Wendy Hogarth (née Jones) celebrated her 100th Birthday on March 9, 2023

Wendy joined the WRNS in September 1942. Because she had good School Certificate results which included maths and physics, she was able to become an Air Radio Mechanic (ARM). After several months training, in May 1943 she was posted to the Fleet Air Arm section at RAF Defford (on the Croome Court estate in Worcestershire). RAF Defford (a joint RAF/RN station and known to the Wrens as HMS Daedalus) was a ‘secret station’ and the main station in Britain for development of airborne radar during WW2 and the Cold War. It carried out flight trials for the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) which had moved to Malvern (about 20 miles away) in May 1942. Wendy was one of a small group of about 20 Wrens most of whom were ARMs and had been specially selected to work with radar equipment.

Wendy was at RAF Defford until March 1944 when, having learnt how to service the new Air to Surface Vessel (ASVX) radar, she was posted to various Fleet Air Arm Squadrons. She left RAF Defford with many regrets as in February 1944, she met George Hogarth, a dashing young pilot from Edinburgh who had recently been posted to Defford. Wendy and George married in September 1944. George died in 2011.

After VE Day, Wendy was demobbed and when WW2 ended, George returned to RAF Defford to continue airborne radar flight trials. They lived near RAF Defford until George was demobbed in 1946 and then, in 1947, set up home in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.  Wendy still lives in the house they bought in 1956. Wendy spent her time bringing up their son (who died in 2017) and two daughters and working for various national and local charities. Many years later, she became a secretary in a local primary school but still continued with her charity work.

In 1958, the Worcestershire Branch of the Association of Wrens was established, Wendy being one of the founder members. Wendy was chairman of the Branch for many years and represented the Branch at events such as the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of the Women’s Royal Naval Service in 1977. The Branch was formally closed in 2006 after nearly 50 years and their Standard was presented to Worcester Cathedral during the Remembrance Service in November 2006 where it remains in St George’s Chapel. As well as being Chairman of the Worcestershire Branch, Wendy kept in touch with ex-Wrens she had met during her training and those who were stationed at RAF Defford (HMS Daedalus). She organised reunions at her home in Bromsgrove or at RAF Defford and encouraged ex-Wrens to write about their experiences during WW2 and afterwards. Many of these articles were published in The Wren.

Wendy is a member of the Defford Airfield Heritage Group and is included in the ‘Women at RAF Defford’ exhibition at RAF Defford Museum housed in a restored WW2 hospital building at Croome Court (now owned by the National Trust). In 2015, Wendy loaned hers and George’s uniforms to the museum where they are permanently on display for all to enjoy.

Wendy celebrated her birthday with a party for 80 family and friends at Avoncroft Museum of Buildings in Bromsgrove. Guests included her six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

Dr Jenifer Harding née Hogarth (Wendy’s daughter)

 

Early in 1943, my last year at school, I was busy taking entrance exams for University (no UCCA then – one had to pass the entrance exam set by the establishment of one’s choice), when it was announced that ‘further education’ would no longer postpone call-up for War Work. Instead, direction into War Work of some kind would happen as soon as the individual reached the age of 18, even if that happened in the middle of a term. Consequently, the education authorities announced that any place gained would be honoured after the War ended. This gave the advantage that until one actually reached 18 it was possible to volunteer for the Service of one’s choice, rather than be directed. Therefore I very happily applied to join the ‘Wrens’ – something I had been wishing I could do anyway. I attended an interview at the nearest Naval Recruiting Office (in Birmingham) passed a medical and was instructed to report to the WRNS ‘new entry’ centre at Mill Hill (London) on 18th August, 1943, together with a school-friend (Jeanne). It was good to have a companion as I had never been to London before (home was the ‘Royal Borough of Sutton Coldfield’, as it was then known – in Warwickshire, close to Birmingham). 

