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Errol Parish Church Graveyard Errol, Perth and Kinross, Scotland

Black and white photograph of Victoria Drummond on receiving her MBE. She is wearing a naval uniform and surrounded by women and children.Victoria Drummond (October 14, 1894 – December 25, 1978) was the first woman Inst. of Marine Engineers member in 1921.

Victoria Alexandrina Drummond was born in 1894, in privileged circumstances and with Royal connections. She was christened with the name of her Godmother, Queen Victoria, and spent her childhood living in Megginch Castle, Perthshire, and on the Estate of her Grandfather Baron Amherst in Norfolk.

Victoria Alexandrina Drummond was born into the kind of privileged background in which she would have been expected to stay under her parents’ roof until her wedding day. Her father, Captain Malcolm Drummond, was a high-ranking retainer in the Royal Household and Victoria, born in 1894, was named after her godmother, the Queen. Like Gordon Holmes, she was ambitious and talented. She was also lucky in reaching adulthood at exactly the point when she could turn Britain’s shortage of skilled workers to her own advantage.

October 14th 1915 was Victoria’s twenty-first brithday, and her family showered her with presents. From her mother she received a silver-mounted umbrella, a pound note, four packets of socks, three books on how to do conjuring tricks, and a writing block. Helped by their parents, her brother and sisters clubbed together to give her a matching fox fur boa and muff, a box of chocolates and a book. But the best gift of all was from her father, who, after presenting her with a paintbox and two diamanté shoe buckles, took her aside and said, ‘Victoria, now you are twenty-one, you can choose your own career.’ “‘I’m going to be a marine engineer,” I said, but I don’t think he took me seriously.’

It was, however, wartime. For a brief period it was acceptable for women to do men’s work while the boys were at the Front, so the Drummonds tolerated what they saw as their daughter’s patriotic willingness to do her bit, and didn’t stand in her way. By the following October Victoria, clad in overalls, was ready to take up her apprenticeship at a garage in Perth, where she was to spend the remainder of the war years cleaning out gearboxes, dismantling engine parts and sweeping down the shop floor awash with paraffin. But Victoria had no intention of dropping her career when peace returned. In 1918 she continued her training at the Caledon Ship Works in Dundee, before taking her first on-board post as tenth engineer on SS Anchises, Blue Funnel Line.

Victoria Drummond showed an early aptitude for mechanics, but it wasn’t until the outbreak of the First World War that she got her first opportunity. In 1916 she started an Apprenticeship in Scotland, working first at the Northern Garage in Perth and then the Caledon Ship Works in Dundee. In 1922 she sailed for the first time as Tenth Engineer aboard the SS ‘Anchises’ of the Blue Funnel Line. She sailed with the company for four voyages to Australia and one to china before leaving to work toward her second engineer’s qualification, which she gained on her third attempt. Despite having gained this qualification Drummond sailed as fifth engineer for the British India Company in 1927 for one year. During the Great Depression of the 1930s work was scarce and Drummond used this time to try and gain a British chief engineer’s certificate. Despite taking the exam on 37 occasions she failed each time, convinced at last that this was because of her sex. She was however successful in gaining a Panamanian chief engineer’s certificate. The social upheaval of the Second World War meant that a lot of women found work in industries that may never have been open to them otherwise. In March 1940 Victoria Drummond worked as second engineer aboard a Dutch vessel, which sailed the Mediterranean with cargo and was also involved in the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force in Marseille. Later that same year she joined the SS Bonita at Southampton. It was whilst sailing the Atlantic, 400 miles from land, that enemy bombers attacked the vessel. Drummond received an MBE for devotion to duty and ‘Lloyd’s war medal for bravery at sea’ after taking charge of the engine room alone, keeping the engine running despite damage to a vital pipe during the enemy bombardment. When the ship successfully came alongside in Virginia she was given a hero’s welcome. This wasn’t the end of active service for Victoria Drummond and throughout the rest of her wartime career she sailed on various vessels around the world. In 1941 the vessel she was serving on was attacked again, the second mate and two other men were killed. She sailed amongst many convoys throughout the war across the Atlantic and to Russia and took part in the Invasion of Europe. After the war finished in 1945 Drummond enjoyed a varied career. She superintended some Shipbuilding in Scotland, worked on short trips in the Mediterranean on cargo ships and tankers. From 1952 – 1957 she sailed as second engineer on various vessels, travelling around the world in the process. Eventually from 1959 until her retirement in 1962, she sailed as chief engineer. Victoria Drummond died in 1978 having become the first female member of the Institute of Marine Engineers and having opened doors for the women that followed after her. She was buried at the place of her birth, Megginch Castle.

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