Memories of HMS Caroline
By former WRNS (Torpedoman) Kathleen Anderson
I think that all of us who
served in the WRNS would agree that it was the greatest experience
of our single lives. Living together served to rub off some of our
self-centeredness; naval discipline taught us self-discipline;
somewhat basic living conditions taught us to be content without
luxury; some who had led more sheltered lives before joining the
WRNS learned how to relate to men.
Our first two weeks at Mill
Hill were tough: lots of drill on the quarterdeck, scrubbing floors
and other even less desirable jobs, flattening oneself against the
wall whenever an officer passed, sleeping in a room with about
twenty other girls. We were glad when the time came to be drafted to
Brighton for training as Torpedo Wrens.
Depth charge pistol workshop, HMS Caroline, Belfast
I forget how long our training was, but we didn't feel very
confident as we went off to Belfast, where we were put to work
cleaning depth charge pistols. It was dirty work. Happily for me, I
got dermatitis and was very glad to become an assistant to the young
Chief who serviced the hedgehogs on each ship as they came in for an
overhaul. He taught me a lot, and I really enjoyed that job cleaning
all the electrical connections and balancing the gyro.
One day, when my Chief was off sick, another Wren came on board with
me to check the hedgehog. The controls were situated in a very small
turret, with a roof only about two feet above the control box. My
companion was very interested and bent over to look into the box. As
she did so, her nose came into contact with a live wire. She jerked
her head back and it hit the roof of the turret! I had a hard time
suppressing my laughter!
While we worked hard all day, our evenings were spent either
relaxing in the Wrennery at 446, Antrim Road, or keeping a date.
Many of us had dates with more than one sailor (in different escort
groups) and things got a bit panicky in the Wrennery when two groups
came in at the same time! In the summer, we would sit in the
Wrennery garden, and on the rare hot days (the weather wasn't the
best in Belfast) we could sunbathe. One day my friend was lying on
the grass with next to nothing on when a telegraph boy arrived and,
quite unfazed, asked her where the front door was. When she told me,
I said "How awful! What did you do?" She replied, "I covered my face
so that he wouldn't recognize me again!" Quick thinking!
As the war came to an end,
we were sadly dispersed to different places and different jobs. I
was sent to Portsmouth, and we lived in an old fort, which was alive
with cockroaches! (We'd changed a lot since first joining the WRNS,
and took it all in our stride) There I worked as a writer for
several months before being demobbed. What a comedown for a Wren
by Kathleen Anderson