(Please click on a thumbnail for a larger image.)
1917: 'Women for the Navy – new shore service to be formed.' – by 1919 there were 7,000 Wrens including cooks and stewards, despatch riders, sailmakers and those in Intelligence. Their motto was 'Never at Sea'.
1939: 'Free a Man for the Fleet' 3,000 women recruited as before and also in new roles such as radio operators, meteorologists, bomb range markers together with sea-going cypher officers, coders and boat's crew Wrens.
1944: WRNS Officers and ratings numbers, at their peak, were 74,000.
Post-war: a small permanent WRNS service of 3,000 retained for mainly administrative and support roles at RN establishments and Royal Naval Air Stations, UK and overseas.
1974: a survey observed that changing social structures and career limitations indicated the need for integration with the Royal Navy.
1976: WRNS Officers' Training moved from the Royal Naval College, Greenwich to Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.
In 1981: the New Entry Training Establishment HMS DAUNTLESS closed after 35 years of training some 30,000 Wrens. Initial training now takes place alongside male ratings at HMS RALEIGH. Wrens were now subject to the Naval Discipline Act and given longer terms of service in a wide range of technical support roles in operational areas.
From 1990: falling R.N. recruitment, and a recognition that the best use was not being made of woman power, raised the need for Wrens to go to sea. The first 20 volunteer Wren Officers and ratings joined HMS BRILLIANT.
1993: November the Women's Royal Naval Service was disbanded and 4535 women were integrated fully into the Royal Navy and able to serve on HM Ships at sea, at all ranks and rates.
21C: Women in the Royal Navy serve in many roles; as pilots, observers and air-crew personnel; as divers, and Commanding Officers of HM Ships and shore establishments. Women make up nearly one in every ten of Royal Navy personnel. Volunteers for the Submarine Service will begin training from 2012 and will take up their posts from 2013. Women can serve in the Royal Marines but not as RM Commandos.
The first woman in the Royal Navy’s history to be selected to command a major warship is taking up her post today. Commander Sarah West, 40, joins Type 23 frigate HMS Portland in Rosyth. In another milestone for the Royal Navy, Commander Sue Moore, 43, has recently become the first woman to command a squadron of minor war vessels, the First Patrol Boat Squadron (1PBS).
Crown Copyright for photos and text extracts sourced from the Royal Naval Museum Online Collection www.seayourhistory.org.uk, The Imperial War Museum Online Collection www.iwm.org.uk and Royal Navy Picture desk.
The Association of Wrens (Women of the Royal Naval Services) celebrates the achievements of all of these women and strives to keep the spirit of the service alive across the generations.