 The Mill Hill building was brand-new, having been commissioned by the Medical Research Council as its new H.Q., but had been taken over by the R.N. on completion as its base for new female recruits. Here we were ‘inducted’ into the Navy, being instructed in its history and organisation and our place in it (small!). Also we learned some naval terminology – e.g. all land bases were known as ‘ships’ and given appropriate names (so we were now in ‘HMS Pembroke III’ and if we left it we were said to be ‘going ashore’), our rooms were called ‘cabins’, the floors were ‘decks’ – and so on. We were broken into the 4 hourly ‘Watch’ system by ‘swabbing the decks’ (i.e. the floors of the building) at 6AM daily for the first week. 

 At that time the WRNS was largely a volunteer force (the recruiting posters said ‘Join the WRNS and free a man for the fleet’), not compulsory, so those who changed their minds about joining could just go home without being charged with desertion – though of course, they would then be directed into whatever War Work was needed at the time. 

 For the first fortnight we were known as ‘PRO – Wrens’ and issued with blue overalls only – not to waste uniform on possible leavers. We had daily sessions of squad drill until we could mostly keep together – annoying how many folk seem to have two left feet! Also we learned of the various categories we might be drafted into – there was always a great demand for ‘Cooks and Stewards’ (for both WRNS & RN quarters), but also a number of more interesting jobs, such as radio and radar mechanics, torpedo and gunnery mechanics, weather forecasters, photographers, etc. and the highest pinnacle – ‘boat crew’ (only for small boats ferrying people, post & goods to and from ship to shore.) Eventually uniform was issued – jacket & skirt, ‘bell-bottoms’ and many shirts for ‘workers’, white shirts for office & ‘dress-use’, woollen black stockings and black shoes. The stockings were quickly replaced by lisle ones and later by nylons when they became available. We were also issued with seaman’s jerseys, but there was only one size in stock and the personnel ranged from size 10 to 20! 

 Like others who had been taking science subjects in the VI form, Jeanne and I were told we would be trained as Radar Mechanics – though ‘one or two’ would be drafted to a mysterious ‘ship’ known as Pembroke V – usually referred to as ‘P5’ – this turned out to be Bletchley Park! 

 Our training would start with the autumn term at either Battersea or Chelsea Technical Colleges (I went to one, Jeanne to the other), learning the theory of the necessary circuitry (use of thermionic valves, resistors & capacitors, etc.) and also the practise of soldering, welding and filing metal to the nearest 1/1000 inch. Our quarters were to be on the Thames Embankment – initially in an ex-luxury flat, which had large rooms with wood-block floors – one of which became our bathroom – fitted with 6 baths (quite a shock)! Later we moved a short distance to Crosby Hall – the site of Sir Thomas Moore’s home. This was on the no.11 bus route into the centre of London, which we took with some trepidation at first, asking the conductor to tell us when we had reached Piccadilly – to which the reply was ‘just look for hordes of Yanks!’ 

 We were then given Christmas leave, after which we were to report to ‘HMS Ariel’ a Fleet Air Arm training camp near Warrington, where we would be for a 3 month course. Here we were introduced to the actual radar equipment of the type used in small ships and aircraft – this consisted of oscilloscopes and other similar ‘metal boxes’ containing the transmission and receiver circuits, together with suitable aerials (radar works by sending out a radio wave that may – or may not – bounce back from objects such as ships or aircraft). 

 As this was a FAA base, we also learned where to fit the equipment into various aircraft, including the very ancient Swordfish. Here we were housed in long Nissen huts, with two rows of double-tiered bunks, each with a small chest of drawers alongside. Meals were served in canteen huts in two shifts of approx 15 minutes – hasty, but the food was good. Some evenings there was entertainment, including films, or one could take ‘a run ashore’ to the nearby village, where there was a Forces Canteen, known as ‘the Hot Spot’ (which always had a roaring fire – welcome on the cold winter nights). On Saturday mornings we always had to ‘clean ship’, divided into teams for various jobs and sometimes wearing gas masks – ‘for practise’. On Sunday mornings we had to dress for inspection before Church Parade, then had a good lunch before being free to ‘go ashore’. 

