Britannia's Daughters

Britannia's Daughters : The Story of the WRNS

This highly readable book recounts the story of the Women's Royal Navy Service (Wrens) from its formation in 1917. Here's an extract from this book as it relates to Ford.

Britannia's Daughters
    Ursula Stuart Mason

Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781848846784


Violet Earwicker (Bertram) also met traged while serving as an Officers’ Steward at RNAS, Ford, in Sussex:

I was on duty during the weekend of 18 August, 1940, and around 11 am that day the sirens sounded; we all went to the shelters. A sailor on a pushbike went around the camp blowing a bugle for the all clear because the siren was out of action. So we went back to work, clearing up and so on. Not long afrerwards there was a terrific noise; I went outside and saw a Stuka dive-bombing the officers’ cabins, and one officer, a reservist, firing his revolver at the plane, but unfortunately he was riddled with machine-gun bullets. I dived for cover in the Wrens’ recreation room, went behind the bath and donned my tin hat; I had just got down when a bullet struck the hat and went into the wall behind me. I stayed some time, listening to the bombing and the screaming down of the planes - not something one easily forgets.

Planes on the ground and hangars had been destroyed and were on fire. There were many lives lost that day - officers I had only just been serving with drinks were dead and a lot of others besides. Fortunately no Wrens were killed or injured so we cleaned up the mess. Plates and glasses were all lying across the floor of the galley; no water or electricity - but everybody set to and gave our officers and men a meal of sorts. The Wrens’ quarters were off the camp and untouched, but next morning First Officer Claridge sent home all who lived nearby, as there were no communications of any kind; you should have seen the relief of my parents the moment I walked through the door.

It was also at Ford that Nancy Droop (Spencer) was a radio mechanic attached to a Fleet Air Ann squadron on what had become a RAF station (but later reverted to HMS Peregrine):

We serviced the radar on the Fireflies so wore bell-bottoms. We lived in married quarters, four to a house, and ate in the Sergeants’ Mess. These were on one side of the aerodrome with our radar section, close to the Fireflies, on the other side. Consequently we spent a lot of time riding to and fro on our bicycles. We had to watch out for the duty runway, as we had to ride around the end of that one whereas we were allowed to cut across the runway not in use. One day I was cycling alone back to the Mess, just after I‘d become engaged and was on cloud nine, and forgot to check which was the duty runway. To my horror, I had just got across when I saw a plane coming in to land. I continued to the Control Tower, expecting a court martial at least, when the duty sergeant came out and said the pilot had screamed, 'Get that bloody airman off the runway,' and he, the sergeant, had reported that the airman was actually a Wren acquaintance of his!

A fascinating book, and one I urge you to buy.

January 2017

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