Banstead-based maritime charity The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society is celebrating International Women’s Day by sharing the stories of the five Wrens living at its care home, Belvedere House.
Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service) played a huge part in the war efforts of WWI and WWII, with women carrying out important roles such as Radio Operators, Meteorologists, Bomb Range Markers and Coders. On International Women’s Day, the Society wanted to highlight the often-overlooked role women and Wrens in particular, have played in the UK armed forces over the years.
The Wrens living at the Society, Mrs Joan Traverse-Healy, Mrs Joan Hatfield and Mrs Antoinette Porter, who live in the care home at Belvedere House, and Mrs Jean Howard and Mrs Anne Macleod-Carey who reside as tenants, shared their stories of life in the Wrens ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day.
Ordinary Wren, Anne Macleod-Carey, said of her experience: “I joined the Wrens in 1943 as a Visual Signaller and trained at HMS CABBALLA with 600 sailors and 400 Wrens for three months learning Morse and semaphore to become a Visual Signaller. In 1945, I was the first British woman to be invited upon Hitler’s captured German aviso Grille ship (a state yacht used by Hitler and other individuals in the Nazi regime) for dinner with the Captain!
“It was a very exciting time in my life; every working day was different. We would man the unlit lighthouses, constantly watching the horizon for enemy ships. There’s so many stories that people can’t believe of my time in the Wrens so it is a huge comfort that here at the Royal Alfred we can all share our tales from sea together.”
Third Officer, Jean Howard, said: “On International Women’s Day it’s important that we remember the Wrens, and those of us who dedicated parts of our life to the sea. After joining the Wrens aged 22, I really enjoyed the opportunity of a career and the structure of naval life.