 At the end of the course most of us passed and were made ‘Leading Wren Radar Mechanics’. We were asked for out preferences as to where to be posted – I asked for Scotland, so was naturally sent to Portsmouth! Also, I was to report to HMS Hornet – the Coastal Forces Base there (not FAA). My rail warrant was made out to Portsmouth Harbour Station, with instructions to take the nearby ferry to Gosport and thence to Alverstoke – ‘seatime’ at last! Our quarters there were erstwhile private houses, taken over by the RN. The radar workshop was on the Gosport side of the harbour, from which a high footbridge (known as ‘Pneumonia Bridge’) went to the Coastal Forces moorings (Motor Torpedo Boats and Motor Launches, both similar to Air-Sea Rescue Launches, but larger). Here I reported daily, working on faulty radar equipment brought in from any of said boats, or sometimes on the boats themselves. This suited me fine – more like ‘proper Navy’ than the FAA. 

 Incidentally, Jeanne – also now Leading Wren Radar – was posted to HMS Collingwood, a training camp near Fareham (not to my taste). 

 After a few weeks at ‘Hornet’ a flotilla of American MTBs – known as PT Boats – arrived and I was detailed to check their equipment (to their surprise). I was surprised to find that they had fridges and coffee machines on board – these ‘soft Yanks’! I later learnt that one of their officers was a young J. F. Kennedy, but I never met him. 

 Soon after this a brand-new flotilla of 9 MTBs, the 30th Flotilla, arrived and I was told I was to be the Radar Mechanic on their base staff and I was to move with them if/when they were moved elsewhere. There were two other Wrens – one on torpedoes and one on gunnery. The boats themselves had crews of about a dozen and two officers – a skipper (usually an RN Lieutenant) and a ‘No.2’ (usually a wartime Sub-Lt. – known as ‘wavy-navy’). They all slept ashore – no room on board. 

 The MTBs usually went out on patrol (down the Channel and over to the Dutch coast) at night, returning early morning when the crews went ashore to sleep. Sometimes the patrols were uneventful, sometimes they met opposition. It was then my job to go aboard each boat in turn, check their radar sets and either report OK or take the set back to the workshop to repair. 

 Portsmouth Harbour is large, but it gradually began to fill up with a variety of vessels until it was said it was possible to walk ‘across the water’ from one side to the other (i.e. across numerous decks). At some time in May or maybe early June (’44) Admiral Ramsey (CO Portsmouth) announced that all leave was cancelled until further notice and particular care should be taken about ‘careless talk’ – so we all knew what was coming, but not when. On June 2nd the 30th Flotilla and its Base Staff were told that we were to be moved to the East Coast and that Lowestoft (most easterly point in GB) was to be our new base. The Base Staff travelled by rail, arriving at Lowestoft in the afternoon of June 5th. We were amazed to see huge numbers of army vehicles parked along the streets and in every available spot in the town. Next morning (June 6th) we woke to see not one! D-day had arrived! 

 Boats of our Flotilla were amongst those patrolling the Channel before and after the landings and eventually arrived in Lowestoft Harbour (now ‘HMS Mantis’), formerly home of the herring fleet, which had been moved up North. Thereafter we all settled into our routine – the Boats out at night and involved in a number of fracas off the Dutch coast (fortunately only one mortality) and the Base Staff keeping their equipment in good order (radio, radar, torpedoes, guns, engines) during the day, while the crew were ashore. I acquired a bicycle to go down to the harbour each day, hoping not to hit the moment when the bridge over the river opened to let vessels upstream for repairs. While in Lowestoft I saw snow (and barbed wire) on the beach for the first time! We still attended Church Parade each Sunday, but were eventually free to visit Norwich (for market and theatre) on a Saturday. Later a group of us (male & female) went sailing on nearby Oulton Broad at weekends. At not infrequent parties I ‘discovered’ gin and lime and actually smoked one cigarette! We had a good Christmas dance where the Wrens were allowed to wear ‘civvies’ for the first time. One MTB crew went ashore in France and brought back tiny bottles of French scent for each of Wrens (I kept mine for years!). 

