Margaret Johnstone Moss: A Most Senior Canadian Naval Lady

by John M. MacFarlane 2011

Mrs. Margaret Moss portrait

Born in Scotland on 02/08/1871, there was nothing to suggest that this lady would rise to become a senior naval officer. She married Lieutenant–Colonel Claude Moss and when he retired they came to settle in Duncan BC in 1909. At the start of the First World War Colonel Moss rejoined the army in 1914 and travelled back to the UK to serve with the 14th Cheshire Regiment. As a patriotic duty Margaret Moss formed the Cowichan Branch of the Canadian Red Cross in 1914. This was clearly not enough for her and in 1915 she crossed the Atlantic and re-joined her husband in the UK supervising the Soldier's Home in Whitchurch Salop. Her administrative skills and energy were obviously in evidence.

Mrs. Margaret Moss in uniform

Desiring a more active role in the war effort she joined the Royal Navy in the recently formed Women’s Royal Naval Service c1917 (what later became known as the Wrens). She trained at the Crystal Palace Naval Depot in 1917. Her leadership abilities were recognized and she was appointed as an Assistant Commandant (WRNS) 1917. She served as Principal of the Women's Royal Naval Service in the Portsmouth Division 02/1918.

Shortly afterward she transferred to the nascent Women’s Royal Air Force. She served in the RAF and was gazetted as an Assistant Commandant WRAF serving on the Staff of the Major–General Commanding the South-East (London) Area in 1918. She was released in 1919 and she and her husband returned to Duncan.

After the war she and her husband returned to Vancouver Island (at Cowichan Station BC) and she carried on exercising her leadership abilities in community roles. She was active in the Cowichan branch of the Women's Institute. The W.I. interested itself in the issue of the 'crippled child' and Mrs. Moss focused on looking for solutions. She was the President of the Cowichan Health Centre 1920-35. In 1925 she was a founding Director of the Queen Alexandra Solarium (opened March 1926 at Malahat Beach BC near Mill Bay) serving on the first Board of Directors. This was a revolutionary institution in its day - and was the fruition of Mrs. Moss' dreams for helping children.

She was an Honorary Member of the Cowichan Branch of the Canadian Legion. At the end of her life she returned to Scotland where she died. The Margaret Moss Health Unit in Duncan BC is named for her memory.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2012) Margaret Johnstone Moss – A Most Senior Canadian Naval Lady. 2012.

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