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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).