Building on the Narrative

Else Dannatt MBE

This article was written for the Rewriting Women into Maritime inititative by Emma Lingard, Corporate Communications Manager, at Associated British Ports.


Else Dannatt MBE (1890-1967)


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The Women's Royal Naval Service during the Second World War © IWM A 7032

Grimsby’s first female member of the naval service in the First World War received a medal for her war service. 

Elsie Mary Dannatt, the daughter of a farmer, was born in November 1890 in Gayton-le-Marsh, near Louth in Lincolnshire. The family moved to the coastal town of Grimsby when she was five. 

From 1914 she served as the secretary to the Mobilising Officer and oversaw the office of women clerks at HMS Pekin, the name given to the auxiliary patrol shore base, a cabin on Grimsby docks. It became the command centre for the minesweepers operating out of the port when the First World War commenced. 

In 1917 when the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was established Elsie was the first in the country to apply. Her application was supported by references from her employer, Captain Pollen, and her previous employer, Mr A Knott, a local councillor. 

She joined the WRNS in February 1918 and began work as a decoder in Grimsby. Elise lived with her family at 358 Heneage Road, two miles from the docks and during hostile air zeppelin attacks she returned to the base to ensure confidential papers and maps were saved. 

In January 1919 she was awarded the MBE by King George V at St James Palace, which she collected wearing her naval uniform. It was awarded for valuable services rendered in connection with the war. She had been recommended for the award by Captain Pollen. 

In 1930 she married Arthur Leane in Grimsby. She died in 1967 in Sussex where she lived.