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Pioneers to Professionals: Women and the Royal Navy

Today women with the necessary skills can join any branch of the Royal Navy. A little over 100 years ago, the Women’s Royal Naval Service motto was ‘Never at Sea’ yet in fact women were actively working on board serving ships and supporting naval operations long before 1917.

The new exhibition at the Fleet Air Arm Museum is now open revealing the remarkable stories of naval women. ‘Pioneers to Professionals’ traces the role of women in the Royal Navy from the mid-17th century through to the present day, highlighting the dramatic changes that have taken place over more than 250 years.

Leading by example, these pioneering women comprehensively demonstrated their capabilities and so laid the foundations for the eventual integration of the WRNS into the Royal Navy in 1993. 

Today females in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines make up 9.3% of the force in the UK Regular Forces and Future Reserves. Furthermore, the percentage of officers who are female in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, in the UK Regular Forces, stands at 10.6%. In July 2016, the government announced the lifting of restrictions on women serving in ground close combat roles, removing the last remaining barriers to full integration.

Behind the scenes of Pioneers to Professionals: Women and the Royal Navy 

The exhibition, Pioneers to Professionals: Women and the Royal Navy was previously located at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. To get a sense of what to expect, Victoria Ingles, Senior Curator at The National Museum of the Royal Navy reveals some surpising and curious stories handpicked to feature in the exhibition. 

To present day stories of heroism 

‘Pioneers to Professionals’ underlines the key place of women in the Royal Navy story and what they have achieved over the past 250 years.  The exhibition’s final collage of images depicts the huge variety of roles undertaken by women in the modern navy, roles that their early predecessors would never have imagined possible.

Curator Susan Dearing said “Women have been contributing to the work of the Royal Navy for over 250 years but their story has tended to remain in the background and their accomplishments largely unrecognised.  But those who so successfully took up the challenge of working in the Royal Navy made possible the fact that women today enjoy the same service opportunities as their male colleagues.  This exhibition provides a great opportunity to bring their inspiring story to the forefront.”

Your ticket to see Pioneers to Professionals: Women and the Royal Navy 

Buy your ticket online for Fleet Air Arm Museum and save 20%. With an annual pass, you can visit as many times as you like within 12 months. 

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