'Once a Wren - always a Wren'


Muriel C. Currie MBE. 1923 - 2007


I volunteered for the Women's Royal Naval Service and joined on 30th September 1942 and was demobbed on 30th September 1946 - little did I know how much this period would influence the rest of my life.

After initial training at Mill Hill and Westfield College, London, I was posted to the Royal Naval Air Station, Arbroath. I must admit my memory of this wide open air station consists of careering around the area, up and down hills, on a bycycle without brakes, dancing reels and eating "sinker puds" (fruit puddings - rare in civilian life because of rationing!) - all of which did not do much for our weight.

From here I went to Dunfermline and worked in ACHQ Rosythe prior to sailing to Gibraltar in May 1943. A draft of 13 of us on S.S. Letitia was greeted by matelots on North Mole shouting "No women! Go Home! - charming!. I worked in the cypher office with Daphne John and Lorna Young and we have been friends ever since. As all the civilians had been evacuated before our arrival, we were very much in demand, but we worked hard and played hard!. We had no leave and were not allowed out after 6pm without a male escort and we had to be in by curfew at 11pm.

Left to Right - Lorna Young, Daphne John and Muriel Currie MBE. - Royal Navy Reception given to Gibraltar Veterans August 2004 - HMS. Grafton in background.

By July 1944, my current beau had moved on to Italy and I volunteered to swop with a Wren from Port Said who was anxious to join her fiancee who was working in the dockyard in Gibraltar.

The Wrennery at Gibraltar - 1943

After flying to Castel Benito near Algiers, I flew on to Cairo in a Dakota with a Polish crew and several diplomats. My efforts to get to Port Said were ignored at Cairo Airport and I was despatched to the Wrennery there. Previously a Sultans hareem, I felt I had stepped into an Arabian Night with servants wearing galabias to do our bidding. After a fortnight here, during which time accompanied by a RAF officer on leave, I explored the Pyramids, played tennis daily at the Sporting Club, visited Shepherds and generally went sight-seeing.

I was then sent up to Alexandria by train and promptly sent into sick-bay for two weeks. Meanwhile my hopes of reaching Port Said were fast diminishing and I was sent to one of the eight Wrenneries in Alexandria, the Convent de Notre Dame de Sion. A few Wrens were attached to the staff of the 64th General Hospital and I found myself joining them as Writer to the Surgeon Rear Admiral and Surgeon Captain. It proved to be a most interesting job which I greatly enjoyed, eventually running a department with an Armenian assistant.

As were were allowed leave in Egypt, I went up to Palestine twice - to Jerusalem and other places sadly now non-existent. In November 1945, I returned to home by sea back to Dunfermline. After some leave, I returned to Scotland to Rattray Head where I spent all my time trying to get warm, eventually getting a medical draft south to HMS. Collingwood in Fareham, where my father had been for some years earlier. As Writer to the Head of the Signal Section, I helped to close down Fort Southwick ( one of the Forts on Portsdown Hill), and finally ended my time in the Service in the Regulating Office.

Since those days I have remained in contact through the Association of Wrens of which I am Vice President. For several years I was Editor of "THE WREN" and have represented the Association on the British Council of the World Veterans Federation. In 1977, I was awarded the MBE. for 24 years work as Hon. Secretary of the Midlands Festival of Remembrance and for work in connection with ex-service organizations within the City of Birmingham.

Muriel died on October 5th 2007 - always remembered as a dear friend by Daphne John and Lorna Young.

Copyright: Text & Images: Muriel C. Currie MBE.

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