Focus On... Women in Uniform
* Women's Royal Naval Service - Introduction  
Nurses in the Crimea
Nurses in the British Army
Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps
Scottish Women's Hospitals
Women's Royal Naval Service

1. Introduction

2. Profile

3. Sources

4. Further Reading

Women in WWII

The idea for the Women’s Royal Naval Service is widely attributed to Lady Rocksavage. She is said to have invited Sir Eric Geddes to drinks in 1917 and, upon hearing of the heavy losses the Royal Navy had suffered in the first three years of the war, said “The army uses women for shore jobs, why not the Navy”

The conversation led to the creation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) in November 1917 with the aim of replacing male sailors serving onshore with women.

The Admiralty set about recruiting 3,000 women but decided that they could only do ‘suitable’ work, for example domestic tasks, waiting at tables, cleaning and cooking.

However during its 19 month existence the number of Wrens grew to over 6,000 with the range of jobs broadening, many of which had previously been considered too difficult for women.

The Service was disbanded at the end of World War I but was reformed at the outbreak of war in 1939.

At its peak, in 1944, membership numbered over 72,000. In 1947 the Permanent Service was created but numbers were reduced again to around 3,000 with fewer trades than the 200 available to women in 1944.

The Service was disbanded in 1993 when women were integrated into the Royal Navy itself, with women being able to serve onboard ships in 1994. Women now serve on around a third of all Naval ships and make up 10% of their crews.


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