I am proud to serve in a Royal Navy where women serve as divers, submariners, pilots and engineers; where they have been awarded MCs for courage under fire and have risen to command fighting ships and major shore establishments

Vice Admiral Duncan Potts CB

Captain Ellie Ablett MBE RN – the Commanding Officer of the Navy’s Initial Training Establishment, HMS Raleigh, represented the servicewomen of today’s Royal Navy as a Guest of Honour.

Vice Admiral Duncan Potts CB and Rear Admiral Paul Bennett CB OBE represented the First Sea Lord and Naval Command Headquarters respectively as two of the very few male Senior Officers to join the celebrations.

A Service of welcome was led by Reverend Pat Mann followed by the parade of the Association of Wrens National Standard along with a procession illustrating various uniforms worn by the Servicewomen in the past 100 years.  

A tour of the WRNS Exhibition in the Visitor Centre covered the wartime years and post war when Wrens trained and worked at the Naval College.

With the Painted Hall undergoing a period of conservation work, many of the guests took the opportunity to see the richly-decorated dining hall ceiling up close from the scaffolding as part of a special guided tour.

In the afternoon, guests enjoyed tea served in the Queen Mary Undercroft and amongst the grand Palladian colonnades admiring several views of the Thames.  

One of the highlights of the afternoon included a parade of chocolate ships – a traditional event at Annual Trafalgar Night Mess Dinners. The chocolate ships were carried by Naval Servicewomen in historical dress and subsequently devoured with some relish by the women attending.  

A group photo of all those attending was taken to mark this remarkable gathering, (when herding the large group of Wrens proved the right collective noun) Vice Admiral Potts addressed those present, he said:

“I am proud to serve in a Royal Navy where women serve as divers, submariners, pilots and engineers; where they have been awarded MCs for courage under fire and have risen to command fighting ships and major shore establishments.

“With the decision that women may now serve in ground close combat roles, including the Royal marines, for the first time in history all branches of the Service are open to men and women alike, with selection based solely on merit – which is how it should be.”

HMS Raleigh

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