Sixteen women from Belfast and Northern Ireland are to feature in a new HLF funded documentary which explores their roles in the Royal Navy from the 1940s to the 1990s. The film, produced by the HMS Caroline’s curatorial and community engagement teams, will be one of the first recorded oral histories to be collected for an archive being established by the ship’s owners, the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
A private screening for participants will be held on March 7 at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in advance of International Women’s Day and public screenings will be held later this year to mark the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service.
Victoria Millar, Curator of HMS Caroline who conducted the interviews, says the film reveals the extent to which women from all sides of the community played a central role in World War II as part of the Women’s Royal Naval Service or “Wrens” as well as afterwards as part of the Women’s Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
“Women played an important role on HMS Caroline for years,” says Victoria. “During the Second World War, many of those who served in and around Pollock Dock where HMS Caroline was based were women. In 1952, a Women’s Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (WRNVR) was established. This in turn merged with the Royal Naval Reserve into a single RNR in 1958. Women continued to play a role on HMS Caroline right up to 2009 when the Ulster Division of the RNR moved ashore to HMS Hibernia.”
The women in the film reveal what their families thought about them joining up, their views about the changing role of women in the Navy as well as the impact their participation in the Navy had on their lives.
Ruth Osborne, Learning and Community Engagement Manager said, “The recordings were filmed and edited by students from the Northern Regional College at PRONI between December 2016 and February 2017. This intergenerational project has enabled a range of students to develop their skills and has encouraged their learning about local history and heritage.”
This project began with a Wrens drop-in day on HMS Caroline in October last year. Expressions of interest were taken from those who were interested in having their memories filmed as part of the project.
AOW were pleased to support this Open Day with promotional material together with a 'call-out' for ex HMS Caroline Wrens online and in The Wren magazine.