Wrens re-united.

Inspection on paradeWhen I was asking for help with my Baking Blind tour (https://youtu.be/Fhqz-h0ESag), Jo popped up.  We had last had contact nearly 40 years ago when I waved goodbye to my first naval job in Naples, Italy, and to her too as she was taking over from me.  After all those years, we re-kindled our friendship when she hosted me in Virginia Beach, USA.

We first met at the Royal Navy College at Dartmouth in the UK back in 1978.  We were training to become Women’s Royal Naval Service officers.  There were about 12 of us on the course and we knew that not everyone would get through.

It was a typical “boot camp” atmosphere: lots of being up very early and working until midnight, spit and polishing shoes, cleaning anything that didn’t move and continually ironing all our uniforms.

It was freezing at times and we spent many frantic minutes putting on and peeling off thermal underwear, chattering with cold while getting lost on Dartmoor and wailing in the dark of tents pitched on the soggy moor.  Lots of the others went running, swimming and more while I discovered the delights of the shooting range: a soft mat to lie on and an electric heater.  No wonder I became an ardent shooter with both pistol and rifle.  Even more amazing, I ended up shooting for the college and was the only Wren to win “colours”.  But in those days, when Wrens had only been at the college for four terms, they still hadn’t adapted to having women amongst the men.  So I was the proud recipient of a “colours” tie – heaven only knows when they thought I’d wear it.

Jo and I didn’t meet again until three years later when she came to take over my job with the NATO naval intelligence section in Naples.  She settled in so quickly that she met and married US Navy Commander Nick while she was there – hence her move to Virginia Beach.  We had whole lives to catch up when we met again all those decades later.

She invited all her friends to meet me over brunch and, despite declaring herself to be an enthusiastic non-cook, produced an excellent pumpkin bread (http://www.bakingblind.com/pumpkin%20bread.htm) that would be perfect for anyone at Halloween.


2 thoughts on “Wrens re-united.

  1. Hi I enjoyed reading your blog, took me back some 40 years too, my girlfriend Helen Vasey served in Naples Italy, I was so pleased when I was invited to visit but never made it, (money was so tight in those days), I also recall vividly visting Helen at HMS Dauntless Burghfield Summer 1981 and staying at the Rose Lawn guest house, the weather was so hot and the leaving so emotional, the return train to Newcastle was torture, (young love!). I later joined the Royal Fusiliers and Helen and I always tried to get leave at the same time, (in between lengthy periods apart I used to have to queue for the phone box on the barracks).
    Later Helen served at Notholt and there were frequent train journeys, (the foot bridge at Newcastle train station still tkes me back to those days where I would wait for the London train coming in, happy days. I’ve been a Civil Servant for the past 25 years.

    I can’t recall seeing any other reference to the base in Naples, so I just felt the need to share,
    I also enjoyed reading about the food too.

    Kind regards
    Steve Carter
    Co, Durham


    • Steve,

      How good to hear about your young love. I suspect we were all in similar situations: new to our military careers, excited by the prospects of travel and adventure and with hormones running wild. You would have loved Naples: a completely distinct culture different to many parts of Italy, mad traffic, boisterous people, the opera house just a step away from the cramped back-alleys, the overall sense of bravado and independence. Throw in an earthquake and the looming presence of Vesuvius and the whole city is packed with drama.
      Again, all our lives are perhaps less exciting nowadays in our senior moments – but we still fizz with fun and excitement. Thank you again for sharing your memories.


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