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The Royal Navy was the first armed forces to accept female recruits. The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), founded in 1917, took up the roles of cooks, clerks, wireless telegraphists, code analysts, and electricians.
See the fact file below for more information on the Women’s Royal Naval Service, or you can download our 27-page Women’s Royal Naval Service worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- In 1914, World War I began. Women at that time were not seen to participate in activities other than household chores and the Admiralty were reluctant to employ women, but it gradually became obvious with the high mortality rate amongst the men that something had to be done, and because men were conscripted, some women were employed and become involved in loading torpedoes on submarines and in plotting battle progress in operations rooms.
- The First Lord of the Admiralty requested Dame Katharine Furse to organize a “Naval Organization of Women” in 1917. Various names were suggested, but the favorite was The Women’s Royal Naval Service, and the name “Wrens” was approved.
- A German submarine sunk the RMS Leinster in 1918. Only one of the three Wrens onboard died: Wren Josephine Carr. She was the first Wren to die in WWI and as a result of hostile action. The Women’s Royal Naval Service was disbanded in 1919.
- Dame Katharine Furse proposed the Association of Wrens’ services to the Admiralty in 1937. The Admiralty established the guidelines for revamping the WRNS. The first public statement of the reformation was made on November 22nd, 1938.
- Mrs. Vera Laughton Matthews was invited to join the WRNS Board of Directors in 1939. She had served in WWI and was a pioneer of the Girl Guides’ Sea Ranger Branch after the war.
- The WRNS initially planned to recruit 126 officers and 1,475 ratings. The SS Aguila was sunk on August 19, 1941, killing 21 Wrens and one Nursing Sister.
- The WRNS Garden in the National Memorial Arboretum has a memorial to the victims of the SS Aguila.
- The SS Khedive Ismail was lost on February 12, 1944, and only two of the 19 Wrens escaped. In 1946, a small permanent WRNS service of 3,000 people was kept for administrative and support tasks at RN sites and Royal Naval Air Stations in the UK and abroad.
- All stripes/badges were blue, not gold or crimson like the soldiers of the navy. Officers’ stripes were identical to those on navy officer uniforms, with some having a symbol on the top stripe and others not, although the sign, in this case, was a diamond shape rather than a circular shape, loop, or curl.
- This table depicts the WRNS officers’ stripes as they were in WWI.
|STRIPES||WITH DIAMOND||WITHOUT DIAMOND|
|One 1¾” with one ½” above||Director||–|
|One 1¾”||Deputy Director||–|
|Four ½”||Assistant Director||–|
|Three ½”||Deputy Assistant Director||Principal|
|Two ½”||Deputy Divisional Director||Deputy Principal|
|One ½”||–||Assistant Principal|
|One ¼” above three buttons||–||Quarter Supervisor|
- Wrens learned to weld and carpenter in naval bases, where they maintained and repaired ships. They worked in the office, learned communications and signaling, meteorology (weather forecasting), engineering, driving, mechanical, and radar operation.
- There were some 74,000 Wrens by the end of the war, doing a wide variety of jobs that had previously been done by men. Women were not allowed on the ships, which went into active service, but they did command and crew the powerful harbor launches, often going out in all weathers to collect people from landing craft that were anchored at sea.
- After 35 years of teaching 30,000 Wrens, the New Entry Training Establishment HMS Dauntless closed her doors. Wrens were subjected to the Naval Discipline Act and given lengthier terms of duty in various technical support duties in operational areas in 1981. Initial training now takes place alongside male ratings at HMS Raleigh.
- In 1990, recruitment increased with HMS Brilliant’s first 20 volunteer Wren Officers and ratings as the requisite for Wrens to be deployed to sea.
- MA Kate Nesbitt’s inspiring bravery was recognized at Buckingham Palace in November 2009 when she became the Navy’s first woman to be awarded the Military Cross. The Prince of Wales complimented Kate Nesbitt for her “amazing” bravery.
- Three RN Lieutenants, Maxine Styles, Alexandra Ollson, and Penny Thackray, acquired their ‘dolphin’ clasps as qualified members of the Submarine Service in 2014, being the first females to do so in the service’s 110-year history.
- The Defense Diving School graduated the first female to train as a Royal Navy Mine warfare and Clearance Diving Officer (MCDO). Lieutenant Catherine Ker was the first to profit from a revision in the Naval Service policy in 2010 that stated female divers were more likely than male divers to suffer from decompression sickness.
- The Women’s Royal Naval Service was discontinued in 1993, and 4535 women were wholly incorporated into the Royal Navy, serving on HM ships at sea at all ranks and rates, including the Royal Marines Band.
- Captain Ellie Ablett MBE became the Royal Navy’s first female commander of a basic training base.
- A woman officer has been awarded the rank of Admiral for the first time in the Royal Navy’s centuries-long history. Commodore Jude Terry has been promoted to Rear Admiral, making her the most senior woman in the Royal Navy’s history.
- She will take over as the Royal Navy’s Director of People and Training and Naval Secretary, responsible for Sailors and Royal Marines from the moment they are recruited to their final day in Service, supervising training, welfare, and career management throughout their entire career.
- In 2021, Captain Kate Morgan became the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s first female engineer captain in its 116-year history.
- Barbara Mary McGregor (UK) served in the Navy (active duty/service) for the longest time (43 years, 189 days) from July 26, 1977, to January 31, 2021.
- For the duration of her record-breaking career, WO1 Barbara McGregor served in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. In early 2021, Barbara (an AOW Trustee) set a Guinness World Record.
Women’s Royal Naval Service Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Women’s Royal Naval Service across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching kids about Women’s Royal Naval Service, which was a female branch of the Royal Navy founded in 1917 as part of the war effort.
Complete List of Included Worksheets
Below is a list of all the worksheets included in this document.
- Women’s Royal Naval Service Facts
- Who’s that Girl?
- 3 Years Ago…
- Wall of Feminine
- 21st Century
- Guess the Woman
- Highest to Lowest
- In Latter History
Frequently Asked Questions
What did WRNS stand for?
The Women’s Royal Naval Service, or WRNS, was the women’s component of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy.
What did the WRNS do in WW2?
The WRNS was responsible for driving, cooking, clerical work, and providing weather forecasts. The Naval Censorship Branch was responsible for censoring letters and other communications. This branch had WRNS clerks and censor officers who were based in mobile units or London.
When did WRNS disband?
The Women’s Royal Naval Service was created in 1917 as a branch of the Royal Navy. It was disbanded two years later but reformed again in 1939. Women were not allowed to join the regular Navy until 1993. When it first started, WRNS mainly did household chores like cooking and cleaning.
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Link will appear as Women’s Royal Naval Service Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 8, 2022
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.