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Pamela Milligan's WRNS Records

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posted on 2024-06-05, 20:04 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Six weeks ago, I saw a very long and effusive obituary of someone called Fanny Hugill (nee Gore Brown). Hugill was a Wren in the women's navy in Eisenhower's headquarters unit for D-Day. In this obituary, there was a resume of what Hugill had done around D Day and thereafter. Amazingly, Hugill was probably the senior officer of my mother, Pamella Milligan, who was in Eisenhower's HQ unit in the run up to D-Day. Shortly after D-Day, my mother crossed the channel and followed the unit through France and into Germany. My mother was the secretary to a Royal Navy officer who dealt with the liaison between the US Navy and the British Navy for D-Day operations and subsequent resupply for fight in Europe.

Pamela's obituary followed my knowledge of what my mother did! I dug out my mother's photograph album that tells this story. My mother's war story started in Southwick House, a country mansion overlooking Portsmouth, where Eisenhower set up his HQ. The people that worked there were incarcerated! It was so secret, I remember my mother saying, there was no communication outside the HQ. They couldn't go in or out, write or send letters. They were hermetically sealed. Mother told me of some documents she was never allowed to let out of her sight night or day - coordinating US and British navy ships to avoid them running into each other.

History

Item list and details

Service record Mother was attached to something called Royal Navy Service Party 1645, a group of naval people doing planning for D-Day. Then later, it became Naval Party 1749 for reasons that the contributor doesn't understand. HQ unit followed the front as it moved through France into Germany. Mother got as far as Minden and caught a dreaded lurgy. Mother had to be medevacked out, interestingly by the Americans. At this stage of the war, she was discharged. All of these details are on her service record (see digitised photographs). The service record even tells you she was due 14 pounds and 16 shillings for some reason! These details are in the obituary! Photo album Tells the story of this obit and which my mother told me piecemeal. The earliest photograph in the album is from September 1944, about three months after D-Day. The photograph shows a naval party (around 40 men and women, lots of Wrens), about to arrive at Arromanches, still a bit rough and ready! This must have been an official photo. The naval party set up shop in Granville. There are no photos of this, but there is a postcard. Were their first offices. Then they went to La Celle Saint Claud. Mother was billeted from October to February. Places match the map and match the obit of the other woman (Fanny Hugill). In Saint Germain, they endured an incredibly cold winter, and they burnt the furniture to keep warm, until someone bribed the Quartermaster to provide them with duffel coats. see the photograph of them all in their duffel coats! Pictures of mixed hockey teams - the women obviously had a good time! TNever worked out what ANCXF was. The women then moved to Versailles (see the photos and postcards). There are photos of Paris just after liberation. Photo of group of officers she was working for. They have searched for names but have not got very far. As the war still went on, the women packed up shop, with a farewell dance in Saint Germain, and moved into liberated Germany! They had a May Ball and took part in swimming sports. The RAF base in Germany invited the naval Wrens for a party. The Royal Naval Service Party 1645 split to 1749 and my mother went onto Minden in Germany. The army put up a pontoon bridge across the river after it was destroyed. The women played tennis at Minden before the War had finished. Gruesome fighting was occurring across Germany, but Minden has been liberated. See the pictures of bomb damage near Minden. The women used the swimming pool at Melitta Works (coffee percolator brand which still to this day is a factory to do with coffee paraphernalia). The Brits must have requisitioned the factory as it was where they'd set up offices. Although naval, one big problem was resupplying the troops. Wars are won and lost by how well you can resupply! This was crucial, even though stuck in the middle of Germany. Mother was suddenly taken ill in Minden

Person the story/items relate to

Pamela Milligan

Person who shared the story/items

Timothy Horne

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Contributor's mother

Type of submission

Shared at University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh on 25 November 2023.

Record ID

107501 | EDI005