 Our area gradually became more peaceful and there was talk of the Flotilla going out East, possibly to Ceylon. Meanwhile, I was sent on a revision course for a fortnight at ‘HMS Collingwood’ (where Jeanne was now on the permanent staff) – a more ‘stroppy’ establishment than our friendly base. While I was there VE day suddenly came upon us, so I missed all the wild celebrations. Moreover, on my return to Lowestoft, the 30th MTB Flotilla had disappeared – possibly to go east as half planned – but no information as to my future. However, it was high summer and I enjoyed a more relaxed routine for a couple of months, including an enjoyable trip on sea-trials with one of the remaining boats, recently refitted. I was then sent back to Collingwood for a course on ‘big ship radar’ and was told I would be drafted to HMS Caroline, which I discovered to be in Belfast. 

 I was given rail passes to London, then overnight to Stranraer, followed by ferry to Larne and so on to Belfast. The crossing left at 7am and was the roughest I ever experienced. I was lucky to survive the very yellow smoked fish served on board for breakfast! 

 I was allocated quarters in a private house, with two other Wrens, with a very hospitable family, where we were over-fed! Full breakfast, of course, and ‘tea’ that usually consisted of soup, main course & pudding – followed by tea and cake (no refusal allowed). I was sent to Harland & Wolf’s shipyard, to assist in fitting the radar cabin with new equipment on HMS Warrior  – then an aircraft carrier – so I had moved from the Navy’s smallest vessels to the largest! Being ‘down below’ we became very conscious of the thump when the aircraft catcher came down on the deck above after doing its job. I travelled to the yard by tram, with a large number of workers each morning – so many that some always climbed on to the back of the tram, clinging on outside! 

 We were free at weekends and I managed one trip to Dublin, where I was shocked to see beggars at the station, with barefoot children – not at all common over here at that time. Because Eire was producing plenty of unrationed dairy goods some folk made a point of bringing butter back to N. Ireland – including one lady who tucked it into the top of her dress to hide. It arrived in liquid form! The War now being over we were allowed to wear ‘civvies’ at weekends and were nearly thrown out when one of the other Wrens wore a green costume. It seems that we were in an orange household! There were no obvious ‘troubles’ then, so Belfast seemed quite a nice city. 

 I was eventually demobbed in April ’46 and returned to normality and Cambridge University in the autumn. 

In the Spring Edition of The Wren Maureen Milne wrote about her Naval Family and mentioned her Mother served in the WRNS in 1943-44. Her posting was to the French Battleship Paris moored in Devonport.  

I am also the offspring of a Naval Family my Father having served for 40+ years in the RN. As a boy he would have attended a Naval School eventually joining the RN as a Naval Writer; working his way through the ranks to Lieut Commander and Retiring in the 1930`s.   He was recalled to the RN in 1939 to take charge as Paymaster in HMS Drake. During his time in the RN before retirement he was away on 5 year commissions leaving my Mother alone in Plymouth to look after my considerably older siblings. I recollect him telling me about one voyage to the Galapagos.         

What has spurred me in to writing is Maureen`s account of her Mother`s posting to the PARIS.   I was born in Plymouth in 1924, lived through the Blitz and my home was destroyed, left School at 16 joined the RN at 17 having obtained my Father`s written permission to join (as a Writer in the Pay Division) so I volunteered to join the Boats Crew!   This was 1942-I was trained a HMS  Drake and then deployed to Flagstaff Steps then to No.4 side Basin in the Dockyard where on the River Tamar side was berthed the PARIS (hence the photo).   Why this was taken I do not know or why.   I was Boat`s Crew Coxswain by that time. 

I was demobbed in 1945 and was lucky enough to get excellent jobs after including one in  a Marine Research Laboratory where I landed up marrying the young Marine Biologist Boss. 

In 1978 I founded the first Language School in Plymouth teaching English as a Foreign Language -joined the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce and became Chairman in 1988.   One of my duties was to attend various Civic invitations-one of which turned out to be an Invitation on board a Battleship -the Head vessel at the time of the Nato fleet visiting Devonport under the wing of the training arm FOST.   It was moored alongside No.4 Basin on the Tamar side and was a German Battleship where I was to shake hands and socialise with the Captain (I`m not sure if he was an Admiral).  

