World’s longest serving female sailor has spent just one day at sea – and ‘didn’t like it much’

A Wren has been awarded the Guinness World Record for the longest serving female sailor despite only ever spending one day at sea.

Warrant Officer Class One Barbara McGregor left the Royal Navy having served 43 years and 189 days.

WO1 McGregor joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service (officially known as the Wrens) on July 26 1977, and planned to stay for just four years to enjoy a bit of sport and adventure.

Joining 16 years before women were allowed to go to sea, she chose to remain on shore-based postings.

“I did spend a day at sea while I was serving in Gibraltar,” she said, “and I didn’t like it much”.

“It’s a different world now. If I was 18 years old again I would probably leap at the chance to go to sea.”

She completed her specialist training as a communicator at HMS Mercury (now closed) near Petersfield where she and her fellow trainees were inspected by Lord Mountbatten on the day before her 18th birthday.

“He wasn’t what I expected – much less formal and quite a slight figure. He got everyone to gather around him where he told us stories of his naval experiences,” she told Navy News.

“A couple of years later I was on duty at HMS Dryad when the signal came through that he’d been killed. It broke my heart.”

As a communicator it was WO1 McGregor’s job to pass that news on – and other important signals, instructions and messages – to ships, submarines and units scattered around the globe.

This painstaking and laborious job is largely replaced today by email which can be dispatched and read in a matter of seconds.

Her citation from the Guinness World Records office read: ‘The longest career in the navy (active duty/service) (female) is 43 years 189 days, achieved by Barbara Mary McGregor (UK) from 26 July 1977 to 31 January 2021.’

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