Edith Bruce Weames, née Townson
When I joined the WRNS in January 1977, my Aunt was so proud, I am sure she would have rejoined with me if she could. She never passed up the opportunity to tell everyone that she had been in the WRNS and now her niece had joined up. That is not to say that she didn’t cause me great embarrassment at times. In March 1977 whilst I was at HMS Pembroke doing my Writer training, there was an Open Day and my Mum, Dad, and late sister Tracey, who also joined up in 1980, came along with Aunt Edith in tow. She was just so excited I thought she was going to burst. I watched a poor photographer succumb to her demands to find a typewriter in the S&S Writer school, positioned me to one side of it and her to the other, and say, ‘there, the old and the young.’ As if my day could get any worse, bearing in mind I was only 17, we were walking to the Main Galley for lunch, and looked back to see that my Aunt Edith, who was bringing up the rear, telling anyone who would indulge in tales of her days in the WRNS, was no longer there. On borrowed time we eventually went in for lunch, without her, and reappeared to find her waiting for us. Feeling guilty, she said ‘not to worry’, she had enjoyed the most delicious lunch in the Wardroom, accompanying Captain Tippitt. Oh my goodness, I was mortified, how I had suffered that day, also with my Mum remarking in the cookery school about how unusual it was that all the cooks shared the same first name – Jack (JACk). And with Tracey being most indignant when asked if she would follow her sister into the WRNS, curtly responding ‘most definitely not, I do not take orders from anyone’. (Ha! fast forward 3 years)! My Dad, feeling my pain, virtually frogmarched my Mum and Aunt around for the rest of the day and I think he and I were both mighty relieved as they were fastened into the car and driven off at speed into the sunset.
Whilst I was at HMS Nelson Aunt Edith made a trip down to Portsmouth with her uniform packed into her suitcase, where she handed in to the RN Museum in the Dockyard for the WRNS section. In her element, yet again, she also managed to kill two birds with one stone, I am sure she must have been loitering with intent for hours, waiting in hope to see if she could get a glimpse of me, I worked down in the Dockyard at the Ship Maintenance Authority. The chances of her spotting me would have been pretty remote, but no, not only did I hear my name echoing off the walls of the dockyard, she also accosted my cousin, a Master at Arms leaving the dockyard as well. Bless her, she was so busy chattering away, I don’t think she noticed us escort her to Portsmouth Harbour Station and pop her on the train London bound. She would have been so happy, especially on her train journey home with her empty suitcase, telling all around her of her day out and meeting her nephew and niece who were both in the Royal Navy/WRNS. When my sister Tracey joined the WRNS and also served in Northern Ireland, Bruce and I were relegated from favourites, and no longer ‘stalked’ as Tracey topped the list especially as she used to work with Aunt Edith in London before joining the WRNS.
For all of her life Aunt Edith was so proud of her time in the WRNS. For many years, in fact, well into her mid 90’s she would attend the Cenotaph Remembrance Parade in her Wrens tartan kilt, she used to march but latterly would watch, she would always go up to Westminster to lay a cross in the Remembrance Garden, attend the Association of Wrens reunions when they were held in London and at 96 still attended the WRNS Carol Service each year, and when she was unable to manage the train alone, persuaded her neighbour into driving her there.
Edith was a fun Aunt, a strong and independent lady, clearly with lots of the traits that we former wrens and Women of the Royal Navy display. She loved to listen to the tales of younger generations at the reunions, but would always remind us that ‘of course, it wasn’t like that in my day’. She had her friend Peggy, who shared a cabin with her at HMS Duke in 1943, and they remained in contact for over 74 years. She was so, so proud of all of her family, blessing each of us with fun times and stories to tell of precious times spent with her, her Scottish roots and her service in the WRNS. Aunt Edith had written down and left me clear instructions of what she wanted to be put in the Wren Magazine, but I felt I had to add my own version of things too! It was most fitting that the funeral celebrant, Eileen Harvey, was a Wren, and ex MAA. Oh my goodness, it was meant to be. I can just see the proud beaming smile on my Aunt’s face.
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