WFWI has been contacted by Mandy Whitham and Janette Crisp with regards to finding Wrens from 1946 to 1981. Please read the letter below and contact them (listed at the end of the letter) if you are able to assist them with their project.
"I am writing as a veteran member of one great women's institution, the Wrens, to all the ladies of the Women's Institute. I'm looking for Wrens.
Thanks to Covid I was working from home during the first Lockdown but there were gaps in my day where I was ‘at a loose end’. I had difficulty in adjusting from a working day to a ‘stay at home for the sake of your health’ couple of months.
As I am an ex Wren, it occurred to me that now would be the time to undertake a project that I’d wanted to do for a long time – gather all the ‘class photos’ (known in the Royal Navy as Division photos) from the training school at HMS Dauntless, Reading and have a researchable database open to ex wrens. Over the years I had become aware that of the 30,000+ ladies who had gone through the gates of HMS Dauntless between 1946-1981, a large proportion had ‘lost’ their photos from that period. Some were as a result of household catastrophes – flood, fire etc. But the most heart-breaking were those that were deliberately destroyed when marriages broke up or left behind when families moved home.
I discovered that Wrens who joined post 1981 and who went through HMS Raleigh had an archive of class photos but there was nothing set up for HMS Dauntless. I know that all these photos are archived officially but the effort to track them down and then obtain a copy is way beyond the means or time-frame for most ladies. I wanted something that was supplied by Wrens for use by Wrens.
Within a day of starting to gather the photos I realized that this was much bigger than I had first anticipated. Not in terms of the possible number of photos (approximately 1300) but that there were wider implications for the use of all this research.
I was hit with a deluge of responses, so much so another Wren friend in London volunteered to help sort, tease out dates and data and hunt out contact sources for veteran Wrens. Initially via social media we asked ladies to supply their Division photos with any other training photos they may have along with their memories, names of people they joined with and so on.
Within a month we had over 1000 ladies registered. Within two months over 20,000 social interactions registered on the web page. On-line conversations flourished as people found their old photographs. Old friends had been found, new friends made, ladies were forming support groups when they discovered they lived near each other. Isolated ladies due to Covid now had friends to talk to and something to look forward to as each day, more photos and more memories became available online. Photos were being used to help elderly ladies with memory issues or all those now in care to give them an opportunity to wander down memory lane to the ‘best days of our life!’
Social media is amazing and we have ladies, now living all over the world, logging in to see what’s new on the daily upload.
However many ladies prefer not to use social media so we have had articles printed in all the major Naval publications, over 300 regional newspapers,40 ladies magazines and via Royal British Legion and Veterans groups. We've also been interviewed a couple of times for Candian radio about the project.
But we are very aware of Anno Domini - there are ladies out there with tales to tell, photos to share and memories to rekindle and we desperately want to get in touch with them.
We are hopeful to reach as many ex Dauntless Wrens as possible. We are doing well so far in that we have over 660 photos live online but there's another 650 left to find and it's these ladies we are looking for.
There is no such thing as an ex-Wren, and we never turn a Dauntless Division Photo away."
Mandy Whitham & Janette Crisp 07765 435295 firstname.lastname@example.org