Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS), RAN delegates impressed with Port Stephens reunion stay

Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) delegates enjoyed three nights in Port Stephens this month as part of the association’s bi-annual national reunion.

The NSW WRANS Naval Women’s Association – Hunter Region hosted past and present female members of WRANS, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and their guests in Shoal Bay between March 1 and 4.

The 456 delegates, ranging from those who enrolled in 1953 to currently serving members, that attended the reunion hailed from the UK, US and all Australian states and territories. 

While the delegates stayed in Port Stephens, they toured the Hunter Valley vineyards, Hunter Valley Gardens, Fort Scratchley and the Anzac walk in Newcastle.

The delegates enjoyed the many activities available in the Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay areas. Swimming with dolphins was a big hit.

The meet and greet function and gala dinner were held at West Nelson Bay Diggers.

Taree band Circus Mule kept the delegates very well entertained on Saturday night.

A wellness day was held on the Saturday at the Ramada, where DVA and the Port Stephens Veterans Network provided delegates with much valuable information.

Marine Rescue Port Stephens organised a static display of the area’s naval history.

Other displays were provided by Joan Reynolds, author of Women of the Royal Australian Navy part one and part two, the Cancer Council, Graham McAlpine and Mark West.

The four days concluded at the Shoal Bay foreshore with a barbecue brunch catered by the Nelson Bay Rotary Club, whcih provided a wonderful breakfast for all to enjoy.

The final morning showcased Port Stephens at its best with a picture perfect view of the bay with dolphins swimming alongside the beach just next to the barbecue area.

“Many of our delegates, who have never before visited Port Stephens, couldn’t believe the beauty and friendliness of our region and hope to return,” Beth Howell, vice president of NSW WRANS Naval Women’s Association – Hunter Region, said.

What is WRANS?

Information from the Australian War Memorial and NSW WRANS Naval Women’s Association – Hunter Region

WRANS was formed in April 1941 as a result of a shortage of telegraphists in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The RAN enrolled 14 women at HMAS Harman, the wireless telegraphy station near Canberra.

At the end of WWII WRANS was disbanded, but manpower shortages in the RAN led to the service being re-constituted in 1951. It was made a permanent part of the RAN in December 1959.

WRANS personnel were gradually absorbed into the RAN during the early 1980s and in due course the service was disbanded. Women were not permitted to serve aboard ships until 1983.