One of my favourite things about being an Archives Assistant is that I am able to rummage around in the uncatalogued collections and rediscover items which were acquired for a specific and important reason or event, but have since lost prominence. With the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service falling this year, I felt it was time some of our uncatalogued Wrens material received some attention!

I found that many of the single items or small personal collections related to Wrens were presented around the same time, in 1976-1977, for an exhibition. Not much information survives about this exhibition, but some of the objects are really fascinating.

For the time being I have created a new series reference in Section 7 (Documents Acquired Individually) specifically for Wrens – ‘WRN’ – and have added 17 items or small collections so far.

Winsome Mary Kemp (nee Bull), Assistant Principle, First World War Scrapbook (WRN/14)
A scrapbook of photographs, service documents, press cuttings and ephemera collected by W.M. Kemp (WRN/14)

My favourite items are as follows: WRN/14, which is a scrap book full of photographs and ephemera collected by Assistant Principle Winsome Mary Kemp (nee Bull) during the First World War, and WRN/6, a pay book kept by a Wren with the most amazing name, Glory England, from 1940-1970. 

Glory England, Chief Wren, Pay Book (WRN/6)
Paybook of Glory England containing two photographs, an original textile pouch, and a pressed clover (WRN/6)

Kemp, one of the earliest Wrens, became an Assistant Principle, and was formerly a munitions worker. Her collection of ephemera (which was tucked into the scrap book, and is now contained in a separate folder) includes two used paper targets from a shooting range. Apparently, she was a very good shot! England was born in 1914, and her well-loved and very fragile pay book contains medical notes, photographs and a pressed clover.

Find out more about the WRN collection by visiting our archive catalogue

Harriet Braine, Archives Assistant