Wren Pat Briggs

Pat was a Radar Wren from 1957 to 1962. She joined the WRNS as a bright-eyed youngster, and after her basic training in Fort Purbrook, she received her radar training in HMS HARRIER, and returned to serve there a second time in 1959 – 60.   A while ago, Pat returned to Dale, Pembrokeshire, with her life-long friend, Dot Daulby, to take one of their regular trips down Memory Lane. They had met and become close friends when serving together in the late 1950’s, in HMS HARRIER, which was the Royal Naval Aircraft Direction Centre, at Kete on the Dale Peninsula.

Pat’s life in HARRIER was busy, colourful and fun-packed. She and Dot met at Kete through their shared work as Wren Radar Plotters and enjoyed a full and fulfilling life there pursuing their chosen careers. They both left Kete when it closed in 1960 and went, together, to HMS Dryad. They described how they met, “just clicked” and became close and loyal friends over the years, meeting regularly thereafter, although they lived a long way from each other. They agreed that each time they met they picked up just where they left off. Dot was Pat’s bridesmaid when she and Gordon, her beloved Naval Officer beau, were married in Portsmouth after leaving Kete, and she returned to her homeland of Wales, ending her days in Swansea in 2022.

Pat and Dot served in HARRIER between 1958 and 1960 as Wrens, on the Staff, teaching Radar Plotting to sailors before they went to sea to carry out Radar Operator roles in ships’ Operations Rooms. They also taught radar to RN Officers training to become Aircraft Direction Officers, and Meteorology Officers. Pat was prepared for her teaching role by attending a Radar course in HARRIER in 1957, which provided her with the necessary skills to run exercises and to teach and coach trainees in Radar Plotting. When Pat and Dot underwent their radar training their course comprised of ten to a dozen Wrens on an intensive course which lasted for two months. When under training they were required to march to and from their classes, but once they were on the Staff, and members of the Ship’s Company, they could just walk to work. Dot, whose home town was Swansea, brought her bicycle down, eventually, so she would be able to make the journey more quickly between the Wrens’ Quarters and the Models Rooms where they worked.

After her training at Kete, Pat was sent to Dryad in Portsmouth, but she wanted to be posted back when she learned that Gordon, her “intended”, had been posted to Kete. She would write each week to the Drafting Office in Portsmouth, and in six weeks, she was indeed posted back! HARRIER’s Chief Wren May was clearly a supportive lady, who would ask Gordon for his duties, so that she could schedule Pat to be on duty at the same time, thus affording them time off together. Gordon was a Petty Officer by then, and eventually went on to be Commissioned, and rose to the rank of Lt. Cdr. as a Gunnery Officer.

In their careers Pat and Dot worked in Dryad and Harrier carrying out their Radar teaching roles. It was no mean feat for Wrens to be teaching RN Sailors and Officers about Radar and how to use it at sea. They were often outranked, and back in the day, it was unusual for women to have such mastery of a complex technical subject that they were competent to train others – the military environment was an exception in that regard. Needs must, though, especially post World War II, when the Wrens had been recruited to fulfil such specialised roles, in HARRIER, in Radar and Meteorology. They acquitted themselves incredibly well, blazing the trail for future professional women to work in what had been traditionally male roles and needless to say, as a result, a good deal of teasing and sending-up went on, between female trainers and male trainees. They say it was all in good part!

One of Pat’s jobs was to be an Outer Wren Plotter which meant she reported the ships on the far end of the grid. Early on in HARRIER, whilst still familiarising herself with the role and developing her confidence, she was unsure of the task, and didn’t quite do as well as she should have done. The Instructor Lt. Cdr Hayes asked “Who was the outer reporter?” and just as Pat raised her hand, the lights went out, and he proceeded to chastise her roundly throughout the lights-out. When they came back on again, he said with a little twinkle in his eye “Weren’t you the lucky one?” because she had been spared the embarrassment of the faces of everyone else watching whilst she was told off!

