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.


Officer training – not all stiff upper lip!

Three months’ “shake-and-bake” officer training at the Britannia Royal Naval College back in 1978 produced a great batch of new Women’s Royal Naval Officers.

You can see that parades featured large – and it could be perhaps an hour standing around with those winter winds blowing up skirts.  We all had full sets of cold weather gear: thermal vests and short “long johns”.  The problem was when the weather was so bad that they cancelled the outdoor parade so we had to strip off the thermals in no time flat – which also meant grappling with complicated collar studs.  Where did they get the idea that still dressing up for the last century was a mark of leadership potential?

The great and the good, the Admirals and Director WRNS, came to inspect the turn-out and precision footwork.

Behind the scenes there was a bit more fun: taking our feet off the ground for a flight in the College’s helo.  I just wish I had an image of the ballroom dancing classes we took in preparation for all the future wardroom Balls– there was so much laughter at the dreadful footwork that some were thrown out for being too disruptive.

And the rehearsal for the end-of-term Passing Out Parade was another traditional time for different dressing up – its difficult to see which were the real women and which were just for the morning.

On parade 2 On parade Passing out parade rehearsal Butter wouldn't melt Close inspection Dressed for Helo flight