THE 80th anniversary of a naval sinking that claimed the lives of 22 women was marked by a special memorial service in Haddington last Sunday.

The SS Aguila, a steamship loaded with general cargo and carrying 86 Royal Navy personnel, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic on August 19, 1941, with the loss of 21 officers and ranks of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), nicknamed ‘Wrens’, and a nursing sister.

St Mary’s Parish Church’s war memorial in Haddington was one of several venues across Scotland chosen by the Association of Wrens to host a memorial service, the others being in Livingston and Aberdeen.

Former Wrens journeyed from all over eastern Scotland to attend the short service, including two from Haddington.

Edinburgh branch member Margaret Runcie, of Hilton Court, saw service in the Second World War, while Mary Goodall, Letham Mains Holdings, was a serving Wren during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Following a poppy cross laying and several readings, a closing prayer was given by the minister of St Mary’s, the Rev Alison McDonald. Neil Shaw, a member of Haddington Pipe Band, played a selection of tunes.

Elizabeth Nicholl, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of East Lothian, was one of a number of local dignitaries present, as was Councillor John McMillan, Provost of East Lothian.

He said: “It was a most moving service, and good of the WRNS to gather here to mark the occasion.

“The symbolism of reading out and remembering each name of those who had died in a war they didn’t choose was very touching.”

Meanwhile, last Friday marked 100 years since the unveiling of the war memorial at the entrance to St Mary’s.