Pat recalled how the RP Wrens would be invited to fly in the aircraft with the pilots from HMS GOLDCREST at Brawdy, for the experience of seeing what the pilots did, and hearing the HARRIER Radar Plotters directing them, over their head-sets. They were taken up in Venoms, twin tailed, twin engined jets and found the experience exciting and invaluable. Through this familiarisation they came to appreciate more clearly the vital importance of the work they were doing. Pat laughingly described how she had been warned sternly that she must not press the ejector seat button, whatever she did, so she sat with her arms folded for the whole flight!

Back at Kete, they would wait each day for the pipe to tell them whether or not the planes would be flying. If the verdict was Negative Flying, they would think “Good-ee!” as they would then have a day knitting and drinking coffee, for which they received much ribbing. They knitted sweaters – all the Wrens did – and there was a superstition that they should never knit one for their boyfriend or the relationship would finish! A superstition which was not founded for our Pat as she knitted one for Gordon, whom she eventually married.

Whilst Pat was in HARRIER, the Commanding Officer was Captain Morrow, and she also remembers Chief Wren May, Lt. Cdr. Hayes and a wonderful civilian who worked on camp, called Aloysius. Pat has a fond memory of him giving her and her husband to be, a triangular laundry basket which was surplus to requirement, and Pat still takes pleasure in using to this day!

When serving at Kete, Pat lived on the camp in the WRNS quarters. Wrens fulfilled such roles as radar plotter training, meteorology forecasting and teaching, signals, operating the telephone exchange, administrative and clerical work and stewarding and catering duties. Radar Wrens worked five days a week, from 9 until 4 and in addition they would have duties to fulfil in the Wrens’ Quarters and on the Wrens’ Gate. The Wrens’ Quarters were at the end of the camp away from the main buildings where they worked, and Wrens would have to pass the Ratings’ Quarters to reach their own Messes. The Wrens’ Gate was an additional gate which separated the Ratings’ Quarters from the Wrens’ Quarters, to which returning Wrens had to present themselves, hand in their identity card, and pick it up again when they went out. Each month the Wrens took their turn at manning the gate and they all shared the tasks within their own Messes. Pat said that when she was a bit overhung after a night out in the local pub, The Griffin, it was sometimes a struggle to find the right card to present!

Standard Military protocols were carried out as usual, at Kete, and weekly Divisions would be a part of those routines, as were rounds. Within the Mess, the Wrens had to keep their living space clean, tidy and ready for weekly rounds. They had big polishers which they used to buff up the floors and they would put newspapers down on the newly polished floors once done, before rounds, so that inspection would be a success. When walking over the newspapers, thus avoiding walking on the floor, they would spot articles which they had somehow missed when reading the newspapers earlier, so each foray across the floor yielded fresh news as they stopped to read the floor coverings!

Another aspect of life at HARRIER was the colour of the water. When running a bath they had to step into murky brown-coloured water which was clean-ish but not very inviting! There were no sink or bath plugs unless they brought their own and if they were not careful and dropped their soap it would slither away never to be seen again. The bathrooms and the Messes as a whole, were also singularly cold as the Wrennery was at the farthest-most part of the camp, close to the cliff edge, and subject to the cruelty of the Atlantic gales and the sea spray, fog and mist which would blow up on to the camp in the frequent high winds, making the Messes very cold and damp in winter. When going to bed on cold winter nights with hot water bottles and bed socks, the girls would also put their heavy greatcoats on their beds to keep themselves warm.

The Leading Wren had a cabin at the end of each Mess, to keep an eye on the ten mess-mates who lived within. Pat recalls that when she was made up to Leading Wren, she didn’t want to move out of the main Mess into the single cabin, which she felt was rather cut off and lonely but the cabins were a little more generous and private than the large shared main Mess space. If anyone wanted to contact someone in the Mess there were a couple of telephones, one at each end of the long corridor where all the Mess accommodation linked. If the phone rang, whoever was passing would feel obliged to answer and then they had to find the Wren, wherever she was, which could mean quite a trek. If she wasn’t in, they then had to go back to let the Exchange know, and replace the receiver. It was described as “Quite a palaver!”

