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Wrens Under the Radar by Colleen Shipley

Based on a true story of eight Wrens based in Blenheim during the Second World War, Wrens Under the Radar is a novel that follows the story of Betty and her fellow wrens during the war.

When the war is declared in 1939, Betty’s fiancé Fed enlists, and keen to do her bit, Betty signs up for the Wrens, hoping she will be posted overseas. She is initially disappointed when she is posted to Blenheim along with seven other women. But instead, Betty becomes part of a top-secret mission, the women working as telegraphers and classifiers, monitoring transmissions from Japanese submarines in the Pacific – and Betty feels pride in her role. They work long night shifts in their rural farmhouse, Betty finding respite in learning to ride horses.

The Wrens mix with the local people – they go to church and the dances, but they find it challenging to converse outside their group as their work is so top secret. But close friendships develop between the eight Wrens, something they draw on when hard news hits their group.

Wrens Under the Radar is well researched and brings to life this incredible story, a tale of comradeship and resilience during the Second World War. I didn’t know anything about these women and their role during World War II, so it was fascinating to read of their exploits. It’s a great read, a lovely snapshot of life at this time.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan



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