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.

WOMEN ON THE HOME FRONT 1939 - 1945 (A 13209) The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS): Wren Armourers, whose jobs included the overhaul, maintenance and serving of guns, pictured testing a Lewis gun at Lee-on-Solent Naval Air Station. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193235

(A 13209) The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS): Wren Armourers, whose jobs included the overhaul, maintenance and serving of guns, pictured testing a Lewis gun at Lee-on-Solent Naval Air Station. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193235

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE. MAINTENANCE WRENS MAINTAIN SMALL ARMS UP TO 3 POUNDER HOTCHKISS FOR ALL TYPES OF SMALL CRAFT - MTB, MGB, ML, MOS AND MASB. THESE GIRLS KNOWN AS QO (QUICK-FIRING ORDNANCE) WRENS BOARD THE BOATS AS SOON AS THEY COME IN AFTER AN OPERATION, TO STRIP AND CLEAN THE LEWIS AND 0.5 VICKERS MACHINE GUNS. (A 12187) A QO Wren removing a 0.5 Vickers machine gun turret for servicing. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145632

A QO Wren removing a 0.5 Vickers machine gun turret for servicing. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145632

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE. MAINTENANCE WRENS MAINTAIN SMALL ARMS UP TO 3 POUNDER HOTCHKISS FOR ALL TYPES OF SMALL CRAFT - MTB, MGB, ML, MOS AND MASB. THESE GIRLS KNOWN AS QO (QUICK-FIRING ORDNANCE) WRENS BOARD THE BOATS AS SOON AS THEY COME IN AFTER AN OPERATION, TO STRIP AND CLEAN THE LEWIS AND 0.5 VICKERS MACHINE GUNS. (A 12193) A QO Wren stripping and cleaning a Lewis Gun on board a coastal craft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145638

A QO Wren stripping and cleaning a Lewis Gun on board a coastal craft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145638

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE. MAINTENANCE WRENS MAINTAIN SMALL ARMS UP TO 3 POUNDER HOTCHKISS FOR ALL TYPES OF SMALL CRAFT - MTB, MGB, ML, MOS AND MASB. THESE GIRLS KNOWN AS QO (QUICK-FIRING ORDNANCE) WRENS BOARD THE BOATS AS SOON AS THEY COME IN AFTER AN OPERATION, TO STRIP AND CLEAN THE LEWIS AND 0.5 VICKERS MACHINE GUNS. (A 12189) A QO Wren stripping and cleaning Lewis Guns on board a coastal craft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145634

(A 12189) A QO Wren stripping and cleaning Lewis Guns on board a coastal craft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145634

WOMEN'S ROYAL NAVAL SERVICE. MAINTENANCE WRENS MAINTAIN SMALL ARMS UP TO 3 POUNDER HOTCHKISS FOR ALL TYPES OF SMALL CRAFT - MTB, MGB, ML, MOS AND MASB. THESE GIRLS KNOWN AS QO (QUICK-FIRING ORDNANCE) WRENS BOARD THE BOATS AS SOON AS THEY COME IN AFTER AN OPERATION, TO STRIP AND CLEAN THE LEWIS AND 0.5 VICKERS MACHINE GUNS. (A 12198) Installing the 0.5 Vickers machine gun into the gun turret after servicing it. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145643

(A 12198) Installing the 0.5 Vickers machine gun into the gun turret after servicing it. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205145643

WRENS working a pom-pom, and not the cheerleading kind

WRENS working a pom-pom, and not the cheer-leading kind

wrens-rn-20mm-motor-launch

The WRENs were disbanded as a special corps when and integrated into the regular Royal Navy in 1993.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as GUNS.com, Univesity of Guns, Outdoor Hub, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the US federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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