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Famous Author served as Wren during WW11

Relaxing with her colleagues in the gardens of a grand Liverpool mansion, the young Shropshire woman had already been making a name for herself in the literary world, but now was engaged in vital war work. 

Her pals knew her as “Pargie.” But she was to gain international renown under the pen name of Ellis Peters, an acclaimed author whose most familiar works are perhaps the medieval Cadfael novels about a sleuthing monk in Shrewsbury, which were turned into a television series. 

The picture of the young Edith Pargeter – she’s back right, sitting in Greenbank Gardens, Greenbank House, in 1944 – is carried in a new book called “A History Of Women’s Lives In Liverpool” by Gill Rossini. 

Edith was of course not a Liverpudlian, having been born in Horsehay and having worked in a chemist’s shop in Dawley. But she is used in Rossini’s book as an example of a woman who came to Liverpool as part of the war effort. 

Rossini says she enlisted in the Wrens – the Women’s Royal Naval Service – in 1940 and thanks to her typewriting skills was assigned as a teleprinter operator, stationed at first in Devonport. 

A History of Women’s Lives In Liverpool 

She was later one of the personnel who moved to Liverpool to work in the Western Approaches headquarters at Derby House, overseeing hundreds of convoys, with her colleagues moving wooden pieces representing ships on a huge map of the ocean.

She may have been billeted at Greenbank House, or nearby Westfield, but in any event she and her friends used Greenbank Park in the city for leisure. 

“Throughout the war Pargie, as she was known, continued to write, and in 1942 published She Went To War, a novel in the epistolary style telling the story of a young woman who joins the Wrens and is posted to Liverpool.

“Pargeter later revealed that the background setting of the story was taken directly from her observations of the war around her as it was happening in Liverpool, and it gives wonderfully vivid insights into her life there,” says Rossini.

Edith would have shared a room with a dozen or more women and was known as a diligent and able worker. 

“By the time she was awarded the British Empire Medal on January 1, 1944, she had obtained the rank of Petty Officer.” 

“A History Of Women’s Lives In Liverpool” is published by Pen & Sword and costs £14.99.