A VERY BRIEF HISTORY INTO THE "W" FOUND IN THE TITLES OF THE BRITISH ARMED FORCES!

At the date of writing this page, the "W" in front of RNS [the S meaning Service] lasted from WW1 days until finally being disbanded in the very early days of the 21st century, women having been integrated into the Royal Navy proper from 1990, at which point females who went to sea were no longer called WRNS but rightly, female sailors. However, although the abbreviation WRNS was on the statute book in the period I have indicated which lasted for 82 years or thereabouts, there was a break in service from 1919 when their service was disbanded until 1938/9 when it was re-established.

Some many years ago I published a couple of pages on the subject of WRNS as follows:-

 MALTA.htm
WOMEN%20AND%20NAVAL%20SERVICE.htm by Audrey MARTIN MBE ISM [Deceased]
THE_WRNS_AND_OTHER_NAVAL_WOMENS_SERVICES.htm
WHEN_WOMEN_FIRST_WENT_TO_SEA_IN_COMPLEMENT_BILLETS.htm
WRENS GALLERY PAGE 1.htm
WRENS GALLERY PAGE 2.htm
WRENS GALLERY PAGE 3.htm
WRENS GALLERY PAGE 4.htm

the text below in quotes is copied from the Malta file above for the sole purpose of my story:-

QUOTE - Next comes Whitehall Mansions and the WRNS.  Whitehall Mansions was already the name of the building before the WRNS moved in, but might have been called Furse House in honour of Dame Katherine Furse, the first Commandant of the WRNS, had not that name already been used for a house in London which provided accommodation for WRNS working there.  It is not generally known, but nevertheless true and recorded for posterity in the pages of history, that when in 1917 the Second Sea Lord asked Dame Katherine, at that time the C-in-C of the women's VAD - Voluntary Aid Detachment - to a meeting in the Admiralty, the resultant organisation soubriquet would be less than attractive.  At first, the women's service was called 'Women's Auxiliary Naval Corps' [WANKS] but changed to 'Women's Auxiliary Naval Service' [WANS].  That too was discarded in favour of the third choice which was 'Women's Royal Naval Service' the [WRNS]. - UNQUOTE

In a nut-shell, the history of the erstwhile WRNS is proverbial and the Service they provided was commendable for every reason both in war and in peace times. Bringing them back into action was one of the very first moves made by the Admiralty when war with Nazi Germany was a foregone conclusion.

WRNS therefore, as one would expect, were, like their male counterparts, the senior service amongst women service personnel in their own right, this over and above the Royal Navy being the Senior Service. However, whilst that should have been the case, i.e., WRNS marching in parades before army and air force women, it wasn't followed at the Ceremonial Royal Funeral of the murdered Lord Louis Mountbatten in London in September 1979.  On that occasion somebody had cocked things up in style given the expected protocol, because the air force women led, followed by the army and at the rear, the WRNS!


Lord Louis Mountbattens funeral 5th September 1979

 

 Now that finishes my dit about "our" ladies [which of course included WRNS serving with the Royal Marines who wore a distinctive RM badge on their caps instead of a cap tally], and now I turn my attention to women of the other two services.

They, the army and the air force are indeed junior in every way possible. It may surprise you that their abbreviations viz, WRAC and WRAF were  coined as late as 1948 and were subject to their own Parliament Legislation, namely the Army and Air Force [Women's Service] Bill.

I'll leave you to read the rest yourself in the following article. You may have to click on it twice to open it fully so that you can read it with ease. Note the slippage in the use of the abbreviation WAAF which we still use today, and its original meaning of Women's Auxiliary Air Force. WRAF {1948} does not add-up correctly to WAAF in today's speak!  Of the Army, ATS meant Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Women's section of the British Army which formed in 1938/39. HM The Queen became a member of the ATS! The Bill was passed on the 14th February 1948.

The_Times_1948-02-14.jpg WOMEN IN THE FORCES.jpg