Dorren Bryant remembers with fondness her time at the RNPS base HMS Europa

"In all the years I have been reading "The Wren", I have hardly seen any reference to the Royal Navy Patrol Service - otherwise known as "Harry Tate's Navy". Those brave men, many of whom at the outbreak of war joined the Service from the fishing fleet, have their memories kept alive by the dedicated people who man the Museum at the Sparrows Nest in Lowestoft; the Museum staff also keep in touch with members of the Association by the regular Newsletter, and arrange the Annual Reunion and Service of Remembrance. .

'My memories of Lowestoft'

I arrived at the Headquarters of the RNPS (HMS Europa) in July 1944 as a newly-trained Wren, and was assigned to the Bedding Store, which before the war had housed the equipment for the bowling green. The Sparrows Nest was (and is) a lovely ornamental and pleasure garden which had a concert hall and various other buildings dotted about, all used for the administration of the Service. Seamen in the Patrol Service were, I believe, the only sea-going sailors to be issued with blankets. On coming into Port, two used blankets were exchanged at the Store for two clean ones, and a lorry-load of returned blankets was taken to the Laundry at Gorleston every Friday morning. Apart from handing over clean blankets when a draft arrived, my job was to keep a card index of all members of the Service, showing how many and when blankets were exchanged. Also in the Store was kept the "Story Book" - in which was recorded the reason why a sailor failed to bring his blankets for exchange. I imagine losses had to be paid for, and the reasons why blankets were lost, apart from the obvious one of having gone down with the ship, were sometimes colourful in the extreme!

Other things were done in the Store - such as the issue of life-jackets and survivors' kit. It is hard to imagine just how these young men could have been so wonderfully cheerful and so full of high spirits having perhaps lost
everything - and no doubt many of their companions - but a few days earlier..

My memories of Lowestoft and my service life there are very happy. I was quartered at St. Mary's Convent in the north of the town where twenty Wrens slept in the Chapel! We had transport laid on to the Nest each morning but many of us preferred to cycle, hoping that we would get across the swing bridge before it "swung" to allow a ship to pass in or out of the harbour.

Entertainment at the Sparrows Nest was of a high standard - George Crow and his Blue Mariners played for our dances at the Palais de Concrete (the Drill Hall) when they were not on tour or fulfilling broadcasting engagements; and wonderful Ivor Pye was often on hand to entertain us. I was in touch with Ivor three or four years ago and he kindly sent me a couple of his cassettes - the memories came flooding back. I also recall Dame Vera Laughton Matthews coming to inspect us, and after work on a few glorious summer evenings, a group of us helping a local fruit farmer to bring in his crop of raspberries. I am still in touch with a dear friend from those far-off days

(left) The RNPS own band 'The Blue Mariners'

I was very keen to serve overseas and volunteered as soon as I arrived at HMS Europa but did not succeed in getting a draft. After nearly a year I exchanged places (I can't remember the intricacies of this) with a Wren from HMS Excellent, hoping that this would be achieved from Portsmouth Command. This proved to be so and in January 1946 I got a posting to Colombo with the last-but-one draft of Wrens.

Happy memories of HMS Europa remain with me still, and being an ex-Sparrow, I am proud to be a member of the Royal Naval Patrol Service Association."

ex-wren Doreen Bryant (nee Winter)

Doreen Bryant & Nick Clark © 2002