upper class family and presented at the court of George V as a debutante before realising her ambition to become a marine engineer – the team at Sultan and the Women’s Engineering Society determined the pioneering women deserved 21st Century recognition: the result is the renamed theatre at the Gosport training establishment.

2018 is ‘The Year of Engineering’ a year-long, cross- Government  campaign aimed at raising the profile of engineering amongst 7 to 16 year olds and widening the pool of young people that consider engineering as a career.

“It is fantastic to be able to honour such a pivotal member of the marine engineering community with such close links to the naval environment,” said Lt Cdr Kim Mehta.

“Having female role models and historical figures within engineering is very important to inspire female engineers of the future.”

Dr Jan Peters, former president of the Women’s Engineering Society, added: “We are delighted to have a naval training space named in honour of an important female engineer – so many women have contributed to the service of this country in technical fields and it’s important that they do not become yet more hidden figures.

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