Lena Mouat

Lena Mouat

Lena Mouat (1889-1978) was born in Lerwick in 1889, to Basil Pole Mouat, a Baker, and his wife Ann Davidson Veitch. Her full name was Basilina Ninian Mouat, which seems to have been unused except in official documents. She wrote a piece in the New Shetlander magazine about her time in the war, she said it "gave me work after my own heart". She hadn’t settled previously, and had done various jobs, among them working as a Shorthand Typist for Lerwick business magnate J W Robertson. A sister had emigrated to New Zealand. Lena herself spent some time in Canada.

She became civilian Secretary to the Senior Naval Officer in Lerwick in April 1915. Her career began eventfully. Shortly after her start, an ammunition hut nearby blew up. She stayed at her post until the SNO, Captain Alston, told her to go home. She was "absorbed", as her record says, into the Women’s Royal Naval Service in April 1918 as an officer.

She was clearly a person who was noticed. The Imperial War Museum holds sketches someone made of the Lerwick Wrens. She’s there, captioned "The Nelson Touch". She obviously enjoyed her time in the service, writing "looking back, I realise that we were a happy crowd".

The war ended, but the Lerwick naval base continued into 1919. Lena found herself at Buckingham Palace for a military MBE. Captain Alston obviously thought a great deal of her, as he took her on to work for him in his new post as Regional Director of Pensions in Newcastle, and waited for her discharge in October. She’d had other offers, including one from her old firm in Canada.

By 1921 she was back in Shetland, her parents were aging, and she took on a post teaching business studies at the Central School. In her spare time she took part in Lerwick’s musical activities. There’s a picture of her in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s "Iolanthe". She seems to have been thorough, and dedicated. She continued teaching some time after her official retirement age.

In her old age she left Shetland, and died in the Oversteps Eventide Home at Dornoch, on 22 November 1978.


Lena Mouat, Assistant Principal, WRNS. Shetland Museum.