Monday, 3 April 2017

Women's Royal Naval Service WRNS #history

Following on from an earlier post

I've been looking on YouTube for some material on the history of the WRNS.

This film clip is from 1918 

and shows an inspection of the WRNS by Commander Sir R. William Buleley, Bart,. C.B., R.N.R.
The film is remarkably clear and you can see the uniforms really well.
Sir William barely looks at the WRNS as he walks past but they don't seem to care.

The WRNS was founded in 1917 

and by 1919 there were 7,000  Wrens including Cooks and Stewards, Despatch Riders, Sail Makers and those in Intelligence. Tellingly, their motto was ‘Never at Sea’.

At the start of WW2, 3,000 women were recruited for the WRNS

into the same roles as before and also in new roles such as Radio Operators, Meteorologists, Bomb Range Markers together with sea-going  Cypher Officers, Coders and Boat’s Crew Wrens. By 1944 there were 74,000 WRNS Officers and ratings.
This time their motto was ‘Free a Man for the Fleet’.

This is another nice clip. 

It shows Queen Mary inspecting the WRNS but exactly where and when is unclear. The caption just says that they're on the sports field of a naval barracks and one version of the clip dates it at 1941. Some good shots of the uniforms and at least this time the person inspecting the ranks seems a bit more interested in the recruits.

And a great little bit of film to finish with: 

some WRNS actually at work on a boat! Note the change of clothes into something much more practical.
And no standing on ceremony here.

Thanks for dropping in on my blog today.

You might also like my family history blog which is at

Friday, 17 March 2017

War work #advert

I found this advert in the British Newspaper Archive.
It's from the Sunday Mirror on Sunday 28 December 1941.

I've saved the clipping in three sections to make it easier to read.

Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

I wonder if anyone took any notice of the exhortation. And how the Ministry defined a war worker? And what essential job the woman in the picture is involved in?

This second promotion was designed to encourage women to join the WAAF. 

It was in the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail
on Monday 27 October 1941.

Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

The Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force during World War II and established in 1939. At its peak strength, in 1943, WAAF numbers exceeded 180,000, with over 2,000 women enlisting per week.

Thanks for stopping by Tinned Variety Blog today.
You might also like my Cabbage and Semolina Blog.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Women at War by Phyllis Pearsall #book

Some while ago I discovered an amazing war artist called Anthony Gross. 

In 1942 he sailed on a troop carrier, the m.v. Highland Monarch, from England to Egypt via Sierra Leone and the Indian Ocean. 

He made a series of drawings during the eight week voyage which are a fantastic record of daily life on board ship.
Check out:
Anthony Gross, official war artist, and the Convoy series of drawings
Official war artist Anthony Gross
to read more about him.

More recently, I've discovered that Anthony Gross had a sister, Phyllis, who was also an artist.

Born Phyllis Isobella Gross, her lifelong nickname was PIG.  Phyllis became one of Britain's most intriguing entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires.
After an eight year marriage to Richard Pearsall and subsequent divorce, Phyllis had to support herself and so she became a portrait painter.
This was in the 1930s.
While working as a portrait painter and trying to find her patrons' houses Phyllis Pearsall became increasingly frustrated at the lack of proper street maps of London.
So, she decided to do something about it.
In the course of one year she covered London's 23,000 streets on foot, mapping every section.
Aided by her father who was a successful publisher she set up her own company to publish her map of London.

The company was the Geographer's Trust which still publishes the London A-Z and that of every major British city to this day. 

However, during WW2 Phyllis was not allowed to engage in any mapping work and she became an official war artist. 

She was given permission to enter various establishments to record women in their uniformed and civilian occupations: the ATS, WRNS, WAAF, Land Army, nurses, workers in Ordnance factories and voluntary services.

In 1990 some of her drawings were published in a slim volume entitled Women at War. 

Accompanying the drawings is some fascinating text in which Phyllis recalls what she saw and heard as she went from place to place.
It's a wonderful book but is sadly now out of print.
I bought a second hand copy for 1p plus postage and packing from a charity shop operating as an Amazon associate.
There don't seem to be any more second hand copies available either on Amazon or in the Oxfam Bookshop on-line. There's certainly nothing available at Waterstones.
The reason I'm telling you this is because if you see a copy in your local charity shop, it would be well worth buying.
Anyone who has in interest in WW2 will find the accounts Phyllis Pearsall wrote about the lives of ordinary women during those years absolutely fascinating.
The drawings are remarkable too. I've copied a couple and it's clear that Phyllis was just as talented as her brother.

The book is filled with insights into the life of women during the war years. Each chapter includes a couple of drawings and some quotes from the women Phyllis met in each of the different workplaces.

Women at War is an absolute little gem and it's a great pity it appears to have gone out of print.

If you enjoyed this blogpost you might also like 1947 Diary on my Writing a Family History website.

Thanks for visiting Tinned Variety Blog today.

Catch me on Twitter most days @spurwing_ or at Spurwing Ebooks.