Pat remembered with a laugh, how, on more than one occasion the male Ratings would infiltrate past the barbed wire and boundary fence, under cover of darkness, and peep through the Wrens’ Mess windows! They would shine a torch under their chins and it would give them quite a fright as they looked really ghoulish. Once discovered, the Wrens then had to attend an identity parade – which was embarrassing, to say the least – and the Ratings always got away with it as all their Messmates swore that they had been in all night!

Pat and Dot both recalled their embarrassment at having to retrieve their underwear from the mast after it had been stolen from their washing lines, hoisted up and displayed for all to see! Humour was central to life at Kete and Pat recalls how the Orders of the Day, on one occasion, described her as Leading Wren Fainter Briggs before assigning her daily duty to her. This is because she had been prone to passing out, particularly after she and Gordon had spent some late nights out on the town!

The social facilities available in HARRIER offered plenty of choice. A wonderful Cinema, Theatre productions and Sods’ Operas, Variety Shows, a wide range of Sports including cricket, tennis, deck hockey, squash and badminton, and Sports Days, Ship’s Company Dances, Scottish Country Dancings and craft activities. There was a church on the camp, with a Padre and a choir, in which Dot sang, wearing a blue Surplice. The Navy opened the base for Navy Days for the community to come in and see what went on there every summer, and all the Wrens were actively involved in participating or organising these wonderful events.

On Saturdays the Harrier Wrens would take outings on the Pussers’ Bus into Haverfordwest, which was quite the place to go. The town had two cinemas then, and Ocky Whites Department Store and the Fish and Chip shop. In those days, Haverfordwest was much smaller and less developed. At weekends, driving lessons would take place in the town, taking advantage of the many steep hills to practise gear changing and hill starts. Whilst at Kete, many Wrens, including Dot, learned to drive. The driving Instructor would come to pick them up at the HARRIER Main Gate in a Morris Minor, and they would to go Haverfordwest where their skills at hill starts and three point turns on the steep town streets would be challenged.

Pat rarely used the bus because Gordon had a car – a beautiful Zephyr Zodiac – so he and Pat would take friends into Haverfordwest as an alternative to taking the Pusser’s transport. The bus would regularly scrape or get stuck in the narrow bridge just past Dale on the way to town so Pat and Gordon and their friends were spared that excitement. They were also able to go further afield on their weekends off thanks to the car. It was a wonderful additional route to freedom.

In good weather, Pat, Gordon and Dot would visit Marloes beach during their time off and clearly it was a favourite place to go. They also participated in community activities such as potato picking at the local farms and recalled boiling some of the potatoes they had picked in the kettle in their Mess. These were two ladies who obviously believed in immersing themselves in life to the full. Pat recalls being dropped off at the Griffin after having been potato picking, and sitting outside on the sea wall, with Dot, easing their backs and spending every penny they had earned on beers! They would also call into the Griffin on runs ashore after having been out sailing.

There was no village shop in those days in Dale, but a little van would come around selling meat. Jess and Jan James, friends of Pat and Gordon, lived in the Pink Cottage on the Brig in Dale, which they knew as Artie’s Cottage, until they could be housed in married quarters. Pat and Gordon would spend weekends there sometimes, with them. Pat recalls how the boys made a very alcoholic punch one weekend, which they put into the fridge, and it turned the meat off, by the following morning. It was not just one joint of meat which had been spoiled but the meat for the forthcoming week, so it was an expensive and powerful punch!

Pat and Dot both agreed that Kete was “absolutely wonderful!” They said that it was like being on holiday when they were serving here, which aligns with the memories of so many fellow Wrens and RN personnel whose stories relate their life at Kete. Clearly it is a place which cemented many life long friendships and marriages, and Pat and Dot’s friendship bears witness to this. To this day, Pat has an eye for beautiful language and thoughtful muse. Two of the most lovely passages she has shared with me made me smile. She said “This is a lovely saying from the late Dot’s book.

A smile is a curve that sets a lot of things straight.

and she described Kete as   “Lie i enaid gael llonydd”  which translates as a place for the soul to find peace.  Amen to that.

By Pamela Haines