Nancy Rowson, nee Redmond

There was no conscription in Northern Ireland where my home was, because of ‘the troubles’, but there were a huge number of Volunteers for all the Services.
I joined the WRNS in August 1940 and was sent to HMS Titania, a submarine depot ship anchored in Belfast harbour. There we were trained as Coders, working 24 hour watches with the sailors, and prepared to sail round the coast to Londonderry, where we would be based as most of our signals were to and from Atlantic convoys. Alas - WRNS Headquarters in London scuppered this operation - Wrens did NOT go to sea in those days! So we started duties ashore in Belfast. I lived at home and travelled to work in a little old Ford with a gas bag on the roof, which took the place of petrol. Driving the four miles there and four miles back was quite tricky on windy nights. Belfast was very badly bombed by night and I often spent the nights I was off duty with others of my family in an air-raid shelter in the garden, together with candles and lots of slugs.
In 1942 I was sent on a course to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and left as a Cadet 3rd Officer WRNS. Volunteers were then being requested for Cypher duties on the little island of Hoy in Scapa Flow, Orkneys. A nissen hut base for Wrens (surrounded by barbed wire!) was being completed and I duly went with the first party and stayed two and a half years. We worked Naval watchkeeping hours and one job was to cypher signals to and from Russian and North Atlantic Convoys, and submarine patrols. The Orkadians grew no green vegetables and no potatoes. On my request my father sent seed potatoes and lettuce plants to me. I planted theses in the poor thin soil outside my cabin window and was the laughing stock of the base when the potatoes withered and died and the lettuces bolted upwards to about 18 inches!
Early in 1945 I was sent to a night fighter Fleet Air Arm Station at Eglinton, Co.Londonderry. I was lucky enough to be present at the surrender of eight U-Boats on the 14th May, brought up Lough Foyle under the command of British Officers. While stationed here I, with other Wrens, used to put on civilian clothes, borrow bicycles, and on off duty days, cycle through small lanes with no Border Guards into the lush Republic. They were neutral and had no food rationing, so we smuggled back butter, cream, cheese, sugar etc., and considered it part of our war effort!

I was demobbed December 1945.