Royal Naval Museum



Scrapbook and Photo Albums of Margaret E Hodgson

Margaret in her cabin at Kranji

Among the WRNS collection there are many photo albums and scrapbooks relating to the service career of Wrens, one of the most interesting is that collated by Margaret Hodgson.  The collection of material she amassed is extensive and provides a fascinating insight into the life of a Wren during and immediately after the Second World War.

Margaret joined the WRNS in August 1940 and undertook initial training at RN College, Greenwich.  However, it is not until she is selected as a member of the first draft of WRNS to be posted overseas during the Second World War that she starts to record her experiences in her albums and scrapbooks. 

They commence with the letter from the Director of WRNS Office to her parents.  As Margaret was still under 21 years of age their written consent was required before she could be sent abroad. This must have been quickly given as shortly after Margaret receives a further document signed by Vera Laughton-Mathews, the Director WRNS, entitled ‘Notes for WRNS Personnel Proceeding to Singapore’.  This document provided members of the draft with detailed instructions about items they must take, even down to their underwear, as well as what they might expect to find on arrival.  It begins with the stern reminder,

“Every member of the party is to remember that they are the first Wrens to proceed aboard during the present war, and that the reputation of the WRNS in the Far East will depend largely upon the impression which they make.  It is hoped that everyone will, both in her conduct and appearance, maintain the traditions of the service.”

With this in mind the draft, consisting of 20 Chief Wren Wireless Telegraphists led by Second Officer Betty Archdale, set sail on 4th March 1941 onboard TSS Nestor.  The journey was to take nearly 8 weeks during which time they received further training but also found time to celebrate Margaret’s 21st birthday.  Alongside the special menu for the 26th March she recalls that she was presented with a large wooden key signed by the Captain, Ship’s Officers and fellow WRNS.  The photo of Margaret in her cabin in Singapore shows the key hanging on the wall behind her.

On arrival in Singapore the group immediately took up 24-hour watchkeeping duties at Kranji RN W/T station. However they were to only remain here until January 1942 when they were evacuated to Colombo shortly before the fall of the city to the Japanese. 

After a further posting to Mombasa Margaret returned to England in 1944 and undertook training to become a Safety Equipment and Survival Officer in Fleet Air Arm.  She was briefly appointed to RN Air Station Abbotsinch before a rapid promotion to 3rd Officer in January 1945 saw her posted to Madras.  Margaret remained a Wren for a further 10 years during which time she continued to add to her scrapbooks. 

Margaret donated her scrapbooks to the museum in 1988.

Accession Number 1988/334

To see more of Margaret's photographs, why not visit the Sea Your History website?

Choice of Victoria Ingles, Curatorial Project Officer

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