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

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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.


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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.

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.


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