St. Cuthbert’s Church Brunswick

Parish of Christ the King

Diocese of Newcastle

19 February 2016
My Three Years in the W.R.N.S. (Fleet Air Arm)

Having joined up at 18, I arrived at Balloch and for my six weeks training I lived in a lovely old castle on the banks of Loch Lomond. I was to be involved with supplies etc. I made lots of friends very quickly and kept in touch with some of them for many years after the war ended.
One day we decided to hire a rowing boat, four of us and not one of us knew how to handle a boat properly but we really managed very well. It was a lovely day when we set off but very suddenly the ‘heavens opened’ and we were drenched. We got the boat safely back and ran to the castle. It was very embarrassing for me as my brand-new dress (uniforms not issued yet) was shrinking more all the time I was running and it didn't help my situation with all the wolf whistles from the sailors as we had to pass. After Balloch, I spent a short time in Dunfermline  and was then sent to Crail in Fifeshire along with some of my new friends and after a year we went to Arbroath. We worked very hard for not much money but no one complained and we would also volunteer to make tea and sandwiches for crews  coming back from their bombing raids in the early hours. It was always very sad when someone you knew didn't get back.
One day I was singing quietly to myself as I worked, when an Officer came along and apparently she must have liked what she heard, because she suggested that I find a pianist and we could entertain the troops as it were. One of my friends was a lovely pianist, so we said why not. We got permission and transport to the Army, Navy and Air Force bases in the area. For a while it was only the two of us doing the entertaining, and we loved every minute of it, then gradually we had more people wanting to join us, finishing up with a group of 10 altogether. We carried on for about two years. Now and again someone would be posted elsewhere but another person would step into their place. Luckily my friend Bunty, the pianist wasn't moved anywhere. We could never let the concert party interfere with our work work but how we managed the door I don't know. We felt that we were doing something really worthwhile and enjoyed it so much. Our audiences were always delighted with what we did for them. My next posting was further north in Scotland to Rattray Head, very cold and bleak. I found another pianist, as Bunty had been sent elsewhere, and we carried on entertaining.
Earlier in my life as a Wren, I got a posting to Durban in South Africa. It was very exciting, but a few days before I was due to go there, was a big emergency, All overseas postings were cancelled and there was no second chance. I also volunteered to go to 'Somewhere Down South' -  we could not be told where. Sadly I missed out on that one too and it was a long time afterwards that I discovered it would've been to Bletchley Park. How I would've loved to have been there.
I was promoted to is leading around after about 18 months and passed my exams to become a petty officer just as the war finished, so sadly I never got to wear my ‘Buttons’. I was given the opportunity to stay in the Wrens after the war, when I would automatically have become a petty officer, but I said “no”. I felt it was time to spend some quality time with my Mum and Dad also my brother whom I hadn't seen much of over the past five years. He was in the Navy and was lucky to be alive as he'd had five destroyers blown up from underneath him.
Hope you have enjoyed my little story,  Averil Rowe