Wrens still proud of their role in winning the war

THERE were many heroes of the Second World War, not just the soldiers who fought on the front line or sailors who braved the seas.

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Joan Lowe, 82, Georgina Warman, 89, Elsa Stewart, 90, Betty Pattison, 87, Mary Clothier, 90, and Mardie Miller, 88, outside the City Chambers.
Joan Lowe, 82, Georgina Warman, 89, Elsa Stewart, 90, Betty Pattison, 87, Mary Clothier, 90, and Mardie Miller, 88, outside the City Chambers.

The Women's Royal Naval Service (Wrens) carried out the jobs that meant more men could take up arms – and the efforts of these unsung heroines were every bit as important to the war effort.

Members of the Glasgow branch of the Wrens still meet up once a month to remember their time in service and to rekindle old friendships.

Joan Lowe, 81, is the chairwoman of the Glasgow Wrens.

She said: "We still gather on the second Thursday of every month at the Renfield St Stephens Church and there are about 20 of us who come along regularly.

"There used to be 36 of us but the numbers are dwindling.

"Most of the Wrens who were involved in the Second World War are pushing 90-years-old.

"But we have a lot of dedicated members.

"One of our ladies is Ailsa Stewart, who is 97 and comes all the way from Campbeltown.

"She gets a coach from Campbeltown early in the morning to be at the meetings, which is quite amazing."

The group has been meeting for 20 years and the monthly gatherings usually feature a guest speaker.

The Wrens carried out a wide range of jobs, some glamorous and others less so.

They included cooks, clerks and drivers as well as radar plotters, weapons analysts, electricians and air mechanics.

One of the slogans used in recruiting posters for the Wrens was "Join the Wrens – free a man for the fleet."

Formed during the First World War in 1917, the Wrens was disbanded in 1919 before being reformed at the start of the Second World War.

At its peak in 1944 it had 75,000 members.

Joan, who was awarded the MBE in 2000 for her services to charity the King George's Fund for Sailors, wanted to become an MT (Motor Transport) driver when she joined the Wrens in 1948, but the option wasn't open to her at the time.

She said: "I went into it because I wanted to be an MT driver and learn how to drive.

"But I ended up working behind the officers' Ward Room bar.

"A few years in, an officer told me I could train to be an MT driver again, but I was so happy where I was that I didn't want to leave.

"I regret not learning to drive all these years later.

"But it was a great experience and it's lovely to meet up once a month and talk about those days."

After leaving the service, Joan, who lives in Glasgow, got married and had four children.

The group was welcomed to Glasgow City Chambers last month, where Councillor Frank Docherty joined the women for lunch.

He said: "I have been friends with a lady called Betty Pattison for a long time, but it was only last year that she told me about her time in the Wrens.

"She said how she worked with Winston Churchill and told me some incredible tales.

"I invited the group to the City Chambers and I was thrilled that they joined me for lunch.

"Each and every one of them is a heroine for what they did for the country and it was an honour to meet them all."

For more information on the Association of Wrens, or to find out about local meetings, visit www.wrens.org.uk

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