The Queen attended a reception to mark the centenary of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps yesterday, joined by her daughter, Princess Anne.
The Queen, who is patron of the WRAC Association, was accompanied by The Princess Royal at the event held at the Army and Navy Club in London.
Among those attending the reception were veterans who joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1941 and worked at Bletchley Park until VE Day. Bletchley Park was the wartime top secret establishment where code breakers including Alan Turing worked to break the German enigma code. It was said that there success helped shorten the war by at least two years.
Betty Webb, aged 94, from Birmingham worked at Bletchley Park registering the messages which came in. She was with the ATS from 1941 to 1946 and said she felt “very privileged” after meeting the Queen.
The Monarch herself is of course a veteran of the ATS. She joined up in 1945 aged 18 and became the first female member of the Royal Family to join the military full time. Princess Elizabeth reached the rank of Second Sub-altern and trained as a mechanic.
Mrs Webb said: “We were both in the ATS at the same time. The Queen was younger than me – she was serving as a mechanic when I was serving in Bletchley Park.”
After meeting The Queen, Mrs Webb continued: “It was absolutely wonderful.She was so sweet. She is such a gracious lady.”
Her Majesty was also an insight into the work of the WRNS100 project, which is celebrating the formation and history of the organisation and recognising the role of women in the Royal Navy today.
It was during the First World War in 1917, that women were first recruited into the Army and Navy in a capacity other than nursing.
The Princess Royal, who is Admiral and Chief Commandant for Women in the Royal Navy, is patron of the WRNS Benevolent Trust, the Association of WRNS and the WRNS 100 Project.
During the event, The Queen also spoke to a small group of ATS veterans, aged between 90 and 94, and asked where they served. Joan De Vall, 92, of Leicestershire, was in the ATS from 1943 until 1946.
After speaking to Her Majesty, Mrs De Vall said: “She said I was looking very well and I said ‘so are you ma’am’.” She added that being part of the ATS had made her feel “that every soldier to me is (like) my brother.”
The Monarch was also shown an exhibition which documents the progression of women serving in the Army from 1917 to the present day.
There are about 116 national and regional events planned, culminating in a service at Portsmouth Cathedral in November, during which a commemorative stone marking the formation of the WRNS and all the women of the Naval services will be dedicated.
WRNS100 in 2017 is celebrating the valuable work still done by the WRNS Benevolent Trust and the Association of Wrens.