Joan Allen (Nee Hale) died on 18th January 2022 – aged 101, following a fall and subsequently contracting pneumonia. Her close family were with her – she was bright and chatty to the end. Joan was born in Melbourn Cambridgeshire and applied to join the WRNS as war was rumbling. She seemed to be ignored and then just prior to her 21st birthday received a telegram requesting her to report to Greenwich Naval College as a Met Wren. She remembers being told to bring just one suitcase which she could carry by herself and suitable rainproof clothing. She remembers some of her contemporaries, who had been shorthand typists, who were being allocated to Station X – they had no idea that this was Bletchley Park. She remembers the first few weeks being very hard going – mainly kitchen work – up at 6.00 a.m and lots of scrubbing and preparation of vegetables – to weed out those without staying power! Joan volunteered for RNAS Donibristle on the North side of the Firth of Forth for 3 weeks training. She enjoyed her 3 weeks training – on the odd day off she was able to go to Edinburgh. She and her friend Valerie Connell were then transferred to Machrihanish on the West Coast of Scotland – and were amazed to be told they would be flying (very exciting and the first time ever!) they were the first female Wrens in the Met Office and had to go out onto the cliff on a 24 hour watch keeping system and do coded weather reports by Teleprinter. Her sleeping accommodation was at a hotel – The Dugdale Arms Hotel, which she says was very luxurious and a lovely sandy beach. She also had access to the officers fridge – which was very handy. Unfortunately the airstation was completed on time and she had to transfer back to concrete blocks for offices, and unheated bathrooms and not the comfort she had been used to! An admiralty Fleet Order came out saying Met Wrens were going to be offered places on the next officers training course at Greenwich and Joan was accepted. She was billeted at Mill Hill School – dining in the painted hall and served by stewards with white gloves. During this time Joan was also at RNAS Worthy Down near Winchester where Laurence Olivier was stationed (he did not mix with the lower ranks!). Joan studied hard and finished tied 1st place with an RN Officer. Her first posting was RNAS Lee on Solent where she met her husband Peter and they married in 1944. Joan was then transferred to the Admiralty and remained there until she left in 1945 (when pregnant). Her senior officer was a Commander Beatty who liked to keep the window open (very cool) to avoid shattered glass during air raids! Joan was involved in the hotel for many years following her time in the Wrens – it was a happy time for her and she had many stories to tell.
Dates of Service 3.11.1941 – 24.9.1945 Service Number 23037 Service history Merlin Landrail, RN College Greenwich, Daedalus, Admiralty (Met Office). Rank on leaving – Second Officer. Joan was one of the first two Met Wrens promoted from the ranks.
Source: Sally Wilkinson (Daughter)
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