Dorothy Walters, 97, was 23 and living in Salisbury when she volunteered to join the Royal Navy during World War II – despite the fact her husband was serving in the Army!
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She was based at Horseguards Parade in London where she worked as a Wren Writer. She said: “I worked on ships ledgers making sure everyone got the right pay and promotions. I was working at St James’s Park and to start with I lived in Hampstead with the other Wrens and later we moved to Gloucester Road.
“I still have a friend now who I met in the Wrens. We used to go dancing in Hammersmith Palais and at Streatham Locarno with the other Wrens. We had to be back early though – 10.30 or 11pm – and you had to book in.”
During the air raids the women used to sit in the corridors outside their rooms. Dorothy said: “You just got used to the bombing although sitting in the corridors wasn’t good for a good night’s sleep.”
Dorothy served until July 1945 and then started working part-time in an office. She said: “I remember my parents were very proud of me. The war was a bit of a turning point for women.”
Dorothy’s husband Desirie Frantz Roussel – known as Frantz - was taken prisoner by the Japanese. She said: “We didn’t see each other for a few years. It was very hard. He came home in October 1945.”
Frantz, who was born in Mauritius, had suffered a great deal in the prison camp and Dorothy nursed him back to health. They had a son, Peter, but the marriage ended in 1950 and Dorothy later remarried and had a daughter.
Dorothy is now a member of SSAFA’s Southend Veterans Club and enjoys her regular outing. She said: “It’s become my weekly trip out and I’ve made some good friends here.”