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The WRENS at The Imperial Hotel

Landing in Malta in early January 1944, the WRENS were quartered at the Imperial Hotel, Sliema.

The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRENS) was one of the first female branches of the British Navy. First formed in 1917 for the First World War, it was disbanded in 1919 and then revived for the Second World War. They operated as weapons analysts, radar plotters and technicians, secretaries and held other positions.

Landing in Malta in early January 1944, the WRENS were quartered at the Imperial Hotel, Sliema, which was considered a most modern hotel.

One of the most welcomed duties of the WRENs was to welcome and entertain troops passing through Malta. The WRENs hosted several parties at the Imperial to welcome troops passing through Malta. One of the welcoming parties was the Grand ‘Poppy Day’ Dance held at the Imperial on Wednesday 25th October 1944, “with a “buffet”, “bar” and “continuous dancing from 20:00 – 23:45hrs”.

Around 200 WRENs visited Malta in 2004, and they nostalgically visited their former posts at Fort St. Angelo, Manoel Islands and Fort Ricasoli. Commodore Picton, the highest-ranking female officer in the navy, met with the WRENs at the Imperial. The WRENS also wanted that they sentimentally visit their former rooms.

The recollection of their arrival is described in Ursula Stuart Mason’s book, “The WRENs 1917-1977” as: “The entire staff lined up in the hall to welcome us. It was as though we had stepped back into the Victorian era.”

The Imperial Hotel not only served as a home away from home during the war, but it also welcomed many of them back 50 years later.