Service and Life of British and Soviet Women in the Navy during World War II

Main Article Content

Abstract

Comparative studies on the experiences of female representatives of different countries in WWII remain relevant today. They not only deepen our understanding of the life of women at war, but also allow us to explore the power regimes of different states at one stage or another. After all, the government organized the activities of various groups of the population aimed at winning the war. Women were no exception in this respect, regardless of whether they worked in the rear or defended their homeland with weapons in hand. For centuries, the navy for the most part represented a purely masculine environment, and the presence of a woman on a ship was considered a bad omen. However, the scale of hostilities during the world wars and, as a consequence, the need for a constant supply of personnel to the armed forces made their adjustments – states began to gradually recruit women to serve in the navy. The article compares the experiences of Great Britain and the USSR in attracting women to serve in the navy during WWII. The countries were chosen not by chance, as they represent democracy and totalitarianism, respectively, and studying their practice of involving women in the navy can deepen our knowledge of these regimes.


After analysing the experience of women’s service in the navy in 1939-1945, the author concludes that their recruitment to the navy in Great Britain took place through a special organization – the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS). Its personnel were trained mostly separately from men and then sent to military units of the navy. The USSR did not create separate women's organizations for this purpose; women served in the same bodies as men. The main purpose of mobilizing women to the navy in both the USSR and Great Britain was initially to replace men in positions on land to release the latter for service at sea. However, in both countries there were cases when women also served at sea. The range of positions available to them in the navy expanded during the war, and in the USSR reached its apogee in the form of admission of women to combat positions. In Great Britain, women in the navy did not officially perform combat roles, and there was a ban on them from using lethal weapons.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

| Abstract views: 61 | PDF Downloads: 28 |

Article Details

How to Cite
Zaletok, N. (2021) “Service and Life of British and Soviet Women in the Navy during World War II”, Problems of World History, (14), pp. 107-118. doi: 10.46869/2707-6776-2021-14-3.

Section
Articles
Author Biography

N. Zaletok

Zaletok Natalia – Ph.D. in History, Head of the Department of Archival Studies of Ukrainian Research Institute of Archival Affairs and Record Keeping.

References

Campbell, D. (1993). Women in Combat: The World War II Experience in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and the Soviet Union. Journal of military history, 57, 2, pp. 301-323. [In English].

Allen, A.T. (2007). Women in Twentieth-Century Europe. New York: Macmillan International Higher Education. [In English].

Women with Royal Navy (1941). Daily Telegraph, 18 Jan 1941, p. 2. [In English].

Women’s Royal Naval Service (10 March 1943) (1943) Hansard. The House of Commons, 387, cols. 758-830. [Online]. Available from: https://bit.ly/2SvOLV0 [In English].

Collett Wadge, D. (1946). Women in Uniform. London: Dampson Low. [In English].

Cook, B.A. (2006). “Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS). Reorganization before World War II”, inWomen and War. A Historical Encyclopedia from Antiquity to the Present. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, P. 248. [In English].

Cassin-Scott, J. & McBride, A. (1980). Women at war. 1939-45. London: Osprey. [In English].

Women’s War Work in Britain (1943). New York: British Information Services, Information Division. [Online]. Available from: https://bit.ly/346DxJ4 [In English].

Boothroyd, M. (2004). In the WRNS with Laura Ashley. [Online]. Available from: https://bbc.in/3wEcwJ9 [In English].

Hallowell, H. (2003). Life as a Wren. [Online]. Available from: https://bbc.in/3bVeVYb [In English].

Schwarz (nee Evans), J. (2005). A Bird’s Eye View of the Yalta Conference by A Wren. [Online]. Available from: https://bbc.in/3ciwmSP [In English].

A Family in Uniform (2004). [Online]. Available from: https://bbc.in/2QYFlAT [In English].

Headeach, V.M. (2004). Wrens At Sea. [Online]. Available from: https://bbc.in/3yKOSfZ [In English].

Larkins, K. (2005). Night Shift at The Admirality. [Online]. Available from: https://bbc.in/3fUPTtc [In English].

Johnstone-Wilson, S.I. (2003). Secret German Aircraft. [Online]. Available from: https://bbc.in/3icKq43 [In English].

Vivien Bontein, alias Vera. The National archives (United Kingdom). Item number: 4096712. Catalogue reference: KV 2/2079. (Pp. 2, 5-7, 92). [In English].

Recommendation for Award for Marsh, Nina. The National archives (United Kingdom). Item number: 4096714. Catalogue reference: WO 373/66/157. [In English].

Recommendation for Award for Marriott, I. The National archives (United Kingdom). Item number: 4096713. Catalogue reference: WO 373/66/158. [In English].

Malishevskiy, N. Zhenshchiny, pobedivshiye fashizm [Women who defeated fascism]. [Online]. Available from: https://bit.ly/2RUkLSP [In Russian].

Ivanova, YU.N. (2002). Khrabreyshiye iz prekrasnykh. Zhenshchiny Rossii v voynakh [The bravest of the beautiful. Russian women in wars]. Moskva: Rossyjskaya polytycheskaya encyklopediya [In Russian].

Postanovleniye GKO SSSR № 1703ss ot 5 maya 1942 g. “O mobilizatsii devushek-komsomolok i dobrovol’tsev v voyenno-morskoy flot” [Decree of the State Defense Committee of the USSR No. 1703ss dated May 5, 1942 “On the mobilization of Komsomol girls and volunteers in the navy”] Rossiyskiy gosudarstvennyy arkhiv sotsial’no-politicheskoy istorii [Russian State Archive of Social and Political History]. F. 644. Op. 2. D. 57. [In Russian].

Kameneva, G.N. (2015). Opyt sluzhby zhenshchin v ryadakh Voyenno-Morskogo flota (1941-1945 gg.): na materialakh Yuga Rossii [Experience of serving women in the ranks of the Navy (1941-1945): on the materials of the South of Russia]. Gumanitarnyye i yuridicheskiye issledovaniya [Humanitarian and legal research], 4, pp. 72-78. [In Russian].

Prokof’yeva (Galenko), Ye.M. (2017). Vospominaniya [Memories]. [Online]. YAPOMNYU Available from: https://bit.ly/3uDh3KN [In Russian].

Zagrebina (Sal’nikova), Z.I. (2012). Vospominaniya [Memories]. [Online]. YAPOMNYU Available from: https://bit.ly/2RT2qp1 [In Russian].

Gantimurova, A.A. (2006). Vospominaniya [Memories]. [Online]. YAPOMNYU Available from: https://bit.ly/2RT2B3F [In Russian].

Tkachova, G.A. (2016). Zhenshchiny v chastyakh Tikhookeanskogo flota i Amurskoy flotilii v gody Velikoy Otechestvennoy voyny (1941-1945) [Women in units of the Pacific Fleet and Amur Flotilla during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945)]. Rossiya i ATR [Russia and the Asia-Pacific Region], 4 (94), pp. 218-229. [In Russian].