The baby wrens as saying 'DON'T.......FORGET.......US...............................'

The Women's Royal Naval Service as we knew it, came to an end in 1990 when the women in it first went to sea as part of the Royal Navy.  The transition was not an over night occurrence and there were many Wrens who didn't go to sea [they opted out] but those who did go became female sailors and were no longer Wrens.

Not too long after that year, the WRNS were disbanded and with that went their stripes and badges, assigned to history.  The intention of this page is to show those badges and to remember that fine Service.

The WRNS was founded in November 1917 and its uniforms were based upon those of the Royal Navy adapted to feminine requirements. All stripes/badges worn were blue and not gold or red as worn by the men of the navy. Officers stripes were similar to those on officers uniforms in the navy with some having a symbol on the top stripe and others not although in this case, the symbol was a diamond shape and not a circular shape, the loop or curl. The diamond had been worn by officers of the Victorian naval forces and from 1903 to 1911 by the naval forces of the Commonwealth of Australia. In the navy, officers wearing a loop on their top stripe were executive officers known as the Military Branch, and those not, were known as the Civil Branch who were non executive officers.  In the WRNS {but with a diamond}  they were known respectively as Directors and Principals. Unlike the many years it took for all wardroom officers to win and wear the executive loop, the WRNS officers had to wait but a short period and by the time the first world war had ended, all WRNS officers were wearing the diamond.

This table shows the original WW1 configuration of WRNS officers stripes.  Note the last entry, the Quarters Supervisor.  She was by stripes/badges, the equivalent to a navy warrant officer of ten of more years seniority.  She did not therefore hold a commission.  There was no equivalent to a RN lieutenant commander, a warrant officer of less than 10 years seniority or a chief warrant officer, later a commissioned warrant officer.

STRIPES WITH DIAMOND WITHOUT DIAMOND
One 1" with one " above Director -
One 1" Deputy Director -
Four " Assistant Director -
Three " Deputy Assistant Director Principal
Two " Deputy Divisional Director Deputy Principal
One " - Assistant Principal
One " above three buttons - Quarters Supervisor

 WRNS Ratings WW1 configured badges were as follows. WRNS had 'Section Leaders' [who wore the crown and crossed anchors of a petty officer in the navy] and 'Leaders' who wore the single anchor [a killick] of a leading seaman in the navy. Note no equivalent to the navy's chief petty officer. Note also the envelope [as opposed to the arrow crossed by lightning flash] and the use of the word telegraphists pertaining to 'telegrams' and not to wireless telegraphy signalling.

Scallop shell
Household Worker

Three-spoked wheel
Motor Driver

Star
All other branches

Arrow crossed by lightning flash
Signals

Crossed hammers
Technical Worker

Envelope
Postwomen and Telegraphists

Crossed keys
Storekeepers, Porters and Messengers

Crossed quill pens
Clerical Staff

At this point, WW1 ended and the WRNS were disbanded

Unlike WW1 when the WRNS was formed to release men late in the war [1917] for active service and the WRNS was known to be of great value in retrospect, when WW2 was known to be inevitable, not a moment was lost in reforming the WRNS who served every wakening moment of that war and still do to this day, despite their new name.

On reconstitution, the same blue badges and stripes with diamonds for all were used, but the naming of ranks and ratings were to change. This time they were to be:-

One 1" Director, later Commandant
Four " Superintendent
Three " Chief Officer
Two " with one " stripe in the middle First Officer
Two " Second Officer
One " Third Officer

HRH The Princess Anne was the Chief Commandant of the WRNS for many years from 1974 and continued in that role as The Princess Royal. At that time her stripes were one 1" with a " stripe above.  Now HRH The Princess Royal is a Vice Admiral in the Royal Navy and the Chief Commandant for Women in the Royal Navy.

The ratings titles of 'Section Leaders' and 'Leaders' were replaced by Petty Officer Wren and Leading Wren respectively and the Chief Petty Officer Wren was introduced but no Warrant Officer Wren. Now that Wrens could be stationed abroad they had white uniforms for this purpose.  Where appropriate, Wrens wore naval blue-on-white badges on their white uniforms as sailors did on theirs. 
However, it wasn't until as late as 1951 when the WRNS were brought into line with the Royal Navy.
Until 1951, all Wren ratings wore the basic branch badges but without any additions.  The alignment with the navy meant that they could now wear a crown and use stars as add-ons to their branch badges, with, for example, a Chief Wren with a crown above and one star below her badge meant that she was in receipt of Scale 'A' pay,  higher pay than a Chief Wren without a star.  There were two lists of badges, one where the badge was common to WRNS and the RN, and the other where the badge was unique to the WRNS.  I am leaving out the nitty gritty of details such as dates and who wore what and when. I am happy that the people who will be interested in this page will know for example, that a Leading Wren Telegraphist/Radio Operator wore a star above and below her branch badge, but that a Leading Wren Stores wore only her branch badge with no stars or other additions. Some of the badges I mention may be unfamiliar and if they are, they were extant for the war years only and some were abandoned actually in the war years.  Here then are the lists of badges.  When you see an asterisk with a number added after it in the badge column, this points to examples of that badge [but not always of that particular badge explained] in the table below.

