Dorothy remembers early days of RNAS Culdrose
A former Wren who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War paid a nostalgic visit to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall for the first time in 63 years.
Visiting RNAS Culdrose, also known as HMS Seahawk for the first time in over six decades, Dorothy Reed now in her 80’s was given a VIP tour of facilities to see how today’s Fleet Air Arm compares with her recollections from when it was commissioned in 1947.
Dorothy always wanted to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service (Wrens) and on her 18th birthday in 1945 signed up for naval service. She served as a Steward Writer in the Wardrooms at Devonport, Plymouth and Greenwich Naval College in London, where at the end of hostilities she was de-mobbed.
However, not content with a short spell in uniform she immediately re-enlisted, signing on for a further period in the Wrens as a steward, and was drafted to HMS Seahawk in May 1947.
The Fleet Air Arm’s newest air station had only been opened the previous month when Dorothy’s batch arrived and her first impressions were not what she was expecting. “I remember walking through the gate to be greeted by loads of work still going on,” said Dorothy reminiscing. “Everywhere huge hangars and structures were going up. It was very exciting having just come out of a War.”
In spite of the passing of 63 years Dorothy still remembers those early days when she was stationed here. “I worked in the Wardroom serving the officers, it was hard work but very enjoyable. There were about 20 girls in the section dividing into two watches, Port and Starboard. The officers lived in very sparse accommodation; each room was very basic. It was all very glamorous with the young pilots; they all seemed so very handsome.”
Looking around today at the accommodation blocks where people live, Dorothy commented on how things are changed. “It’s amazing how much it’s different from my days, they have all the mod-cons and much more room than we did; it’s much nicer. But I think I’d miss the company of being in a cabin with the other girls like we were!”
During her special tour Dorothy also got to look around 820 Naval Air Squadron and chat with some of the girls on the Sqn; before being treated to a slap-up cream tea courtesy of the Unit Personnel Office, and sharing memories and experiences with the staff. “It was marvellous to chat with the girls; some of them are married and have children, which wasn’t possible to do in my day if you wanted to remain in the Service.” Dorothy also has very fond memories of her time off. “We were given a `Make and Mend’ every week and were encouraged to do an activity. There was archery and gardening, but I loved swimming, which we did in nearby Loe Bar. We would walk down to the beach and have swimming parties, before walking into Porthleven.”
“There were about 150 Wrens based here then. I had come from County Durham and coming down to Cornwall was a culture shock. I was only 20 then and the effects of the war were still very much in our minds.”