DAME VERA LAUGHTON MATHEWS
women . and girls. That was the size of the W.R.N.S. at the peak of the war. It was built up from a mere thousand at the beginning of the war. The high reputation of the Women's Royal Naval Service and its magnificent record during these fast six years makes one naturally curious shout the woman whom the Admiralty chose to guide and direct it I lett she is—Dame Vera Laughten Mathews— one of the most distinguished women in public life to-day. She is the only head of the Women's Services who has held her directorship continuously throughout the war and is as enthusiastic about her " girls " as they are about her.
The Navy is certainly in Mrs. Laughton Ma thews' blood. Her father the late Sir John Laughton, was the well-known naval historian; her brother died while serving in the Royal Yacht Victoria and Alberi: she has a halfbrother who is naval archaeoloeist and librarian at
t h e Admiralty: two nephews are in the Navy—one is navigating officer in a destroyer and the other a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm —and last, but certainly not least. her daughter Eivirsi served under her its a Wren Her association with the W.R.N.S. goes back to 1917 when she first joined it—almost on its formation and very shortly afterwards she was put in charge of the W.R.N.S in H.M. Victory VI. R.N. Depot at the Crystal Palace. After 1918 she was the mainstay or the Old Association of W.R.N.S. and in 1919, in recognition of her services, she was awarded the M.B.E.
In the meantime she had gone back to journalism, which had been one of her chief interests up to 19i7. She was then sub-editor of The Ladles' Field. She launched Time and Tide, bringing out its first number in 1920. In her spare time(!) she organised all kinds of activities for her beloved W.R.N.S., such as Inter-Service sports —swimming, tennis, sculling, hockey. As a student she had captained her own college at hockey and played for London University.
IN 1924 Vera Laughton went out to 1. Japan where she was married to Mr. Gordon Dewar Mathews in the Catholic Church at Kobe. There were oo W.R.N.S. to look after in Japan, but there were Girl Guides, and Mrs. Laughton Mathews became Commissioner for British Guides there, travelhug hundreds of miles to attend rallies. While living in Tokyo she ran a corn
pany of Guides in Yokohama. She even started to study Japanese so that she could visit the people in their own homes. Etvira, her eldest child and only daughter, was born out in Tokyo. Iler two sons, Christopher and David. were born after her return to England.
Back in London, this dynamo of energy took up all her old interests again., In 1928 ehe became Captain of the Golden Hind W.R.N.S. and continued to run this company right up to the time she was appointed Director of the W.R.N.S. Every year she used to take the Sea Rangers of the Golden Hind to camp—to Adelboden, St. Omer. the Austrian Tyrol. When the Family was old enough they were included in all the Guide activities and went to camp with their mother. and so did Mr. Mathews. Husband and wife had one week to themselves every year when they went off on a walking tour, rucksack oa back.
WOMEN'S Suffrage has always claimed Mrs. Laughton Mathews' interest and she was a staunch defender and upholder of women's rights. It is not surprising therefore to find her on the executive committee of St. Joan's Social and Political Alliance and its chairman For seven years from 1932 to 1939 In 1929 she gave evidence on behalf of the Alliance before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the age of marriage. urging the raising of the age for boys and girls to 16. The recent decision to admit women to the Diplomatic and Consular Services will have been received by no one more enthusiastically. than by her because she also gave evidence there before the Inter-departmental Committee on this point. Then there were the many international aspects of women's interests and the various assemblies and congresses that were held in Europe—Dame Laughton Mathews travelled to Berlin, to Marseilles, to Istanbul, to Geneva. And still the remarkable record of achievement goes on and this record of them could go on for many more columns.
But let the summing-up be left to Mrs. Cazalet Keir, who. in the House of Commons, paid tribute to her "great humanity and common sense," and Mr. Mark Kerr, who said: " The thing that staggers me is that she does so many things and does them all so well. Many people would think any of these tasks a full-time job and yet, in addition. she finds time to run a borne and apparently to he a very satisface tory wife and mother."