WRENing it up, WWII Coastal Forces style
The Women’s Royal Naval Service was formed in the last couple years of the Great War, and grew to some 5,000 auxiliarists by Armistice Day. Shortly afterward, the group was disbanded until Hitler came a calling.
Standing back up in 1939, the renewed force grew much larger in their Second World War, swelling to some 75,000 at the corps’s peak in late 1944. (Note, this is twice the current strength of the combined active and reserve members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines)
Besides such misogynistic tasks as administrative, clerical, food service and communication support work, a group of women were known as Quick Ordnance (QO) WRENs. These “QO girls” or “Ordnance Wrens” were gunners mates in all but name, specializing in maintaining small arms up to 3-pounder Hotchkiss mounts and were tasked with cleaning, inspecting and repairing QF 2-pounder (40mm) and QF 1-pounder pom-poms, Lewis and Vickers machine guns, as well as rifles and handguns.
As such, they provided invaluable support to the fleet of thousands of Motor Launch (ML), Coastal Motor Boat (CMB), Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB), Motor Anti-submarine Boat (MASB), Motor Gunboat (MGB), Steam Gunboat (SGB), Fast Patrol Boat (FPB) and Fast Training Boat (FTB) craft of the Coastal Forces.
For the lads behind those guns, battling German U-boats and S-boats up and down the coast and in the Channel, they owed their lived to the Wrens.
The WRENs were disbanded as a special corps when and integrated into the regular Royal Navy in 1993.