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Navy Disciplinary Practice in WW2

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Navy Disciplinary Practice in WW2

Postby Robert S » Tue Apr 16, 2019 3:43 pm

As a young single woman, my mother was conscripted in 1943 and elected to serve in the WRNS. I have obtained her service record from the Navy, which indicates that she served as a Wren (General Duties) at HMS Western Isles from November 1943 to February 1945. By a process of deduction it is plain that, whilst there, she fell pregnant and I arrived in November 1945. I grew up with an acute awareness that the circumstance of my birth was a subject never to be spoken about within the family; that was probably a not uncommon reaction in the moral climate of the time. I never ever felt able to raise the matter with my mother during her lifetime and, after she died, I discovered that even her sister, to whom she was extremely close, could not shed any light on the topic. The service record is rather brief, but in the rating and discharge column, dated 24 February 1945, is the word RUN. Further down the page is a notation “discharged deserted”. I know from a contemporary family photograph that she was on leave in early February 1945, when she would have realised that she was pregnant. I do not believe that she would simply have not returned; I am sure she would have informed her superiors about her condition. There is no indication on the record of any sanction being exacted for desertion, so I am hoping that there is a forum genie who understands the naval protocol of that time and can explain whether this was the Navy’s convenient way of dealing with the situation, that is by recording a form of censure – a desertion of duty with no further action apparently being taken - rather than just granting a dismissal or a free discharge.
Robert S
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Re: Navy Disciplinary Practice in WW2

Postby MoVidger » Sun Aug 25, 2019 4:20 pm

Hello Robert, you might find this extract from the book "Morse Code WRENS of Station X: Bletchley's Outer Circle" by Anne Glyn-Jones helpful:

"It was part of my job to keep the Record Book. Girls who had to be discharged because they were pregnant had to be crossed off, but there had been only seven illegitimate pregnancies in the whole of Plymouth Command since the start of the war. Occasionally there were desertions, and then the girl's name was struck from the record in red ink, and the word "Run" and the date entered instead".

WRNS were not under the Naval Discipline Act, so there was no court-martial for desertion.

When researching WRNS and pregnancy, there is information to suggest that unwed pregnancy was a dismissible ‘offence' during WW1 and WW2. Even married WRNS ratings were discharged early into their pregnancy.

You mention that your mother's service record indicated RUN in the discharge column. In naval terms, desertion is recorded as RUN (or running). One would think RUN and "deserted" would've been overkill, if she was simply discharged due to her delicate condition.

Then again, you have a photo indicating she was on leave in early February 1945. Perhaps she decided not to return to service?
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