Badge Rating Badge Rating
Star, letter 'C' in centre Ships Cook Star, letters 'OC' in centre Officers' Cook
Star, letters 'OS' in centre Mess Caterer: Wine Steward: Wardroom Attendant: Officers' Steward Star, letter 'S' in centre Quarters Assistant: Supply Rating: Stores Rating Air and Naval Stores:  Stores: Officers' Steward
Star, letters 'SA' in centre Stores Assistant Star, letters 'ST' in centre Shorthand Writer
Star, letter 'V' in centre Stores Rating Clothing and Victualling: Stores Victualling Star, letter 'W' in centre Book Corrector: Degaussing Recorder: Mail Clerk: Chart Corrector: Writer Pay and General: Writer Shorthand
Crossed Flags {*1} Signal Distributing Office Watchkeeper: Coder:  Classifier: Teleprinter Operator: R/T Operator: Visual Signaller: Switchboard Operator Wings crossed by lightning {*10} Radar Operator: Telegraphist: Radio Operator
Crown surrounded by laurel {*2} Regulating Chief Wren Crown Regulating Petty Officer Wren
Pair of Dividers {*3} Plotter: Bomb Range Marker: Chart Corrector Horizontal single Gun, star above and letter 'C' below Gunnery Control Rating
Horizontal single Gun, star above and letter 'Q' below {*4} Qualified in Ordnance Crossed torpedoes, star above and letter  'L' below Leading Wren T [Electrical]
Crossed torpedoes, star above with letter 'W' below {*5} Leading Wren T [Weapons] Horizontal single Torpedo with star above {*11} Torpedo Qualification
Two-bladed horizontal airscrew Pilot's Mate Two-bladed horizontal airscrew with letter 'A' below Air Mechanic [A] Airframes
Two-bladed horizontal airscrew with letter 'E' below Air Mechanic [E] Engines Two-bladed horizontal airscrew with letter 'L' below Air Mechanic [L] Electrical
Two-bladed horizontal airscrew with letter 'O' Below {*6} Air Mechanic [O] Ordnance Spider's web crossed by flashes of lightning {*12) Aircraft Direction Rating: Radar Plotter
Red Cross {*7} Sick Berth Attendant Aeroplane with propeller uppermost with letter 'A' below Air Mechanic [A]
Aeroplane with propeller uppermost with letter 'AE' below {*8} Air Fitter or Mechanic Aeroplane with propeller uppermost with letter 'E' below Air Mechanic [E]
Aeroplane with propeller uppermost with letter 'MET' below Meteorological Observer Diagonal lightning flashes with letters 'AR' in centre {*13} Radio Electrician [Air]
Camera {*9} Photographer Cross Rifles {*14} Good shooting badge

Now for the list which was unique to the WRNS.

Badge Rating Badge Rating
Star, letter 'G' in centre Net Defence: Battery Charger: Boat's Crew: Laundrymaid:  Messenger:  Hall Porter:  Postman: Steward [General] including Petty Officers Messman and Night Porter: Maintenance Star, letters 'MT' in centre Despatch Rider: Motor Driver
Circle, letter 'C' in centre Cinema Operator Circle, word 'CINE' in centre {*15} Cinema Operator
Circle letters 'DH' in centre Dental Hygienist Circle, letters 'DSA' in centre Dental Surgery Assistant
Circle, letter 'E' in centre Education Assistant Circle, letter 'G' in centre Steward [G]: Tailoress
Circle, letter 'H' in centre Hairdresser Circle, letters MT in centre Motor Transport Driver
Circle, letters 'QA' in centre Quarters Assistant Circle, letters 'RA' in centre Range Assessor: Weapons Analyst
Circle, word 'SWOP' in centre Switchboard Operator Circle, letters 'WW' in centre Welfare Worker
Telephone Handset Switchboard Operator {*16} Diagonal Lightning Flashings with letters 'DG' in centre Degaussing WRNR
Crossed Rocket Projectors, letters 'WA' in centre Weapon Analyst {*17}  

