VIP tour for Dorothy – six decades after moving to Culdrose as a Wren
A former Wren took a trip down memory lane when she visited a Royal Navy air base in Cornwall for the first time in more than six decades.
Dorothy Reed was given a VIP tour of facilities at RNAS Culdrose, near Helston, to see how today's Fleet Air Arm compares with her recollections from when it was commissioned in 1947.
She joined the Women's Royal Naval Service (Wrens) on her 18th birthday in 1945 and served as a steward writer in the wardrooms at Devonport, Plymouth, and Greenwich Naval College in London, where at the end of the Second World Ward she was de-mobbed.
Not content with a short spell in uniform, she immediately re-enlisted, signing on for a further period in the Wrens as a steward, and was drafted to HMS Seahawk, as Culdrose was known, in May 1947.
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"I remember walking through the gate to be greeted by loads of work still going on," said Dorothy, who's now in her 80s. "Everywhere huge hangars and structures were going up. It was very exciting, having just come out of a war.
"I worked in the wardroom serving the officers. It was hard work but very enjoyable. There were about 20 girls in the section, divided into two watches: port and starboard.
"The officers lived in very sparse accommodation – each room was very basic. It was all very glamorous with the young pilots, they all seemed so very handsome."
She added: "It's amazing how much it's different from my days – they have all the mod-cons and much more room than we did. It's much nicer, but I think I'd miss the company of being in a cabin with the other girls like we were."
During her special tour, Dorothy also got to look around 820 Naval Air Squadron and chat with some of the women on the squadron before being treated to a cream tea courtesy of the unit personnel office.
"We were given a 'make and mend' every week and were encouraged to do an activity," she said. "There was archery and gardening, but I loved swimming, which we did in Loe Bar. We would walk down to the beach and have swimming parties, before walking into Porthleven.
"There were about 150 Wrens based here then. I had come from County Durham and coming down to Cornwall was a culture shock."
Dorothy spent two and half years at Culdrose and when she met her future husband moved on to HMS Nuthatch, a Fleet Air Arm base near Carlisle, and finished her time in the Wrens two weeks before she married.
"If I could have stayed in I would have done," she added.
"I loved working in the wardroom and the company in the cabins with the other girls – it was a great adventure."