A gathering of 65 current and former servicewomen was held at Chicksands to mark the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS).
Following an opening address from Chicksands’ Senior Naval Officer, Commander Rachel Smallwood, those assembled were treated to music from military musicians, a performance of the ‘Women of the Waves’ March, and afternoon tea.
The event closed with a speech by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Ms Ruth Bell MBE, highlighting the links between Royalty and the WRNS, followed by a Sea Cadet Corps display and Sunset Ceremony.
Commander Smallwood said: “Naval Servicewomen serving today are part of a 100-year tradition of women serving with and, more recently, in the Royal Navy. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have gone before, consistently proving their professionalism and ability to demonstrate that women can be offered the same opportunities as men in the RN.
“And it’s because of those who have gone before me that I’m here today, not only as the Senior Naval Officer in JFC Chicksands and in the Joint Intelligence Training Group, but as a married woman and also as a mother.
“Both Servicemen and Servicewomen all make different choices about balancing our families, interests, and careers. Some don’t have children, some decide to leave the Service when they have a family, and some decide to take a slower career path to pursue family or other interests, but the point is that because of those who have trodden the path before, Naval Servicewomen today at least have those choices. We have opportunities that we can choose to take or leave.”
The WRNS was formed on November 28, 1917, employing women to work in shore-based roles, freeing male sailors for service on ships during the First World War.
In 1990 the first WRNS personnel were officially allowed to serve on front-line vessels, and were in theatre during the Gulf War of 1990. In the early 1990s the WRNS was merged into the Royal Navy, and female sailors now fulfil exactly the same roles as their male colleagues.
The ‘Women of the Waves’ March, composed in honour of the WRNS 100 Commemoration, was first performed by the Massed Bands of HM Royal Marines, at the Royal Albert Hall for the Mountbatten Festival of Music in March.
Although this was not a fundraising event, £800 was raised, which will be split between the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) and the WRNS Benevolent Trust.