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Role of Northern Ireland's Royal Navy wrens explored in documentary

 Wrens Patricia Shaw (second left) and Liz Shanks (right)

THE role 16 Northern Ireland women played in the Royal Navy over a half century is to be explored in a documentary.

Members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service were known as wrens and the film highlights the contribution wrens from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds made during World War II.

The documentary focuses on 16 women who reveal how their families felt about them joining up and share their thoughts on the changing role of women in the navy.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and produced by the HMS Caroline’s curatorial and community engagement teams, the documentary will be one of the first recorded oral histories to be collected for an archive being established by the ship’s owners, the National Museum of the Royal Navy. 

  Liz Shanks, Patrica Shaw and Valerie Millington

Victoria Millar is curator of HMS Caroline and says women played an important role on the vessel.

“During the Second World War, many of those who served in and around Pollock Dock where HMS Caroline was based were women. In 1952, a Women’s Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (WRNVR) was established. This in turn merged with the Royal Naval Reserve into a single RNR in 1958.

"Women continued to play a role on HMS Caroline right up to 2009 when the Ulster Division of the RNR moved ashore to HMS Hibernia.”

Interviews with the 16 wrens were filmed and edited by students from the Northern Regional College at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (Proni) and the wrens will enjoy a private screening there tonight.

Public screenings will be held later this year to mark the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service. 

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