Navy commemorates first female Warrant Officer

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Tanalee Smith (author)

Topic(s): Leadership, WRANS

First Warrant Officer for the WRANS Lenore Maiden, right, being congratulated by the OIC WRANS Chief Officer Norma Uhlmann at HMAS Cerberus in 1972. (Image published in Navy News 24 November 1972) (photo: )
First Warrant Officer for the WRANS Lenore Maiden, right, being congratulated by the OIC WRANS Chief Officer Norma Uhlmann at HMAS Cerberus in 1972. (Image published in Navy News 24 November 1972)

The Royal Australian Navy has paid tribute to a sailor who paved the way for women in service by becoming the first woman promoted to the highest rank as a senior sailor.

Warrant Officer Agnes Lenore ‘Lennie’ Maiden, who served in the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) for nearly 29 years, passed away in Brisbane yesterday, aged 82.

Warrant Officer Maiden was promoted to Warrant Officer in 1972.

Last year, 48 years later, the Royal Australian Navy promoted its first female Warrant Officer of the Navy, Deb Butterworth.

WO-N Butterworth said Miss Maiden was a trailblazer for generations of women.

“I want you to know how much the women of the Navy owe to you and the generations of dedicated WRANS who served in the decades before gender equality was achieved in the Royal Australian Navy,” Warrant Officer Butterworth wrote in a letter to Miss Maiden before she died.

“We women of the present Royal Australian Navy know we stand on your shoulders.”

Warrant Officer Maiden joined the WRANS in 1956, specialising as a steward and then working as a trainer at Recruit School.

HMAS Cerberus Class 28, January 1956. Rear: Mary Lovett, Barbara Johns, Esther Robertson, Mary Fraser, Nancy Brennan, Frances Snook, Jean Kerr, Joan Stokes, Mavourneen Smith, Judith Gilmour. Centre: Donelle Peak, Shirley Blight, Third Officer Joan Ellis, CPO Utting, Audrey Young, Grace Reeve. Front: Rikki Trenamen, Rosslyn Roberts, Miriam McKeown, Jean McCabe, Beverley Penshorn, Lennie Maiden, Mercia Kaczmarowski.

HMAS Cerberus Class 28, January 1956. Rear: Mary Lovett, Barbara Johns, Esther Robertson, Mary Fraser, Nancy Brennan, Frances Snook, Jean Kerr, Joan Stokes, Mavourneen Smith, Judith Gilmour. Centre: Donelle Peak, Shirley Blight, Third Officer Joan Ellis, CPO Utting, Audrey Young, Grace Reeve. Front: Rikki Trenamen, Rosslyn Roberts, Miriam McKeown, Jean McCabe, Beverley Penshorn, Lennie Maiden, Mercia Kaczmarowski.

First Mess Dinner, WRANS Chiefs and Petty Officers Mess, Flinders Naval Depot (now HMAS Cerberus), 1962. Back row, from left: WRRS(S) Anne Kelly; POWRREG Judith Melocco; WRRS(S) Janet Mears; POWRMTD Joan Baker; POWRCK Val Hyde; POWRSTD Lennie Maiden. Seated, from left: CWRSA(S) Ella Geisler; POWRSA(S) Mercia Kaczmarowski; First Officer Barbara MacLeod; WRRS(S) Debbie Robertson; POWRMTD Pam Taunton.

First Mess Dinner, WRANS Chiefs and Petty Officers Mess, Flinders Naval Depot (now HMAS Cerberus), 1962. Back row, from left: WRRS(S) Anne Kelly; POWRREG Judith Melocco; WRRS(S) Janet Mears; POWRMTD Joan Baker; POWRCK Val Hyde; POWRSTD Lennie Maiden. Seated, from left: CWRSA(S) Ella Geisler; POWRSA(S) Mercia Kaczmarowski; First Officer Barbara MacLeod; WRRS(S) Debbie Robertson; POWRMTD Pam Taunton.

She served in HMA Ships Cerberus, Coonawarra, Penguin, Harman and Albatross before leaving the WRANS in 1984; she continued to support the Navy through the WRANS Association throughout the rest of her life.

“The WRANS was a separate naval service with limited career opportunities, yet Lennie demonstrated that women could be promoted to the highest rank a senior sailor could attain,” Warrant Officer of the Navy Butterworth said.

“She trained a generation of young women who entered the Navy as WRANS and is remembered by them with affection as being fair and firm but also warm and humorous.”

HMAS Coonawarra WRANS senior ranks and officers, 1970 or 1971. Back row, from left: Lennie Maiden, Joan Reynolds, unknown, Janette Slosar, Madeleine Leonard, Sue Cumming.Front row, from left: Sue Bandy, Lois Redpath, Sharon Scarfe, Margery Cowell, Robin Stopford, Bev Carroll.

HMAS Coonawarra WRANS senior ranks and officers, 1970 or 1971. Back row, from left: Lennie Maiden, Joan Reynolds, unknown, Janette Slosar, Madeleine Leonard, Sue Cumming.Front row, from left: Sue Bandy, Lois Redpath, Sharon Scarfe, Margery Cowell, Robin Stopford, Bev Carroll.

The Royal Australian Navy has changed considerably since Warrant Officer Maiden’s days: women were not permitted to serve aboard ships until 1983, and by 1985 the WRANS were integrated into the Royal Australian Navy.

As of October 2019, women make up 21.7 per cent of the Navy’s workforce and can serve in any role.

Vice-Admiral Michael Noonan, Chief of Navy, wrote to Warrant Officer Maiden to thank her for her decades of service and her devotion to duty.

“You and your generation of WRANS showed Navy the way forward towards the modern integrated workforce in which every rank and career path is open to all our members,” Vice-Admiral Noonan wrote.

Rest in Peace Warrant Officer Agnes Lenore ‘Lennie’ Maiden. Fair Winds and Following Seas.