• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE0470

Doyle, Jess Scott

(1921 – 1988) Senior WRANS from HMAS Harman
  • Born 12 April, 1921, Sydney New South Wales Australia
  • Died 8 July, 1988
  • Occupation Servicewoman


Jess Prain was one of the first fourteen women to join the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1941 and was stationed at Harman. From here she was drafted to Kuttabul where she was the first Petty Officer in Sydney. She did an Officer Training Course and returned to Harman as Third Officer. After her discharge in 1946 she was a welfare officer for Berlei and was recalled to the Navy in 1951 to train new recruits. Prain was Officer-in-Charge Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) at Flinders Naval Depot until 1954 and retired as First Officer. Married to Denis, Jess Doyle became Appeals Officer for Legacy (Sydney). [1]


The following is from the Ex-WRANS newsletter Ditty Box

Mrs Jess Doyle (Prain), WR8, died very suddenly on 8 July 1988, aged 67. Jess served from 1941-1946 and 1951-1955, and was a First Officer on discharge.

A WRANS telegraphist, who tapped out the message to RAN ships at sea that Australia was at war with Japan, has died suddenly in Sydney. She was Mrs Jess Doyle (née Prain) who was aged 19 when she joined as one of the first 12 telegraphists in the WRANS in 1941. [2] By war’s end, there were more than 2,500.

She died in Sydney on July 8, aged 67. Burial at Botany followed a service at the Naval Chapel, Garden Island, conducted by Principal Chaplain Bill Rosier. Late of Clovelly, she leaves husband Dennis, sister Hazel and Jack, Carol and Michael.

Jess Doyle’s naval involvement began in 1941 as one of the “Mrs Mackenzie’s girls”. She was commissioned in 1944 and served until the completion of World War II when the WRANS were disbanded.

In 1951, with the Korean crisis looming, she was invited back as Duty Director WRANS with the appointment of Officer-in-Charge, WRANS at the Naval Training Establishment at Flinders Naval Depot. She began to re-establish the Administration, Recruit and Officer training programs which set the foundations of training in the first years and established the service as a permanent and integral part of the Royal Australian Navy.

In 1954, she was offered the position the Director of WRANS but because of family illness felt it her duty to return home. She retired with the rank of First Officer.

After leaving the service she was employed as publications manager with the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, working with various voluntary groups of that organisation. Motivated by her service background, she joined Sydney Legacy as Director of Appeals – a position she held for seven years. In 1969 she was invited by the president of the Post Graduate Medical Foundation to raise funds to build the Sir Victor Coppleston Post Graduate School of Medicine, Sydney University.

Jess was on the committee of the Ex-WRANS Association from its inception in 1961 and represented the association in many capacities. She also lead the WRANS contingent every year in the Anzac Day march.

In most recent years she undertook the WRANS Window project. Her drive and organisation skills proved to be tireless. Her vision was that the window had to represent every WRAN, irrespective of rank or branch.

The window was unveiled at the Garden Island chapel on September 21, 1986 – her last great naval achievement. [3]

[1] Ships Belles p. 69
[2] There were 14 women in the first intake – all were qualified telegraphists but 2 offered to serve as cooks.
[3] Ex-Wrans Ditty Box August 1988 p. 7-8


Published resources

Archival resources

  • National Archives of Australia, National Office, Canberra
    • PRAIN JESS SCOTT : Service Number - WR/8 : Date of birth - 12 Apr 1921 : Place of birth - SYDNEY : Place of enlistment - SYDNEY : Next of Kin - PRAIN ROBERT
    • PRAIN JESS SCOTT : Service Number - WR8 : Date of birth - 12 Apr 1921 : Place of birth - Unknown : Place of enlistment - Unknown : Next of Kin - PRAIN ROBERT
  • Australian War Memorial, Research Centre
    • Senior WRANS from HMAS Harman Naval Wireless Station at the fourth birthday of the service
    • Panorama group portrait of members of the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) at HMAS Rushcutter and two Navy officers.

Digital resources

Related entries

  • Related Organisations
    • Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) (1941 - 1984)
  • Membership
    • Ex-Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (NSW) (1968 - )
  • Related Cultural Artefacts
    • WRANS Memorial Window