On 28th April, 1941, due to manpower shortage, women from the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps (WESC) were recruited by the Royal Australian Navy. Twelve were enrolled to serve as Communicators and two other women volunteered to serve as Cooks. These women were sworn into the R.A.N on 1st October 1941 as enlisted personnel. By 1942 more had joined them and many of the women applying to be part of the Womens Royal Australian Naval Service were from Western Australia. On 18th January, 1943, the first female Officer’s course was held. Several hundreds of women were interviewed for the 16 places on the course. One of the most notable Western Australians was Sheila McClemans, a Barrister, who joined the Navy in 1943, became a First Officer in November of that year and rose rapidly through the ranks to become Director of WRANS in August 1944.
At the end of WW2 the 3,000 WRANS were disbanded and on 2nd July, 1948, the last wartime WRAN was discharged.
With the commencement of the Korean War the WRANS were reconstituted on 18th July 1950, and in July 1951 the first peacetime Recruits entered the Women’s Royal Auxiliary Naval Service with their initial training held at HMAS “Cerberus” in Victoria.
Once again Western Australian women applied and took up positions in all branches of the Navy and served in Naval stations throughout Australia. In 1959 all serving female personnel were granted permanent status in the Womens Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS). The Western Australian WRANS were members of the Naval Association of Australia and, on the 26th January 1971, the State President of NAA presented them with their Charter and they became a NAA Sub Section member.
On 1st January 1985 the WRANS was again disbanded but the serving WRANS were permitted to remain in Service and became members of the Royal Australian Navy (R.A.N) and, in December 1985, after setting up their By-Laws, the Western Australian WRANS ceased to be part of the NAA Sub Section and established the Ex-WRANS Association of Western Australia. The association is an affiliate of the NAA and RSL.
The 50th Anniversary Reunion of the WRANS was organised and hosted by the Western Australian ex-WRANS Committee, Members and Volunteers and held in Perth from 22nd to 29th April 1991. A total of 308, including 206 wartime WRANS attended. On Anzac Day 261 ex-WRANS assembled in groups, according to their home State, and marched in the Anzac Day parade through the streets of Perth.
At the General Meeting held on 14th July, 2014, a motion was passed that the name of the Association be changed to: WRANS – RAN WOMENS ASSOCIATION WA