This year is the 100th anniversary of WWI. The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was founded in November 1917 and disbanded in 1919 after just 20 months of service, not to be revived again until 1939. 
During and before they joined up to serve, most young women were cutting off their long tresses. So did Granny. She had beautiful long honey-coloured hair which she could have then sold for a good price, but she decided to keep it and she told me it was used for many years in the family of seven siblings for dressing up and appearing in plays. The above photo is of Granny’s beautiful plait/braid. I still have it, carefully preserved.
My Granny, Edith Bevan ,was 18 when she joined the WRNS – Women’s Royal Naval Service – in September 1918. Her mother’s sister, her Aunt Ada Symons, was only two years older than her and together they joined up for an adventure.
They exchanged their dresses with ‘leg-o-mutton’ sleeves and fancy hats for heavy hot serge dresses.
Granny and her Aunt Ada, 1917 Coventry
The WRNS uniform included that heavy serge dress, black woollen stockings, a thick overcoat and a hat, which they had to wear in all weather. Many Wrens complained about the uniform and some even ended up in the sick bay getting treatment for rough and inflamed necks, where the hard serge material had chafed their skin.
“I shall never forget struggling home from the barracks with the rough serge coatfrock, very heavy greatcoat, heavy boots and shoes, woollen ribbed stockings and so on,” recalled one Wren. 
At first, women were only doing ‘domestic’ jobs, VAD and nursing, but gradually as they showed their merit, and after years of fighting the men were needed at sea, so they moved into the male shore-based jobs such as cooks drivers and wireless operators freeing up the men to go to the fleet.
On the following sign-up papers, My Granny is listed first and Ada appears as the next recruit. Ada,the sister of my Great Gran Lillian, and Edith the daughter. (Eventually my Granny).
When Granny joined up there was, naturally, a medical exam. As she told me, some of the questions were, to say the least, invasive! An example she remembered was “Are your periods regular?” How embarrassed she was to be asked that question. In those days, this was never a subject discussed in families and Granny found it really shocking. Then there was “Have you ever had a fit or fainted?” I doubt men were asked these kinds of questions!
As you can see from Granny’s photo she had crossed hammers on the sleeve of her uniform. 
Edith Bevan aged 18 WRNS WW1
This signified she was a technical worker. First, she worked on armaments and later as a depth charge worker filling bombs with TNT! She told me they had to be very, very careful filling the depth charges.
They were not to wear or carry anything made of metal to cause a spark, and their shoes were soft and rubbery or they wore clogs. I suppose I am lucky to be here!
Although Granny did not become a ‘canary’ she did see other girls who were yellow, due to long exposure to the TNT! Listen to this account of the ‘canaries’
As Ethel Dean, who worked at Woolwich Arsenal, recalled:
‘Everything that that powder touches goes yellow. All the girls’ faces were yellow, all round their mouths. They had their own canteen, in which everything was yellow that they touched… Everything they touched went yellow – chairs, tables, everything.
Munitions workers whose job was filling shells were prone to suffer from TNT poisoning. TNT stood for Trinitrotoluene – an explosive which turned the skin yellow of those who regularly came into contact with it. The munitions workers who were affected by this were commonly known as ‘canaries’ due to their bright yellow appearance. Although the visible effects usually wore off, some women died from working with TNT if they were exposed to it for a prolonged period. 
Armament Workers WW1
Granny and her Aunt were ‘demobbed’ on October 1918, so they didn’t spend much time in the service at all However, according to Granny ,she made the most of her few short months in the WRNS and was very proud of her service and enjoyed the experience immensely.
The first depth charges were developed by the British in World War I for use against German submarines or U-boats, beginning in late 1915. They were steel canisters, the size of an oil drum, filled with TNT explosives. They were dropped off the side or stern of a ship, on top of where the crew estimated the enemy submarines were. The canister sank and exploded at a depth that was preset by the use of a hydrostatic valve. The charges often did not hit the submarines but the shock of the explosions still damaged the submarines by loosening the submarine enough to create leaks and forcing the submarine to surface. Then the naval ship could use its guns, or ram the submarine.
The first depth charges were not effective weapons. Between 1915 and the end of 1917, depth charges destroyed only nine U-boats. They were improved in 1918 and that year were responsible for destroying twenty-two U-boats, when depth charges were propelled through the air over distances of 100 or more yards with special cannons, increasing the damage range of the naval ships.