 

*1

*2

*3

*4

*5

*6

*7

*8

*9

*10

*11

*12

*13
same badge but with AR
in centre

*14

*15

*16

Purposely left blank

*17

 Women Medical and Dental Officers

 

In May 1940, a woman doctor  was appointed to the Admiralty for service at the headquarters of the WRNS.  To define her standing she was at first said to rank as a surgeon lieutenant with a seniority of the 21st May 1940 but later she was given a commission as a surgeon lieutenant for short service in the RNVR with a seniority of the 5th December 1941. She was joined by another woman doctor in the following year and in succeeding years by a number of women doctors and dentists, the latter as surgeon lieutenants [D].  The last appointments under this scheme were made in 1945 and by the end of 1947 all had left.

Ten long years later, on the 5th December 1955, another woman doctor was entered, this time as a surgeon lieutenant for short service in the Royal Navy.

These entries became a regular feature and these doctors could on completion of the necessary service become surgeon lieutenant commanders.  The names of all these ladies were, and are, inserted in the Navy Lists among the men of equivalent seniority.

Those entered in 1942 and 1943 were, for some reason, distinguished as "Miss" in the seniority lists throughout their careers.  The others can only be distinguished from the men by the femininity of their Christian names. 

Women doctors and dentists have always worn the uniform of officers in the WRNS, except that the blue cap badge and stripes are replaced by the gold and silver cap badge and gold stripes with appropriate coloured cloth of officers of the same rank in the Royal Navy or RNVR as the case may be.

Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service [QARNNS]

 

Until 1884 no professional nurses were employed in naval hospitals, but in that year a matron, four head sisters and six nurses were appointed to Haslar.  They wore a red cross above the elbow on the right sleeve of their grey gowns.

From this beginning, the QARNNS was founded in 1902.

Queen Alexandra herself designed their uniforms and their badge. The latter consisted of the letters AA in red intertwined and superimposed upon a gold foul anchor, with a crown above and a red cross enclosed in a gold circle below.  The belt has a buckle similar to that of a naval officer's sword belt but of silver instead of gilt.

The original establishment consisted of Head Sisters and Nursing Sisters but this was expanded from time to time.  In 1935 the titles were changed and there was also some reorganisation in 1949 in which year the Matron-in-Chief was appointed an Honorary Nursing Sister to HM The King, George VI.

Some alteration of uniform occurred in 1944 and in 1953 a new hat badge was introduced.  This is similar to that of a naval officer, except that the laurel leaves are red instead of gold, and the silver foul anchor is replaced by a gold foul anchor with the letters AA superimposed.

This is the badge of the Matron-in-Chief QARNNS with a double gold border.

A Principal Matrons badge is a single gold border. A gold bar is added directly under the red cross circle in lieu of the crown and E2R symbol.
 

The Matrons badge is a single gold border with nothing below the red cross circle.
 

Superintendant Sister wears a badge with a single red border and nothing below the red cross circle.
 

A Senior Nursing Sister has no border and a red bar below the red cross circle.
 

A Nursing Sister has no border and nothing below the red cross circle.


After the war in 1949, a Medical Branch of the Women's Royal Naval Service was formed and WRNS Sick Berth Attendants were trained. They were replaced in 1960 when a Naval Nurse section of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service came into being. The remaining Voluntary Aid Detachment [VAD]nurses were given the option of joining the newly formed QARNNS Auxiliary Branch, as Naval Nurse ratings, thus giving a two-tier QARNNS. This system was abandoned in 1965 when the Head Naval Nursing Auxiliary, the Assistant Head Naval Nursing Auxiliary and the Naval Nursing Auxiliary became respectively, the Head Naval Nurse, the Assistant Head Naval Nurse and the Naval Nurse. Their badges of rank, worn vertically on their left arms were strips of red braid 1" long by " wide three for the Head Naval Nurse, two for the Assistant Head Naval Nurse and one for the Naval Nurse.

In 1982 an integrated nursing service was established to allow male nurses to serve as officers and ratings in QARNNS and branch titles were changed.

Today the QARNNS Patron is HRH Princess Alexandra - the great-granddaughter of its first President, Queen Alexandra.

Footnote:  I came across a Memorial Book at Greenwich containing the names of 329 WRNS who had died in service during the period 1917 to 1959.