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Source: New Zealand Defence Force

10 June 2020

A former Masterton woman who contributed to the national effort during World War II has celebrated her 100th birthday as the country again pulled together for a common cause.

Petty Officer Telegraphist Nancy ‘Pat’ Moore (née Clothier) passed the milestone on 11 April, during the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown and in isolation with her family.

Her birthday card from the Queen sits on her table at her flat in Eastbourne, Lower Hutt.

Pat served in the Women’s Royal New Zealand Naval Service – the ‘Wrens’ – from 1942 to 1946.

She was delighted with her congratulatory letter from the Chief of Navy, but she says, “I have no Wrens left to ring and say, ‘I’ve had a letter from the Admiral’.”

Initially she had joined the Women’s War Service Auxillary.

“All the young women had joined,” she says.

“You could do all sorts of things. I chose communications, and we had an old soldier who took us one night a week, and all day Saturday, teaching us Morse Code and semaphore.”

As a Wren, she was assigned to the Post Office wireless station on Tinakori Hill (now Te Ahumairangi Hill), where the Wellington Naval Radio Station was based.

The station ran full watches, day and night. The Wrens would receive coded messages from all over the world.
“It was very energetic,” she says. “It was hard work, and sometimes the air wasn’t clear and it would hard to hear the signal. You would be scared of making a mistake.”

Pat spent a year training at Tinakori before being posted to Hihitahi Camp at the Naval Wireless Transmitter Station, Waiouru. She spent three winters there, along with about 150 officers and ratings – 80 of them women.

“The Wrens slept in one building – the ‘Wrennery’ – and the men’s quarters were on the other side of the road. We were issued six blankets each and we really needed them.”

Her job was to handle messages from the teleprinter, deciding their priority and where they were to go.

“They never stopped, they just kept coming.”

With the Japanese advancing through the Pacific, the station provided valuable support to ships as sea.

Its major achievement was broadcasting for the British Pacific Fleet off Japan – acting as the link between Admiralty and the fleet.

In addition, a large proportion of the messages of a similar nature between Admiral Earl Mountbatten, Supreme Commander, South East Asia, and the British Government passed through Waiouru.

“We were very seldom allowed to go on leave,” she says. “I wasn’t allowed to go on leave to my sister-in-law’s wedding. And the trains were too crowded.

“Once the European war was over, they loosened up a bit, and would give us a truck to go up to Lake Taupo. We used to have picnics on the foreshore.”

Pat served in the Navy until 1946 but never realised her dream of travelling overseas.

“We kept saying, when are we going to go? Oh, I would have loved a chance to go.”

In 1944, she met John Moore, a Fleet Air Arm pilot, and they later married. John became a stock agent and they moved to a farmlet in Upper Plains, Masterton.

They lived there for 40 years. They raised four children and Pat now has nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.