Registered Charity No. 257040 • Tel: 02392 725141

New Exhibition at Fleet Air Arm Museum

A new exhibition at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset is looking back over 250 years of women and the Royal Navy.

It tells the stories of some of the remarkable naval women who have served over the years.

Three years ago, the Government announced it would lift restrictions on women serving in ground close combat roles and now all roles across all the services are open to women.

Anonymous personnel

It was not until the First World War that women were officially allowed to serve on ships.

Exhibition curator Susan Dearing said: “One of the reasons that women were given the vote, was because of their war work in World War One because they were no longer these airheads who couldn’t be trusted not to be too emotional about things and I think, for a lot of women, it opened amazing opportunities which they probably wouldn’t have had.”

‘Pioneers and Professionals’ (Picture: Fleet Air Arm Museum).

Mary Owens joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service in 1942, as a radio mechanic aged just 20.

She said: “The worst job of all was putting new aerials onto aircraft that had the aerials going from front to back and they were made of wire so you had to bind them on and on a cold day you wouldn’t believe how cold and how your fingers froze onto it.”

Nowadays just over 9% of the Royal Navy is female, and with women now able to join the Royal Marines and the submarine service, there are no longer any limitations on where they can serve.

WRNS despatch riders from the 1940s (Picture: Fleet Air Arm Museum).
International Women's Day 2019 - Header Image

Lieutenant Commander Sacha Brooks from the Royal Navy presentation team said that she has “seen a lot of changes”: “Certainly, the flexibility in terms of being able to have children, and also to have a career either side and now working full-time – there are more opportunities for women now than maybe when the pioneers first started all those years ago.”

Organisers hope the exhibition will help visitors appreciate the hard work, bravery and struggle that helped women secure their equality in the Navy.