100 years ago Plymouth women first enrolled in the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRENS).

This year marks the 100th anniversary of women serving in the British armed forces, and their role has been transformed since 1917, said 92-year-old business entrepreneur Dr Suzanne Sparrow talking about her military past.

Dr Sparrow, said: “I volunteered in 1942, in the middle of the blitz, and joined the ‘Boats Crew’ at the tender age of 17, and was the youngest woman in the crew.”

“Back then women were confined to basic roles like administrative work, cooks, drivers, mechanics, but nowadays women fight in combat alongside their male colleagues,” she said.

The city has been honouring the centenary of women’s service with a special anniversary event at St Andrew’s church, visits to HMS Drake, and culminating in a prestigious dinner with the seafarers, said Dr Sparrow.

“I think I’m one of a small group of longest standing women left in Britain celebrating this very special anniversary, and the continuing role of women in the Royal Navy and armed forces.”

The (WRENS) was founded in November 1917, almost at the end of the Great War.


Dr Suzanne Sparrow launched the city’s first English language school in 1978, bringing students from across the globe to study in the city.

She won the Herald’s and Devon Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement awards last year for her multi-million pound business and cultural contribution to the local economy over the last 39 years, including the ‘Word and Music Festivals’ partnered with the University of Plymouth.

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