Lady Rozelle Raynes - WREN stoker - RIP

Discussion in 'The Women of WW2' started by CommanderChuff, Jun 27, 2015.

  1. CommanderChuff

    CommanderChuff Senior Member

    Lady Rozelle Raynes, Wren stoker - obituary telegraph 27 June 2015

    Earl’s daughter who rejected her destiny as a debutante for a life of high adventure on the ocean

    Lady Rozelle Raynes, who has died aged 89, was the well-brought-up daughter of an earl who devoted her life to the sea, writing a series of books charting her adventures as a wartime Wren stoker, a single-handed yachtswoman, and as the founder of a one-woman mission to take East End boys in care sailing in the London docks. In Maid Matelot (1971, reissued in 2004), Rozelle Raynes recalled that even as a small child she was fascinated by the sea . As a teenager threatened with finishing school in Switzerland, she secretly prayed for the war to last long enough for her to join the WRNS.
    It did and she joined up in August 1943. Within a couple of months she was appointed stoker on a tug boat carrying men and signals round Combined Ops bases in the Portsmouth Command.
    Lady Rozelle Pierrepont, Wren stoker
    In the winter of 1943-4, as plans were laid for D-Day, she stood on freezing foredecks with her Aldis lamp, drained the oil out of the tug’s Kelvin engine sump and made sure that the pistons were “still singing their rhythmic song”. She felt that she had “reached the ultimate peak of happiness in all my 18 years”.
    The war, for her, meant freedom, and she enjoyed the effect she had on seamen : “Nom d’une sacrée vache!” exclaimed a Belgian skipper, “Ce sont des femmes là-bas dans ce bateau!” When her parents came to visit she had to pretend not to recognise the sailors who greeted her with cries of “Wotcher, Stokes!” or “Coming to the pitchers, Passionflower?”
    Rozelle Raynes's book about her wartime adventures
    On the night before D-Day, as she sat sipping cocoa amid the armada preparing to make the hazardous journey to Normandy, she recalled a couple of Welsh seamen striking up The White Cliffs of Dover. Soon they were joined by “hundreds of voices: basses, baritones, tenors, contraltos, sopranos, all singing . . . no one felt like sleeping on that long restless night”.
    Then, as the invasion force began its journey, “the tension was broken and the soldiers and sailors laughed and cheered as our little tug kept pace with them, clouds of rainbow-tinted spray breaking over her stubborn black bows. One man leant over the stern of his landing craft as it gathered way and called out to us: 'You’re the last bit of Old England we’ll see for a while, girls, and you sure look worth fighting for!’ ”
    Three days later an armed merchant ship steamed into harbour with several hundred German PoWs and she watched as they disembarked. “I suddenly became aware of the indescribable tragedy and horror of war. These were no proud and noble specimens of the Aryan race, but a pathetic collection of under-fed, tired and ill-looking youths wearing the ragged remains of their uniforms, with a forlorn and hopeless look in their eyes which made it impossible to view them objectively as the dreaded Huns.”
    It was only on the day she was demobbed, with her commanding officer’s instructions on “how to comport myself in civilian life” ringing in her ears, that she burst into tears, “running blindly from his office into the brave new world outside”.
    She was born Lady Frederica Rozelle Ridgway Pierrepont on November 17 1925, the daughter of Gervas Evelyn Pierrepont, MC, who would succeed a cousin as the 6th Earl Manvers in 1940, when the family moved to the Victorian high-Gothic family seat of Thoresby Hall, Nottinghamshire. The Earldom had been created in 1806 for Charles Pierrepont, 1st Viscount Newark, a naval officer who had served as an MP for Nottinghamshire.
    Rozelle’s mother, born Marie-Louise Roosevelt Butterfield, was an accomplished artist and the only child of Sir Frederick and Lady Butterfield, owners of Cliffe Castle, Keighley. “Roosevelt” came from her maternal grandmother, who was related to Theodore Roosevelt.
    Rozelle, as she was always known, was the youngest of three, but the only one to survive into adulthood, an older sister dying of cholera aged nine, and a brother in a road accident aged four.
    Shortly after the family moved into Thoresby Hall, it was requisitioned by the Army, and it was the experience of being surrounded by young service personnel (and her parents’ struggles to make ends meet) which encouraged Rozelle in her ambition to join up.
    On leaving the Wrens, Rozelle Pierrepont became a deck hand on a 100-ton Bermudan cutter, and on her 21st birthday was given a converted ship’s lifeboat in which she explored the coasts of France, Belgium and Holland. On her first solo journey across the channel the rudder snapped, so she sawed up the engine casing with a bread knife and fashioned a new one, lashed up with her suspender belt.
    Lady Rozelle during her early days as a yachtswoman
    In 1956 she bought a 25 ft folkboat called Martha McGilda which she cruised extensively in the Baltic. In 1960, she wrote an account in Yachting Monthly magazine of a mostly single-handed voyage from Dover to Finland, which she had undertaken with the ultimate aim of visiting Russia. She went on to publish an account of her adventures in a book, North in a Nutshell (1968).
    In Maid Matelot Rozelle expressed her distaste for the sort of “suitable partners” from Guards regiments to whom she was introduced during leave from the Wrens. Yet in 1953 she married Major Alexander Beattie of the Coldstream Guards. She was happy for a time, but the marriage ended after eight years. In 1965 she married Richard Raynes, a doctor.
    During the 1960s she served as an assistant purser on the Townsend ferries Halladale and Free Enterprise, on the cross-channel service between Dover and Calais. Then, in the mid-1970s, she embarked on a bold social experiment with boys living in long-term care in the London Borough of Newham where her husband was then working as a deputy medical officer.
    For half a day every fortnight she would take groups of boys out in the Martha McGilda on to the river Thames, teaching them the art of sailing and the practicalities of navigation. A report by the Newham director of social services in 1976 remarked on “a marked change for the better in the boys”, noting: “There is no doubt that their confidence and independence have improved as a result of this experience, and it has given them a new outlook on life.”
    Aboard the Martha McGilda
    In The Tuesday Boys (1991), her account of the project, Rozelle Raynes described how she and her husband also invited the boys to their riverside home in Limehouse Reach, and to their country house on the edge of the white cliffs near Dover, where they camped in the walled garden.
    Her “experiment” proved so successful that in 1980 she established the Martha McGilda charitable trust to further the work. Many of the boys she helped remained friends for life.
    Rozelle had inherited the Pierrepont estates on the death of her father in 1955, when the earldom became extinct. Her mother continued to live at Thoresby Hall until her death in 1984 when it was sold to the National Coal Board. It is now a hotel. Though the estate was managed by agents , Rozelle Raynes sought out and became lifelong friends with many of the people who lived and worked there.
    In the mid-1980s she and her husband built a house on the estate, but did not live in it until 2010, when she suffered a fall, which meant that she could no longer continue to live in London.
    Although she regretted having to move, she was cared for devotedly by local people who took her on trips to seaside resorts. Her final years were probably some of the happiest of her life.
    Her other books include The Sea Bird (1979), about her career at sea; Limehouse Lil (2006), about Limehouse before the redevelopment of Canary Wharf, and A Boat Called Martha (2001) about her adventures on the Martha McGilda.
    Her husband died last year.
    Lady Rozelle Raynes, born November 17 1925, died June 22 2015
  2. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    :poppy: Lady Rozelle Raynes, RIP :poppy:

  3. Legion Etrangère

    Legion Etrangère Active Member

    Thanks for posting this very interesting story of Lady Rozelle Raynes.

    :poppy: Lady Rozelle Raynes, RIP :poppy:

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