WW2: Unicorn’s ‘WRENS’

WW2:  Unicorn’s ‘WRENS’

Ships are traditionally feminine, and are always referred to as ‘she’ (see below!) but they are also usually ‘manned’ by a male ship’s company.  Unicorn had an unusual distinction during the Second World War as she was very largely ‘manned’ by the Womens Royal Naval Service, the ‘WRENS’.

Dame Vera Laughton-Matthews, the Director WRNS, with Captain Willie Keay outside HMS Unicorn during WWII

These Wrens were partly ship’s company and partly training classes, as Unicorn served as a training school for communication Wrens, who lived ashore in the Mathers Hotel in Whitehall Crescent (for many years the sadly derelict Tay Hotel, but about to be transformed into one of the world-renowned Malmaison Hotels).

To this day there are displays and photographs onboard explaining Unicorn’s unusual feminine connection, and we are always delighted to meet one of her old ship’s company Wrens who may be able to indentify names in the photographs.  

The Dundee Wrens formed a lively and active association after the War, and although the association officially ‘decommissioned’ in 2004, their comradeship is such that the group continues to meet, on the last Tuesday of each month in the Queens Hotel, as organised by the indefatigable Babs Rickmann.