Following our plea last week for any surviving Wrens, The Beacon tracked down four former ‘Wrens’ (or WRNS to give them their proper title) at the annual HMS Monmouth Remembrance service on November 1st.

The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS; popularly and officially known as the Wrens) was the women’s branch of the Royal Navy.

WRNS included cooks, clerks, wireless telegraphists, radar plotters, weapons analysts, range assessors, electricians and air mechanics.

Maggie Douglas began as a navy nurse, then was in the WRNS Service between March 1980 to July 1994 and then became Royal Navy. After her stint as a nurse, she transferred over to the RN Provost (Royal Navy Military Police) then later called Service Police.

Val Milne from Croesyceiliog, Cwmbran was a Wren between 67-77 and was in the writer branch, secretarial.

Anita Burbridge from Kent, is now living in Clydach. She joined the WRNS in 1983 as air mechanic, weapons electrical, and was in Blue Badges, then went into red badges, then into gold and served 23 years (1983-2006), ending up as chief air mechanic, weapons electrical.

She was stationed in RNAS Yeovilton, (HMS Heron) in Somerset, then went back to Portsmouth for promotion courses then ended up in RNAS Culdrose, but did a stint in HMS Sultan in the air engineering school in Portsmouth.

Chris Walker, a familiar face at Monmouth Remembrance services as the Standard bearer for the WRNS, served in the WRNS between 70-74 as a motor transport driver at HMS Culdrose for her training, then she spent 18 months at RNAS Lossiemouth (HMS Seahawk) and then at HMS Dryad in Portsmouth and then HMS Phoenix, a fire fighting training establishment in Portsmouth which was in commission between 1946 and 1993.

The WRNS was finally integrated into the Royal Navy in 1993, when women were allowed to serve on board navy vessels as full members of the crew. Female sailors are still informally known by the nicknames “wrens” or “Jennies” (Jenny Wrens) in naval slang.

Wrens became a nickname rather than a title. As Chris explained, the ladies now “do not like being called Wrens” because they are now Royal Navy.