I was in Dartmouth over the Easter Weekend. The little fishing port is home to a fabulous independent bookstore called Browser (please support your local bookstores whenever possible), and Britannia Royal Naval College which features in Murder in Miniature at Honeychurch Hall. Whenever I look at this majestic building perched on the bluff overlooking the harbor, I am filled with mixed emotions.
When I was nineteen, I was accepted into the Women's Royal Naval Service as an officer cadet. At the time, the WRNS only took twelve female cadets a year who, after going through a grueling boot camp at a shore-based training camp aptly called HMS Dauntless then went on to Britannia Royal Naval College to finish their training. I also found out that "wrens" as they were called didn't go to sea and, with a shrinking British Empire, the chance to see the world was very limited. I had joined up because I desperately wanted to travel.
Getting out of the navy was harder than getting in but I did and slunk home with my tail between my legs. My parents were so disappointed and insisted I return all my going-away presents (travel clocks! Luggage tags!). I went on to work on a newspaper as an obit writer (the spark for the Vicky Hill mysteries about a young reporter doing just that) and do a slew of other jobs including being a flight attendant which I loved.
A few years ago, I was invited for a private tour of the BRNC. I was blown away by the beauty of the building, the exquisite paintings and most of all the pomp, tradition, and rich history. Gosh. I would have been a part of that.
Regrets in my life have always been about what I didn't do, rather than what I did. At the back of my mind, I often wonder how different my life would have been had I stayed a wren. Ah, those wouldas, shouldas, couldas, are dangerous things …