The Princess Royal attended a Service of Thanksgiving today, to mark the centenary of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, in her capacity as patron of the group. The service was held this afternoon at Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral.
The event did not only mark the centenary of the service, but also celebrated the continuing role of women in the Royal Navy.
Around 1,000 people, including former members of the WRNS (known as ‘Wrens’), serving naval personnel, MPs, and family members of the ‘Wrens’ were in attendance.
The service began promptly at 2.30pm, and included the dedication of a commemorative stone in the cathedral grounds, which will become a permanent part of the cathedral landscape.
The service incorporated multiple stories of former members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service and their involvement in the Royal Navy during both World Wars and post-1945. A book of Remembrance, listing the names of women who died serving their country, was also presented.
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Princess Anne delivered a Bible reading during the service.
The Very Rev David Brindley said: “As we are the cathedral of the Sea, and our history is so closely intertwined with the history of the Royal Navy, we are delighted to host this wonderful occasion.”
“The role of the WRNS and women in the Naval Services is worth celebrating, and it’s entirely appropriate for a permanent reminder of their significance to be part of our cathedral landscape.”
The service was established in 1917, and was then disbanded after the First World War, before being restarted at the outbreak of WWII in 1939. In 1993, the WRNS became integrated with the Royal Navy, but the WRNS still holds a special place in many women’s hearts; women now make up 10% of service personnel.
The Princess Royal is currently the Chief Commandant for Women in the Royal Navy, and patron of the Association of Wrens. Last month, she attended a reception with The Queen to mark 100 years of women’s contribution in the military.
Following the service, Princess Anne unveiled a monument to the women on the Royal Navy, with the Dean of Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral, the Very Rev David Brindley, and the Bishop to the Forces, the Rt Rev Tim Thornton.
The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity are among those that have contributed to the cost of the commemorative stone. It was designed out of a single block of Purbeck stone and features carvings of caps and hats worn by former Wrens and serving naval officers.
Commodore Inga Kennedy, the highest-ranked female officer in the senior service, said: “I’m absolutely astonished at the amount of women here today.
“It says something about loyalty, 100 years on, that these people have gathered in Portsmouth – somewhere I consider to be the home of the Royal Navy. It’s a fantastic celebration for women and a phenomenal achievement.”
“I hope that next year we’ll see more women in the navy and women in the Royal Marines,” she commented.
After the service, The Queen’s daughter joined members of the congregation to enjoy afternoon tea at Portsmouth Guildhall.
The service is one of many events taking place during 2017 to mark the centenary. The Scottish celebration, planned for later this month, includes dinner on the Royal Yacht Britannia.