The Image of Women in the Navy

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Whilst romances have undoubtedly developed between Wrens and other service men, not all such attentions were sought by service women. They received a hostile reaction to their presence at times.

There was a belief during World War Two that women in uniform were 'easy'. Military service allegedly encouraged deviant behaviour in women, encouraging them to take on typically 'masculine' tendencies and become more sexually voracious. Men regarded women in uniform as being more available than civilians, especially mobiles stationed far from home. Mixed camps sometimes had cases of rape, or attempted rape. Female latrines had armed guards stationed outside in order to shoot intruders.

Wrens tended to receive rather less of these accusations than some of the other women's services. This was partly due to the WRNS tending to recruit from the middle classes, meaning that the Wrens tended to keep aloof from the male ratings. Even so, Wrens were still pestered by ratings, particularly those stationed at foreign ports who had not seen any white women in long time.

The government set up a parliamentary committee to investigate 'welfare conditions in the three women's services' in November 1941. The committee concluded that there was no justification for the charges of 'immorality' by the public against service women. In fact, the discipline of service life was more likely to encourage good behaviour amongst women.

To find out about the protest which challenged the WRNS working at sea, select Next


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